Prominent Israel supporters filled a conference room in the basement of the Capitol July 9 to mark and lament the 10-year anniversary of an opinion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) condemning the construction of Israel’s Terrorism Prevention Security Fence.
Organized by Washington, D.C. attorney Richard Heideman, the symposium brought together legal scholars, pro-Israel activists and politicians to discuss the undeserved criticism of Israel by many countries and organizations such as the United Nations and its affiliated agencies.
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer updated the audience on the current situation in the Jewish state, which, just the day before, had launched Operation Protective Edge in Gaza to counter rocket attacks from Hamas terrorists.
Dermer said that much of the criticism of Israel comes from the short historical memory of its critics, leading to what he called a “reversal of causality” where reactions become the causes and the causes become reactions. “History goes back to [this morning’s] breakfast,” Dermer said, to explain why Israel’s actions are so often demonized.
If one does not remember the history of terrorist attacks, he said, one could overlook the purpose of Israel’s security fence. Never let it be said that good fences make good neighbors, he told the gathering.
“That’s not true, because our neighbors aren’t good enough. It hasn’t changed our neighbors. I don’t like the way it looks. I live in Jerusalem. It looks ugly,” he said, “but it saves lives.”
The security fence, which snakes along the border between Israel and the West Bank, and is expected to span 430 miles when completed, has been successful in preventing ground-based terrorist attacks.
In a move that attorney Heideman called an “attack on Israel’s right to defend itself,” the ICJ – an agency of the U.N. – issued an advisory opinion in 2004, calling for the wall’s dismantlement. But the court failed to take judicial notice of the reason for the fence, said the speakers.
Had the ICJ been paying attention to the facts of Israel’s security situation, it would have realized, said Heideman, that the fence was constructed solely for Israel’s protection. “It wasn’t to separate. It wasn’t to divide.”