BAQA AL GHARBIYA, Israel The 26-foot-high concrete and razor wire barrier down the hill from Najeh Abu Mukh's house cuts him off from relatives and the West Bank.
But the Arab Israeli gas-station worker said he doesn't mind, because the controversial Israeli barrier has done something years of failed peace talks have not: It has taken the bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict away from his home.
Like many Arab Israeli citizens who live in northern Israel along the security barrier erected earlier this year, Abu Mukh agrees with the Israeli government that it's beneficial. The Israeli military claims the barrier has cut suicide attacks coming from the now-enclosed northern West Bank by 90 percent.
Abu Mukh questioned the International Court of Justice ruling Friday that condemned it as illegal and inhumane.
"I'm wondering if the judges ever have been here or lived here and understand the real reason for its construction," the 30-year-old asked, relaxing on his front porch with a cup of sweet Arabic coffee. "If not, they should listen and not judge."
Arab Israelis don't readily share this sentiment with outsiders. They fear appearing disloyal to their Palestinian brethren, who live across the line separating Israel from Palestinian territory and hate the structure as much as they despise the government that built it, Arab Israeli journalist Hassan Mawsi explains.
I'm wondering if the judges ever have been here or lived here and understand the real reason for its construction. If not, they should listen and not judge.
Israeli Arab Abu Mukh
"Eight of our houses are now cut off from our village and two of them were destroyed so this thing could be built," said Palestinian Riyadh Hussein, 28, gesturing at the security barrier, which he now must walk around to take his three children to nursery school.
But Arab Israelis, like their Jewish counterparts, wanted relief from the suicide bombings and gun attacks that have killed 980 Israeli citizens during the nearly four-year Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Five of 21 people killed by a suicide bomber at an Arab-and Jewish-owned restaurant last October in Haifa, for example, were Arab Israeli.
Their dilemma was compounded because attackers often crossed into Israel through Arab hamlets such as Baqa al Gharbiya, blending in with hundreds of undocumented workers and clashing with the heavily armed Israeli border guards who tried to ferret them out.
A particularly frightening experience Abu Mukh and his mother, Hanifa, 71, recounted occurred in March 2002, when police stopped a suicide attacker's vehicle at a checkpoint in their town. An Israeli policeman and the two Palestinian gunmen in the car were killed in an ensuing shootout.
"All the time Israeli border guards would come here to search for Palestinians who had come illegally," the younger Abu Mukh recalled. "That meant we, too, were repeatedly subjected to identity card checks and questions. I couldn't even go to the store at night without being checked."
There was no such tension evident Friday afternoon in his sleepy neighborhood, where the only sound came from bees and a lone Israeli Humvee that drove along the barrier road.