“To be vested with enormous authority is a fine thing; but to have the on-looking world consent to it is a finer.” A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Today we had a lecture from the Stop the Wall campaign (www.stopthewall.org), a grassroots campaign against one of the biggest problems here – well, there’s even controversy over rhetoric. Some call it the Separation Barrier (Israelis, mainly), others call it the Apartheid Wall, and others just The Wall. A massive thing, you can’t ignore it. It is a response to the Al-Aqsa Intifada that broke out in September 2000. About 2/3 of the 700 km (about 400
miles) of wall structure is already built. Mostly, the barrier is comprised of an electronic fence with dirt paths, barbed-wire fences, and trenches on both sides, at an average width of 60 meters (B’Tselem). In some areas, a wall six to eight meters (the Berlin wall was 3.6 meters high) high has been erected in place of the barrier system.
Now, there’s no disputing that Israel has a right to security within its own borders, and has every right to construct a security barrier. What is contentious, and has been labeled illegal according to international law, is the construction of THIS particular wall. The route runs through the West Bank and NOT along the Green Line. According to the International Court of Justice,
“the route of the wall as fixed by the Israeli Government includes within the “Closed Area” (between the wall and the “Green Line”) some 80 percent of the settlers living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Recalling that the Security Council described Israel’s policy of establishing settlements in that territory as a “flagrant violation” of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Court finds that those settlements have been established in breach of international law. It further considers certain fears expressed to it that the route of the wall will prejudge the future frontier between Israel and Palestine; it considers that the construction of the wall and its associated régime “create a ‘fait accompli’ on the ground that could well become permanent, in which case, . . . [the construction of the wall] would be tantamount to de facto annexation”.
Further, the “construction of the wall … severely impedes the exercise by the Palestinian people of its right to self-determination, and is therefore a breach of Israel’s obligation to respect that right.” [And yes, it is Israel’s obligation as the occupying power] And you definitely feel the lack of right to self-determination. As I alluded to earlier, there are different roads for Palestinians and Israelis. Well, Israel builds roads in the West Bank that Palestinians are not allowed to use. Israelis have blue IDs and yellow license plates. Palestinians have green IDs and green license plates. This decides where they are allowed to travel. For security reasons, Israeli settlers can travel directly between settlements (illegal, though they are), whereas Palestinians must snake through the areas of land still allowed.
Israel has points in the Wall for residents with permits to pass through. However, requests of many Palestinians for permits to enter their land are rejected, either on grounds of security, or on the contention that the applicant has not provided sufficient proof of ownership of the land or family relation to the landowner (B’Tselem).
I lay out some of these statements and numbers not as precise facts (this is not my research, and I cited as much as I could), and not to defend any one position. I hope it spurs you to look more on your own at what this Wall really creates. And I hope you do a double-take next time you read that Israel is offering a generous land package to the Palestinians, and think about what you would do if you were a Palestinian and felt that this was your land to begin with. And remember that even with an offer of land, there are restrictions and policies in place that make it almost impossible to have a “viable, contiguous Palestinian state.”
- Settlers Seek to End West Bank Freeze (online.wsj.com)
- Peace Now Flight Highlights West Bank Settlements (nytimes.com)
- You: Israel military court convicts anti-wall protester (france24.com)
- Israeli Minister: Palestinians Needs to Compromise (nytimes.com)
- Phone app monitors Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories (guardian.co.uk)