Israel-Firsters Attack International Court of Justice Hearing on Apartheid Wall

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The hearings by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Israel's apartheid wall predictably drew the ire of Israel's congressional supporters, resulting in a flurry of activity, including letters to President George W. Bush, secretary of State Colin Powell, and even U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan decrying the hearings and urging that the U.S. intervene on behalf of Israel. Also predictably, some of the letters showed a lack of understanding of the purpose of the hearings. The hearings were not called for by the Palestinians, nor was their purpose to rule on the legality of the wall-its illegality having already been established by the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) in a resolution passed last October. Then, after Annan reported that Israel had not complied with the October resolution, the UNGA on Nov. 24 asked the ICJ for an advisory opinion-not on the wall's legality, but on its legal consequences.

The first of the letters that have come to the attention of this column (there may be others) was sent to Powell by Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) on Jan. 22. In it Ackerman urged the secretary of state to take an active role in challenging the use of the ICJ "to put Israel on trial."

On Jan. 29, Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Robert Matsui (D-CA), co-chairmen of "the Democratic Israel Working Group," wrote to Bush urging "a U.S. brief before the ICJ in support of Israel's right to implement defensive security measures." The letter also complained about the Bush administration's "mixed messages" by "claiming that the security fence being built is an obstacle to the peace process," and urged Bush "to be clear that Israel has the absolute right to defend itself from terrorism." The letter was signed by 36 other Democratic House members: Reps. Ackerman, Robert Andrews (NJ), Joe Baca (CA), Shelley Berkley (NV), Howard Berman (CA), Madeleine Bordallo (GU), Benjamin Cardin (MD), Dennis Cardoza (CA), Brad Carson (OK), Joseph Crowiey (NY), Artur Davis (AL), Susan Davis (CA), Peter Deutsch (FL), Eliot Engel (NY), Martin Frost (TX), Steny Hoyer (MD), Steve Israel (NY), Jim Langevin (RI), Tom Lantos (CA), Rick Larsen (WA), Nita Lowey (NY), Ken Lucas (KY), Denise Majette (GA), Carolyn Maloney (NY), Jim Marshall (GA), Carolyn McCarthy (NY), Michael McNulty (NY), Kendrick Meek (FL), Robert Menendez (NJ), Jerrold Nadler (NY), Major Owens (NY), Adam Schiff (CA), David Scott (GA), Ellen Tauscher (CA), Jim Turner (TX) and Anthony Weiner (NY).

On Feb. 19 Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), with 21 other House members, sent a similar letter to Bush supporting "the right of Israel to protect its people by building a security fence" and echoing Israel's claim that "this is a political matter that is outside the jurisdiction of the ICJ." The letter urges Bush "to support Israel's right to defend its children from terrorist attacks by building a security fence." The letter's other signers were Reps. Berman, Chris Chocola (R-IN), Phil Crane (R-IL), Crowley, Jo Ann Davis (R-VA), Frost, Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Katherine Harris (R-FL), Steve King (R-IA), Nick Lampson (D-TX), Lowey, Charlie Norwood (R-GA), Mike Pence (R-IN), Rick Renzi (R-AZ), Jim Saxton (R-NJ), Pete Sessions (R-TX), John Shadegg (R-AZ), Mike Simpson (R-ID), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Lee Terry (R-NE) and Joe Wilson (R-SC).

In the Senate in February, Democratic New York Sens. Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer and Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch (UT) and Gordon Smith (OR) circulated for signatures a letter to Annan urging him to "reverse" his support for the ICJ hearing.

Meanwhile, on Feb. 26 Pence introduced H.Con.Res. 371, "supporting the construction by Israel of a security fence to prevent Palestinian terrorist attacks and condemning the decision by the [UNGA] to request the [ICJ] to render an opinion on the legality of the security fence." Although the resolution will likely die in the House International Relations committee (HIRC), it has garnered 92 co-sponsors in addition to Pence. …