Red Cross Breaks Silence on Israel Barrier
2 hours, 57 minutes ago
By ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS, Associated Press Writer
GENEVA - The International Red Cross on Wednesday broke its silence on the West Bank barrier being built by Israel, expressing "serious concern" that it illegally cuts Palestinians off from their own land.
Israel has gone "far beyond what is permissible for an occupying power under international humanitarian law," said the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Yaakov Levy, Israeli ambassador to international organizations in Geneva, regretted the ICRC's decision to go public and said it threatened to undermine Israel's "good relationship" with it.
Israel says it needs the barrier â€” fences, trenches and walls that could run for up to 440 miles â€” to keep out Palestinian attackers. The Palestinians charge that the barrier constitutes a land grab, since it cuts deep into the West Bank to include several Jewish settlements.
The Swiss-run agency said Israel should remove the barrier from areas where it passes through Palestinian territory because it violates international humanitarian law. Israel says it needs the barrier to protect against terrorist attacks.
The barrier gives rise to "widespread appropriation of Palestinian property and extensive damage to or destruction of buildings or farmland" and limits access for thousands of Palestinians to water, doctors, schools, jobs and their own fields, the ICRC said.
The agency monitors compliance with the universally accepted Geneva Conventions on warfare and occupation, requiring protection of civilian populations, victims and prisoners of war.
The ICRC usually discusses problems in private with the occupying authorities, as it has done with U.S. forces in Iraq (news - web sites). Only rarely does it go public with its concerns.
"Israel regrets the ICRC's decision to criticize the anti-terror fence which Israel was forced to erect following a large number of suicide bombings that have caused hundreds of Israeli casualties in recent years," said Levy.
"There is a danger that the position presented by the ICRC will be turned into a political tool against Israel's measures of self-defense," he added.
He said, "the ICRC announcement was a departure from the good relationship that it has enjoyed with Israel in recent years, working together for the common goal of improving the humanitarian situation of Palestinians in the midst of a wave of armed attacks against Israel."
He said it could compromise the ICRC's neutrality.
Balthasar Staehelin, ICRC delegate-general for the Middle East and North Africa, said the agency decided to make its concerns public after 18 months of observations because the Israelis are continuing to build the barrier.
"It was important for us to first have a thorough monitoring of the humanitarian consequences that the construction of this barrier entails for the population on the ground, and not to hastily come to any conclusions as soon as any construction starts," Staehelin said.
The ICRC's conclusion is that the barrier's consequences "are of serious concern and that they indeed are contrary to a number of articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention," the treaty that spells out rules for occupation, Staehelin said.
"We also have to remember that under international humanitarian law, occupation means basically that an occupying power is administering the territory for the well-being of the population under occupation," he added.
The ICRC fully recognizes Israel's right to take measures to insure the security of its population, he said.
"We have repeatedly condemned the deliberate attacks against Israeli civilians â€” attacks which are intended to spread terror are a violation of international humanitarian law," Staehelin said.
He declined to suggest other ways that Israel could prevent terrorist attack because it isn't the ICRC's role to advise the Israelis on security, but said the agency had no quarrel with the parts of the barrier in Israel itself.
Here's is the original ICRC news release.
Just a reminder of the local Red Cross's neutrality:
Red Cross Harbors Terrorist
19:10 Mar. 27, '03 / 23 Adar 5763
Two International Red Cross workers attempted to prevent the IDF from arresting a senior Islamic Jihad terrorist today. An IDF unit entered a Red Cross building, arrested the terrorist's accomplice, and found two Kalachnikov rifles at the site.
Two International Red Cross workers attempted to prevent the IDF from arresting a senior Islamic Jihad terrorist today. An IDF Egoz unit entered the Red Cross building in Jenin today, arrested the terrorist's accomplice, and found two Kalachnikov rifles at the site. When the soldiers asked to enter the offices, the two female workers - from the U.S. and Britain - would not allow them to do so, saying no one was inside. The Israelis insisted on entering, and found the terrorist, Shadi Sukiya, armed with a pistol. They arrested him without incident. Sukiya has long been wanted for his involvement in a series of murderous attacks against Jews.
There have been other incidents in which the PA Arabs took advantage of the Red Cross' status to further terrorist goals. In January 2002, for instance, the IDF captured a wanted terrorist who was taking advantage of the relatively free passage granted to PA ambulances. He was disguised as a doctor, but alert soldiers at a roadblock near Brachah, just southwest of Shechem, detected and arrested him.
If you think I'm just the typical paranoid Jewish Israeli who senses non-existant hosility, let me remind you of an old quote:
â€œIf weâ€™re going to have the Shield of David, why would we not have to accept the swastika?" --- ICRC former president Cornelio Sommaruga
More on the ICRC and it's hsitory of anti-semitism can be found here, amongst many other places.