Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Down, Down to the Ground

We Come to Tear Your Wall Down

You have built a wall
So beautiful & tall
A monument to your vanity
And expensive insanity

With dynamite and some hammers
We will destroy your madness
And when we see your sadness
We will be filled with gladness

We come to tear your wall down
We come to tear your wall down
We come to tear your wall down
Down, down to the ground
Down, down to the ground

It has been no creation
A new kind of segregation
Fencing off the population
50 degrees of separation

But nature will not have it
The people who live in those houses
Can't flaunt their pretty tokens
Without some windows broken

We come to tear your wall down
We come to tear your wall down
We come to tear your wall down
Down, down to the ground
Down, down to the ground
(Transglobal Underground)

Herewith an open letter to the Australian Government by the Australian Friends of Palestine Association (AFOPA) and the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN):

"This July marks 10 years since the International Court of Justice (the Court) handed down its Advisory Opinion on the legality of the wall constructed by Israel in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Ultimately, the court determined that Israel's construction of the wall was illegal, not because it was not entitled to build a wall for security or any other reason, but because 85% of the wall was being built on the Palestinian side of the Green Line - the armistice line agreed upon in 1948. In reaching its opinion, the Court articulated a number of basic legal principles that appear to have been forgotten by the present Government. Chief among these principles is that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in full; both East Jerusalem and the West Bank are 'occupied' by Israel; and all Israeli settlements in occupied territory are illegal.

"In reaching these conclusions, the Court referred to a number of legally binding Security Council resolutions, including 237 (1967), 271 (1969), 446 (1979), 681 (1990), 799 (1992) and 904 (1994). In spite of binding authority, Australia's current Foreign minister is reported to have said on a visit to Israel in January that she 'would like to see which international law has declared them [the settlements] illegal' and the Attorney General recently announced that East Jerusalem would no longer be referred to as 'occupied territory' by the Government.

"This apparent lack of understanding of the law by a serving Foreign Minister and Attorney General should be a matter of concern for all Australians as it has ramifications beyond the conflict in the Middle East. Not only do the Geneva Conventions regulate how civilians should be treated during military occupations and declare all settlement activity in occupied territory illegal (Geneva IV), but they also regulate how wounded servicemen and women should be treated (Geneva I & II), and regulate the treatment of prisoners of war (Geneva III). Once we start cherry-picking which obligations we will follow, and who has to follow them, can we really complain if in some future conflict we are denied the protection that these Conventions were intended to provide? For a legal system to work effectively, domestic or international, rights and obligations must be upheld by all, without fear or favour.

"This year marks another anniversary. It is exactly 100 years since the start of World War I. This is relevant because out of the ashes of two World Wars the four Geneva Conventions were born. They are an attempt to prevent one of the worst atrocities that claimed the lives of 80 million from ever occurring again. We, the undersigned, cannot think of a more futile waste of human life than if this generation of Australian leaders turn their backs on the legal obligations the post-war generation undertook. As another peace process collapses it is time to remind our leaders that for there to be peace with justice in the Middle East, negotiations must only take place within a legal framework. Accordingly, we call upon the Australian Government to clearly state and re-affirm our full commitment to upholding the international legal order, including all Security Council resolutions and, in the words of common Article I of the Geneva Conventions, 'to respect and to ensure respect for the present Conventions in all circumstances' both in the State of Palestine and beyond.

"We, the undersigned, urge the Australian Government to uphold a fundamental principle of international law - that the annexation of land by force is always forbidden, regardless of the circumstances.

"Australia must be part of the solution, not the problem."

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