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The Moral The Moral Low Ground

Judges from a variety of unsavory regimes complain about Israel's fence.

Jul 26, 2004, Vol. 9, No. 43 • By MAX BOOT
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It hardly matters to world opinion that the trial was a joke, with Israel refusing to dignify the proceedings by presenting a defense. That the judges received a decidedly one-sided view of this complicated dispute did not deter them from issuing a strongly worded condemnation of the accused. Their opinion assumes that all of the West Bank is illegally occupied territory, whereas U.N. Resolution 242, adopted in 1967, makes clear that Israel's borders must be established as part of "a peaceful and accepted settlement" between the parties. Reading the lengthy opinion, one can easily get the impression that Israel is building the fence to indulge some whim. There is almost no mention of terrorism, much less of the fact that, since September 2000, more than 1,000 Israeli men, women, and children have been murdered by terrorists from the West Bank. As American judge Thomas Buergenthal wrote in his dissent, "The nature of these cross-Green Line attacks and their impact on Israel and its population are never really seriously examined by the Court."

Though still not complete--about 120 miles out of a planned 437 miles has been built--the fence is already credited by Israeli officials with reducing attacks by 90 percent. A suicide bombing on July 11 that killed one woman was the first in nearly four months--"the longest such stretch since the current round of fighting began," the New York Times noted. And when fewer Israelis die, that means fewer Palestinians die, too, since Israel is not forced to stage retaliatory strikes.

Israeli actions are hardly above criticism. There are legitimate questions to be raised about the route of the security fence. Israel's High Court of Justice recently held that 20 miles of the planned barrier must be moved to lessen the hardship on the Palestinian population. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is complying with this decree. Can anyone imagine a leader of Russia or China or Egypt taking orders from an independent tribunal on such an important matter of state? Yet, for not bowing before a kangaroo court in The Hague, Israel is now to be branded an international outlaw. That says more about Israel's critics than about Israel itself.

Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.