UN report accuses Israel of building fence to confiscate land

By Reuters

Haaretz

September 25, 2004

UNITED NATIONS - Israel is building its barrier on West Bank land not to keep out suicide bombers but to confiscate the land and put pressure on Palestinians to move away, a UN human rights investigator said Friday.

"There is no compelling evidence that suicide bombers could not have been as effectively prevented from entering Israel if the wall had been built along the Green Line - the accepted border between Israel and Palestine - or within the Israeli side of the Green Line [border]," John Dugard said in a report to the UN General Assembly.

"The course of the wall clearly indicates that its purpose is to incorporate as many settlers as possible into Israel," said Dugard, a South African law professor charged with monitoring the West Bank and Gaza Strip by the Geneva-based UN Commission on Human Rights.

"This is borne out by the fact that some 80 percent of settlers in the West Bank will be included on the Israeli side of the wall," he said.

Israeli officials say that the 600 kilometer array of razor-tipped fences and concrete walls, of which 200 kilometers is completed, is needed to keep out suicide bombers and that terrorist attacks inside Israel have already dropped dramatically as a result of its construction.

Palestinians have portrayed it as a land-grab aimed at dashing their hopes for statehood.

The General Assembly in July adopted a resolution demanding that the barrier be torn down, in line with a non-binding advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice that its route was illegal.

Israel has said it would refuse to comply with the court opinion and the assembly resolution. But it has also announced it was reviewing the barrier's planned route in response to a June ruling by the Israeli High Court of Justice.

The court said that parts of the barrier had to be rerouted to eliminate undue hardship on Palestinians living near it.

Dugard dismissed Israel's stated reasons for the barrier.

"More constructive explanations" were that it aimed "to expand Israel's territory" and "compel Palestinian residents living between the wall and the Green Line and adjacent to the wall, but separated from their land by the wall, to leave their homes and start a new life elsewhere in the West Bank by making life intolerable for them," he said.

"Rich agricultural land and water resources have been seized along the Green Line and incorporated into Israel," he said.