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Bollix: Barriers and Borders

“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
…Good fences make good neighbors.”
- Excerpt taken from Mending Wall by Robert Frost

“In Ireland over the centuries, we have tried every possible formula; direct rule, indirect rule, genocide, apartheid, puppet parliaments, real parliaments, martial law, civil law, colonization, land reform, partition. Nothing has worked. The only solution we have not tried is absolute and unconditional withdrawal. Why not try it now? It will happen in any event.” - Paul Johnson
(British journalist and supporter of Margaret Thatcher Writing in The New Statesman)

Matthew Kavanah • 27 July 2004

Invade a sovereign nation. Scatter and slaughter the local chieftains. Terrorize the indigenous population. Rape and export the natural resources. Starve the people. Sow the seeds of bigotry, racism and sectarianism. Demand acquiescence, capitulation, obedience and subordination from the populace by way of the threat of “immediate and terrible war.” Negotiate with an infiltrated opponent from a position of superiority and maintain veto power. Present an alternative peace agreement or pacification program to the people with no real intention of disrupting the status quo. Manufacture consent. Secure former revolutionaries to administer imperial rule and safeguard colonial interests.

British imperialism: priceless.

Read like a skeletal summary of some of the events that led to the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 or the Good Friday Agreement of 1998? I would say so. The focus of this particular essay, however, will be on the genesis of the border that Britain imposed to demarcate the boundary between Ireland and Great Britain. The explication will revolve within the context of current events, which emanate from the International Court of Justice at The Hague in the Netherlands.

December 8, 2003 the General Assembly of the United Nations, derivative of adopted resolution A/RES/ES-10/14 and pursuant to Article 65 of the Statute of the Court, requested that the International Court of Justice “urgently render an advisory opinion on the legal consequences arising from the construction of the wall being built by Israel, in the occupied Palestinian territories, including in and around East Jerusalem, considering rules and principles of international law,” (The Electronic Intifada, 8 July 2004). Hearings were held in February 2004 and then on Friday July 9, 2004 the ICJ, popularly known as the World Court, issued an advisory opinion whereby a majority of the justices determined that the construction of the wall is illegal, has imposed hardship on thousands of Palestinians and is a violation of international law. As is cited in a 07/09/04 Reuters article entitled World Court Rules Israel’s Barrier Illegal by Mark Heinrich,

“The court acknowledged Israel’s duty to protect its citizens but said it must do so within the law and should compensate Palestinians for homes and land lost or damaged by the building of the 100-meter (yard) wide strip of walls, ditches and fences…the court would declare fences and walls infringed the rights of Palestinians trapped by twists and turns in the barrier that take it around Jewish settlements…The construction of the wall along the route chosen and its associated regime are contrary to international law.”

According to the above referenced article, “Israel has said it will disregard the court’s non-binding advisory decision, calling its barrier a vital security bulwark against infiltrations by Palestinian suicide bombers. Palestinians brand the barrier a precursor to annexation of land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and where they seek a viable state under a U.S.-backed “road map” peace plan.”

The U.N. General Assembly posed the World Court with the following question:

“What are the legal consequences arising from the construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, as described in the report of the Secretary-General, considering the rules and principles of international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, and relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions,” (The Electronic Intifada, 8 July 2004).

The only judge consistently dissenting from the opinion of the 14-member majority was the American judge Thomas Buergenthal. For example, to the conclusion that,

“Israel is under an obligation to terminate its breaches of international law; it is under an obligation to cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall being built in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, to dismantle forthwith the structure therein situated, and to repeal or render ineffective forthwith all legislative and regulatory acts relating thereto, in accordance with paragraph 151 of this Opinion,”

The vote was 14 to 1; Judge Buergenthal dissenting. To the conclusion that, “Israel is under an obligation to make reparations for all damage caused by the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem,” the vote was again 14 to 1; Judge Buergenthal dissenting. Finally, to the conclusion that,

“All States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction; all States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 have in addition the obligation, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention,”

the vote was 13 to 2; Judges Kooijmans and Buergenthal dissenting, (The Electronic Intifada, 8 July 2004).

Moreover, Israel does not seem swayed by the World Court opinion. As is cited in the 07/09/04 article by Mr. Heinrich, according to a statement issued to Israeli Army Radio on Friday, Justice Minister Yosef Lapid states that, “We will abide by the ruling of our own High Court and not the panel in The Hague with judges from the European Union [5 of the 15 judges are from the E.U.] who are not suspected of being particularly disposed toward Israel.”

According to Heinrich’s article, “Israeli officials say the barrier, about a third of whose planned more than 600-km (370 mile) length has been built since 2002, has already pre-empted dozens of suicide bomb attacks.” Of course, there are dissenting voices. Excerpted from the above-cited AP report, “European Commission spokesman Jean-Christophe Filori said the E.U. had long felt the barrier’s route did not adhere to the 1949 armistice line between Israel and the West Bank and that it could hinder peaceful solutions to the conflict.” But according to Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner, “If we reach an agreement in negotiations with the Palestinians, the barrier could be moved, could be dismantled, but it is not up to the court in The Hague, which has no jurisdiction to decide on political and security questions,” (07/09/04 AFP article). Furthermore, the Israeli government spokesman at The Hague, David Saranga, “warned the international community that it should not allow the ICJ decision [to] become a ‘tool to attack Israel,” (Ibid). As referenced in an Associated Press story by Matti Huutanen and published in the 07/11/04 edition of the Boston Sunday Globe (West Bank wall leads to UN lobbying), “The Israeli foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, said he had asked US officials to prevent the adoption of any UN resolution aimed at enforcing the ruling.”

“The Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, told a European Union envoy, Marc Otte, yesterday that he hoped the Americans would not ‘sabotage our efforts’ at the United Nations…It is the responsibility of the international community, it is the responsibility of the UN, to put a mechanism to commit Israel to this decision,” (Ibid).

“Israel and the United States were sticking to their positions – that the world court should not become involved because the issue is political rather than legal and because the court’s ruling could disrupt Middle East peace efforts. Israel has said the barrier has prevented bombings, and has reported a sharp drop in casualties. Palestinians have said the complex of fences, trenches, and razor wire amounts to a land grab,” (Ibid).

Israel builds a barrier to separate itself from the Palestinians. Britain imposed a border to pacify and quell troublesome Irish revolutionaries. Azem Bishara, “a lawyer who has litigated cases concerning the construction of the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories before the Israeli High Court of Justice,” extracted and outlined the main points of the ICJ opinion in an article entitled The Court has spoken: What’s Next? that was published in the 11 July 2004 edition of The Electronic Intifada.

  • The Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons during Time of War and the Hague regulations annexed to the Hague 1907 Convention are applicable to the occupied Palestinian territories.

    Are not the Geneva Conventions and Hague regulations also applicable to the occupied Irish territory as well?

  • Human rights law is applicable to the occupied Palestinian territories.

    Despite the sordid history of the British dirty tricks counterinsurgency strategy in Ireland, north and south, and the mountain of documented evidence of British state collusion with sectarian loyalist paramilitaries, is not human rights law also applicable to the occupied Irish territory?

  • The Wall violates international humanitarian and human rights law, including provisions thereof, which have an erga omnes character of concern to the whole of international community rather and not limited to the relations of the Occupying Power and the people under its occupation.

    Extending this logic to the issue of the border specifically and partition in general, would not the border constitute a violation of international humanitarian and human rights law as well? Rather than attract foreign investment in the occupied northeastern territories, which would only serve to bolster the selfish economic interest of Britain, is there not an erga omnes character of concern to the whole of the international community that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ireland be recognized?

  • The Palestinian [emphasis added] territories, despite the limited transfer of powers to the Palestinian Authority [emphasis added] under the Oslo accords [emphasis added], remain occupied in their entirety.

    Hmm, let’s try a simple word association sort of fill-in-the-blank exercise with this one: “The Irish territories, despite the limited transfer of powers to Stormont under the Good Friday Agreement, remain occupied in their entirety.” Fun.

  • The Wall de facto annexes occupied territory and thus violate the prohibition on the acquisition of territory by the use of force.

    Interestingly enough, as Michael Flannery once said, "To fight for the liberty of one's country is recognized world-wide as a just war."

  • The Wall violates the right of Palestinian people for self-determination, a right that has already been declared by the court more than once as a preemptory right of concern to the whole of the international community.

    Is it truly that far of a stretch to argue that the border violates the right of the Irish people for self-determination? Unlike the case of Palestine, however, as far as I am aware no international body, administrative or judicial, has yet to declare the right of the Irish people for self-determination. The 32 County Sovereignty Movement has submitted a brief as well as an addendum to the United Nations on the issue of Irish sovereignty but again, as far as I am aware, no action has been taken by the U.N. The time has come to vigorously step up this campaign.

    As the late barrister and winner of the Nobel and Lenin Peace Prizes, Sean McBride, once said, “Irelands right to sovereignty, independence and unity are inalienable and indefeasible. It is for the Irish people as a whole to determine the future status of Ireland. Neither Britain nor a small minority selected by Britain has any right to partition the ancient island of Ireland, nor to determine its future as a sovereign nation.”

  • Israel enjoys, as any other state, the right of self-defense. However, in this case this right does not exclude wrongful acts arising from the construction of the Wall. The right of self-defense is an inherent right of every state, which could be exercised once that state is attacked by another state. The attacks inside Israel are not attacks originating and supported by another state, rather they originate from territories under Israel’s authority. Surely a state cannot claim a right of self-defense against itself. Thus the court rules out the applicability of potential recent developments in international law arising from the recognition that the US attack against Afghanistan after 9/11 was an exercise of its right to self-defense against a state which harbored and actively supported terrorists. This determination by the court bares consequences on other Israeli claims, including its claimed right of “targeted killings” arising partly from its inherent right for self-defense.

  • The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains to pose a threat to international peace and security. From this statement one can derive that any measure intended to prolong this conflict, such as the Wall, and prevent the conclusion of a peaceful and just solution to the question of Palestine is a threat to international peace and security.

    The Irish-British conflict, although largely relegated to the back pages of newspapers, if reported at all, is a 900-year-old conflict that deserves to be resolved on the basis of justice. The conflict can never be resolved if the fundamental issues of Irish geographic territorial integrity and national sovereignty are not addressed. Britain has no right to Ireland. Two concurrent referendums do not supercede a single solitary all-Ireland vote. Partition and the border prevent the conclusion of the ‘Irish question.’

    As Azem Bishara notes, “This advisory opinion resembles another opinion given by the court in the Namibia case where the court explored the legal status of Namibia and declared it to be an occupied territory. Though advisory in nature, the Namibia opinion determined the status of the territory as occupied and cleared the way for the UN organs to take action against South Africa.” Remember when the African National Congress (ANC) was a proscribed terrorist organization and the likes of Nelson Mandela would be subject to a visa denial policy in the United States? It’s time again to look for common interests folks.

    Bishara’s legal analysis continues,

    "The legal consequences for Israel streaming out of its violation of international law are clear: First, to put an end to its violations of international law and abide by its obligations. In practice this means that Israel is under a duty to stop the construction of the Wall. Second, to make reparation. Reparation can be either in the form of restitution, compensation or both. However, primacy is reserved for restitution, while the payment of compensation is supplementary in order to fully remedy the violation and restore the situation as it stood prior to the violation. In practice this means that Israel is under an obligation, first to dismantle the wall and the regime associated with it, and second to pay compensation where restitution fails to restore the situation existing prior to the construction of the Wall, which is not made good by restitution in the form of dismantling the wall," (Ibid.)

    What, if any, implications are there here in the case of the Irish-British conflict? I would argue that, if it were possible to paint Britain into an international corner like Israel is in with the matter of the West Bank Apartheid Wall, then an argument could be made that Britain’s partition of Ireland; in effect, the construction of a wall (i.e. surveillance towers, sangars, and low-flying helicopters), is a violation of international law, the border must be erased and restitution must be forthcoming. If Israel is compelled to dismantle ‘the regime associated with it,’ would that spell the end of Stormont or the end of direct rule? It would be nice to Smash Stormont with some international backing. I wonder if the British dressed in Sinn Fein clothing would be willing to risk that? Maybe we should consult the temporarily laid off Education Minister.

    Back to Bishara:

    "Israel, not surprisingly, has already declared that it will not comply with its obligations under international law as stated by the court. Here lies the second importance of the advisory opinion, namely the statement that Israel's construction of the wall violates erga omnes obligations, including the right of Palestinian people to self-determination. This means that the rights violated are not only of concern to the Palestinian people but also of concern to the whole of the international community, which is under the obligation to preserve and guard those rights. Three consequences stream out from this determination. First, states shall not recognize the unlawful situation created by Israel's violation of international law, in particular the de facto annexation of territory. The importance of this determination is significant in the light of president's Bush declaration that Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders is unreasonable. Second, states are not to provide aid or assistance to Israel in its endeavor to construct, complete and impose the regime affiliated with the wall. Third, the international community is under an obligation to cooperate in order to bring an end to the unlawful situation created by Israel. This third consequence puts an obligation on states to consider steps against Israel in order to induce it into compliance with its international obligations," (Ibid.)

    Okay, Bishara covers a great deal of ground here. As is cited numerous times above, Israel has no intention of recognizing the advisory opinion of the World Court and similarly has no intention of honoring any subsequent actions from any international body. I would not expect Britain to act differently. Still, we are talking about a public relations battle here. The World Court has recognized the right of Palestinian self-determination and has stated that there is an inherent erga omnes interest in that issue. I fail to see how the Irish and British should be held to any different standard. If self-determination is a right of the Palestinian people then it is a right of the Irish people and since 1919 the British have violently suppressed the expression of that self-determination.

    Bishara notes three consequences that are derived from the determination discussed above. “First, states shall not recognize the unlawful situation created by Israel's violation of international law, in particular the de facto annexation of territory.” Britain annexed Ireland. Therefore, countries are obliged to withhold, say, diplomatic recognition of Britain’s existence on any square inch of Irish soil. “Second, states are not to provide aid or assistance to Israel in its endeavor to construct, complete and impose the regime affiliated with the wall.” I hold this to mean that, for example, the United States must cease and desist from FBI training of the RUC or oops, PSNI or whatever name they’re going by these days. What do the people of the Ardoyne area call them Gerry? (Kelly that is.) American gun manufacturers must stop selling weaponry to the British cops in Ireland. “Third, the international community is under an obligation to cooperate in order to bring an end to the unlawful situation created by Israel.” As far as the American government is concerned, perhaps a few good steps to take toward ending the unlawful situation in Ireland created by Britain, might be to end the blanket policy of visa denial against Irishmen and women, such as Republican Sinn Fein and 32 County Sovereignty Movement representatives, who advocate an alternative Republican analysis or urge the United Nations to unearth the submission of the 32CSM and debate the subject! Just a thought.

    “To conclude, the advisory opinion of the ICJ is more than another recommendation or advice with regard to the question of Palestine. It sets the fundamentals of international law applicable to the Palestinian territories and claims a role for international law in solving the question of Palestine that has long been subjected to the balance of powers. It remains to be seen whether the international community will live up to the promise and realize its self-image as a community constituted on common principles,” (Ibid.)

    Ireland has long been subjected to the ‘balance of powers,’ as long as by ‘balance of powers,’ that is taken to mean countries other than Ireland and interests other than Irish. Britain has long dictated and manipulated the course of Irish history. In the negotiations that culminated with The Treaty of 1921, British Prime Minister Lloyd George demanded submission or ‘immediate and terrible war.’ In 1997/98, Sinn Fein and Óglaigh na hÉireann were forced to make numerous initial compromises (read concessions) prior to the deal so that the end product was merely a grand compromise on top of numerous compromises. Who was it that said that you never win at the bargaining table that which you do not take from the battlefield? As Howard Zinn wrote, “The lesson has been well learned by now; throw the full weight of attack into the fray despite demands for prior concessions; then the final compromise will be at the highest level possible,” (The Zinn Reader, Howard Zinn, 137). The only balance of power at work here is the British government vainly holding onto the last remaining vestige of their former colonial empire, profit margin centered and driven American business interests, all on top of that oldie but a goodie (?) the Unionist veto! Hmm, what do you say Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.” I guess not too far from the status quo.

    Alright, more on the genesis of the border partitioning Ireland that not only divided the country in a geographical sense but also in a psychological sense.

    The British conceived and engineered geographic and political entity known as Northern Ireland, which had been the whiny bastard child of the Government of Ireland Act, was permitted to withdraw from the Irish Free State within one month of the Treaty (1921 Anglo-Irish style) coming into effect. If this partitioned piece of real estate chose to withdraw, a Boundary Commission would convene to draw the proverbial line in the sand between the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland (Anglo-Irish Treaty from Wikipedia). The Commission's brief included a vague proviso that the border should be drawn "in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants, so far as may be compatible with economic and geographic conditions," (Ireland: The 20th Century, Charles Townshend, 122). Sure enough, in 1924 the three-man Boundary Commission convened and recommended a degree of alterations to the border but, due to a leak of the report to the London Morning Post in November 1925 and an ensuing public relations explosion, the British and their Irish lackey counterparts, like dutiful and subservient acolytes of imperial design, defended the religion of political paralysis and societal stability, otherwise known as the status quo, otherwise known as the border such as it was basically imposed by the terms of the 1920 Government of Ireland Act.

    If the World Court is capable of ruling that Israel's meandering, colonial and expansionist Apartheid Wall sits illegally on usurped Palestinian land then should not the same precise logic apply to the fact that Britain's gerrymandered border divides Irish farms and property? In 'Bandit Country': The IRA & South Armagh by Toby Harnden there is a photograph of "the Caraher family in 1986 on their land near Cullyhanna, which is divided by the border." Five members of the family stand in Northern Ireland and five younger children stand in the Irish Republic. By all accounts, a reasonable person would determine that the border was imposed in an arbitrary and capricious manner. Harnden writes,

    "The Boundary Commission concluded that a more rational border should be drawn up, tidying up the meanderings which cut loughs and parishes in two and divided farmhouses down the middle. The length of the border would be reduced from 282 to 231 miles with 12 main pockets of population being affected; eight would change sides from North to South and four would go the other way…The result in South Armagh would have been to make 13,859 Catholics and 817 Protestants into citizens of the Free State," (Bandit Country, 146-147).

    As numerous authors have written, the general consensus (at least in the Nationalist psyche of the 1920's) was that the partitioned statelet of Northern Ireland would be economically unviable and would eventually lead to reunification or, at a minimum, heavily Catholic and Nationalist areas such as Fermanagh, Tyrone and South Armagh would be transferred to the Free State. As Harnden notes, "the people of South Armagh were convinced that the Boundary Commission would transfer them from Northern Ireland to the Free State," (Bandit Country, 144).

    In my estimation the point at issue is one of sovereignty. The Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 was a British denial of Ireland's right to self-determination free from foreign intervention. Michael Collins urged that the treaty, "gives us freedom - not the ultimate freedom that all nations desire and develop to, but the freedom to achieve it, " (Ireland: The 20th Century, Charles Townshend, 109). The Treaty of 1921 is an example of Britain dictating the terms to Ireland; that is all. It was Mary MacSwiney who said, "Those who stand for expediency could yield to those who stand for right, but those who stand for principle could not yield to those who stand for expediency," (Ibid, 110).

    Fast-forward to 1998 and we hear the rationale of Collins in the words of illustrious and prominent Republican Joe Cahill when he said that, “The Good Friday Agreement is not a settlement. It’s not perfect, it has faults, but it’s a basis for progress. It could and should be a stepping stone to a thirty-two-county republic. I see it as a new line of strategy,” (Joe Cahill: A Life in the IRA, Brendan Anderson, 361). I wonder how that statement can be reconciled with Cahill’s own words about the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985. He said,

    “The Anglo-Irish Agreement was supposed to be constitutional nationalist Ireland coming to an agreement with the British government. This would give more power, more influence to the nationalist side…But it didn’t quite work out like that, for a lot of reasons – not least because the British government did not honour any of the promises that were made…The problem was that if you were a nationalist living in Tyrone or Fermanagh, the UDR were still giving you hassle, still messing you about, still abusing and harassing people, still raiding. Discrimination was still going on. All the problems that existed before the Anglo-Irish Agreement still existed afterwards, and in some cases got worse,” (Ibid, 331).

    Astounding! Who would have thought that those masterful artists of deceit and diplomacy – the British – would renege on promises? Promises, promises, promises.

    How much has changed since 1998? Are Nationalists still abused? Are Republican activists still harassed? Are triumphalist and sectarian parades permitted to march through heavily Nationalist and Catholic enclaves despite prohibitions from a Parades Commission? Is there a new and equitable police service or is it merely a reformed (or retarded) RUC? I think we all know the uncomfortable truthful answers to these questions. The fact of the matter is that Joe Cahill was right. The Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 was a wash but so is the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Enough of the bartering for a better deal with the Brits. It’s time to jump litigious with the black bastards and fight in the World Court.

    To bring an end to this near inconsiderately lengthy tome, consider a parable as relayed by Howard Zinn in an essay entitled Just and Unjust War, originally published in his book Declarations of Independence (Harper Collins, 1990).

    “There is a fable written by German playwright Bertolt Brecht that goes roughly like this: A man living alone answers a knock at the door. When he opens it, he sees in the doorway the powerful body, the cruel face, of The Tyrant. The Tyrant asks, “Will you submit?” The man does not reply. He steps aside. The Tyrant enters and establishes himself in the man’s house. The man serves him for years. Then The Tyrant becomes sick from food poisoning. He dies. The man wraps the body, opens the door, gets rid of the body, comes back to his house, closes the door behind him, and says, firmly, “No.”

    Suggested complaint: The Irish People vs. The Tyrant.

    Tiocfaidh ar La!




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    The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent


    Historians and economists {subsidized by governments} are very good at creating and perpetuating myths that justify increasing the power placed in the hands of government.
    - Reuven Brenner

    Index: Current Articles

    30 July 2004

    Other Articles From This Issue:

    Summertime and the living is easy...
    Eamon Sweeney

    The Strip
    Anthony McIntyre

    The Provisionals: A Repeat of History
    Liam O Comain

    Free Seamus Doherty
    Martin Mulholland, IRPWA

    Sartre Review
    Liam O Ruairc

    Bollix: Barriers and Borders
    Matthew Kavanah

    26 July 2004

    Joe Cahill - Provisional Republican Veteran
    Anthony McIntyre

    Meet Sean Keenan
    Kathleen O Halloran

    Captain James Kelly - A Brief Biography
    Members of the Kelly Family

    The Kelly Affair
    Liam O Comain

    Kelly Detractors Challenged
    Darinagh Boyle

    Hope Floats
    Mary La Rosa


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