Since 2002 the Israeli government have been constructing a wall on land within the West Bank. The stated purpose of this wall for the security of Israel; to protect the citizens of Israel from the terrorism of the Palestinians. However, the wall does not follow the internationally recognised border between the state of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, known as the green line. When it is completed 85% of the wall will be on Palestinian land. The wall is serving Israel in annexing large sections of the West Bank and confiscating valuable agricultural land and water sources.The International Court of Justice has stated that the construction of the wall is illegal under international law and is having “an enormously negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights by the Palestinian people”*.
View a map of the wall here: http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_west_bank_barrier_route_update_july_2011.pdf
During my time in Palestine I have visited many different neighbourhoods which have been badly affected by the construction of the wall. I have also met many individuals whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the wall. On a visit to Bethlehem, I walked along the side of the wall taking photographs of the art which covers it. As I followed the path of the wall I turned a corner and found a house surrounded on three sides by the 9 metre high concrete wall. The woman inside, noticing my friends and me, came out to speak to us and asked us to step inside her shop and listen to her story. She introduced herself as Clare Anastas a Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem and told us that before the wall was constructed, her house had been located on the main road into Bethlehem just by the holy site of Rachel’s Tomb. Her husband and her ran two successful businesses and were not short of trade. However, when the wall was built it cut off their house from the rest of the town, and she now receives few visitors. To try and survive she has relocated her business online and is working desperately to try and let people know about her business and her plight. Clare and her family cannot escape from the presence of the occupation which has engulfed their family home. They can no longer go onto the roof of there building because, as they can see over the wall to the Israeli military base from there, the military have declared it illegal for them to do so. On all sides their house is watched by Israeli military surveillance cameras.
The wall surrounding the Anastas’ family home was built by the Israelis in order to annex Rachel’s Tomb, a holy place for both Jews and Muslims, into the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. Muslims, without the necessary permit, are now unable to visit this holy site. As I walked passed the wall surrounding it I saw two muslims kneeling to pray towards Rachel’s Tomb (photo below).
On a different trip to Bethlehem I visited the village of Al Walaja. Once the wall is completed the entire village of Al Walajah will be surrounded on all sides by the wall. We drove through the village and saw the planned route of the wall, which will separate the village from the three illegal Israeli settlements, which encircle the village. We visited the house of a man whose home lies just outside where the wall will be. This man has refused to leave his home and the Israeli military are unable to demolish it because he has papers to prove he has owned his home since before 1948. To get around this the Israeli military have built him a tunnel through which he alone can access his house. Once the wall around Al Walajah is completed he will have to cross a checkpoint to go to his house and will not be able to have any visitors. His home will be like a prison, as will the whole of the village of Al Walajah, which will be blocked from all sides by the apartheid wall.
On Sunday, following a tour of Beit Ummar by the Palestinian Solidarity Project our tour guide Mousa took us to the village of Al Jab’a to visit his sister and to learn about the circumstances of this village. Al Jab’a lies in the path of the wall which Israel has scheduled for construction at a later stage. The Israelis appear to be trying to make life as harsh and arduous as possible for the residents of this village so that they will abandon their homes and leave. Since 2002, the road connecting the village to the nearest Palestinian village of Surif has been blocked by large concrete blocks. This means that residents of Al Jab’a must travel to Surif on foot to attend school, visit their nearest medical centre or buy food. We travelled along the bumpy stone track from Surif towards Al Jaba’a in a service until we reached the barrier which blocks this road from the settler only road which runs along one side of Al Jab’a towards the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh. We alighted our service and walked towards the settler road. We noticed vans carrying Palestinians, which stopped by the road blocks, to drop them off after a days work on settlements or in Israel. Our group, having become accustomed to Palestinian roads, all remarked at how smooth and black the tarmac on the settler road was as we walked along the side of it towards Al Jab’a. We climbed up the bank by the side of the road and arrived at Al Jab’a, the village is under developed, deeply lacking in basic infrastructure and covered in rubbish. The future for the one thousand residents of Al Jab’a looks bleak; house demolitions are common and once the construction of the wall is completed the village will be blocked off from the rest of the West Bank. The aim of the Israeli military appears to be to connect the three settlements that surround Al Jab’a and annex the village and its land within the state of Israel.
In Jerusalem the construction of the wall has been used by Israel to support the annexation of East Jerusalem into the state of Israel. Palestinian citizens inside the wall have been cut off from the West Bank and become aliens within the state of Israel, ruled by the law of a state which they are not citizens of. On the other side of the wall, Palestinians have been cut off from their capital city, their most holy sites and the economic centre of the region. This has had a devastating impact on the Palestinian economy, preventing thousands of Palestinians from travelling to Jerusalem to trade goods and find work. Inside the wall in East Jerusalem the Palestinian economy within central Jerusalem has also been depressed by the wall, which has cut off the centre of the city from it’s suburbs.
The wall is the most pertinent symbol of the system of Israeli apartheid. However, it is just one part of a bigger system which is designed to permanently oppress the Palestinian people. It is supported by a system of segregation in which two people live side by side but our governed by different laws, drive on separate roads and have different rights. Israeli citizens and internationals move freely throughout Israel and the OPT. But, Palestinians freedom of movement is restricted by checkpoints and roadblocks. According to survey carried out by OCHA, in 2o11, Palestinians encountered 522 restrictions of movement. These restrictions mean that journey times for Palestinians are extended by two to five times. Palestinians are forced to carry ID cards at all times, these demarcate where they are allowed to travel. Palestinians in East Jerusalem have blue IDs; Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have green IDs. Settler violence is a growing threat to Palestinians. According to Yesh Din, the number of attacks resulting in casualties and damage to property has increased by 144% from 2009 to 2011. These crimes are carried out with virtual impunity, between 2005 and 2012 91% of investigations carried out by Israeli authorities into settler violence were closed without indictment.* Conversely, Palestinians prosecution rates under Israeli military law are close to 100%.
Across the West Bank there are many extraordinary and tragic stories of livelihoods destroyed and futures blackened by the construction of the wall. The state of Israel justifies the construction of the apartheid wall through the claim that it is necessary to protect its citizens from Palestinian terrorism. This argument appears to have convinced most Israelis who attribute the drop in Palestinian suicide bombings with the building of the wall. However, correlation is not causation. The drop in Palestinian violence has more likely resulted from the change in tactics by the Palestinian leadership. Hamas announced a ceasefire in 2005 which resulted in a dramatic drop in suicide bombings. Palestinian’s are increasingly embracing the idea of non-violent resistance as the best way to fight the occupation. But even if it had resulted in a drop in violence against Israeli citizens it would not be justified. The building of the wall for the security of Israel is the collective punishment of the Palestinian population, this is illegal under international law – but, when did that mean anything to Israel?
*Special Rapporteur for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism (2007), statement made in 2007 during his mission to Israel and the OPT
*Yish Din Monitoring Unit (2012), Law Enforcement Upon Israeli Civilians in the West Bank, Data Sheet
To find out more about the Israeli apartheid or to join the campaign against the wall visit: Stop the Wall.