27 January 2004
Photo 1 - Completed barrier at Tulkarm
So many people have written about the West Bank wall because after seeing it there is a compulsion to tell others about the enormity of what is happening. The Israeli government says that it is needed to stop terrorism in Israel. On the contrary, it is more likely to encourage terrorism by intensifying the suffering to which the Palestinians are already being subjected, thus increasing the desperation of young Palestinians who feel they have no future to look forward to.
The first photo is of the wall on the edge of Tukarm in the north west of the West Bank. We are standing in the garden of an elderly farmer most of whose land has been swallowed up by the barrier, the rest being inaccessible on the other side. Unemployment is now over 50% in Tulkarm because many people who used to work in Israel can no longer do so. The Israeli organization, B'Tselem, reports that more than 200,000 Palestinians will have their lives and livelihoods severely affected by the wall.
It is a more substantial barrier than George Kerevan of the Scotsman leads us to believe: 'The security fence is a rather fragile barbed wire fence... a psychological comfort blanket for Israelis' (12th January). The wall is enormous, 8 metres high, much taller than the Berlin wall. In addition to the wall itself and watch towers, there is a tarmac road for army patrols, a sandy strip to show footprints of people who try to cross, electric sensors, and coils of barbed wire.
Photo 2 – The Wall at Abu Dis
The other photo is of the wall under construction at Abu Dis (Bethany), 3 km to the east of Jerusalem. The inhabitants of the village can still climb over the precursor barrier at places like this, to take in their produce to or to go to work in Jerusalem, to obtain health care, to go to university, to visit family and friends on the other side. But not for much longer.
In 2003 there were 98 army checkpoints in the West Bank and 108 roadblocks and iron gates, severely restricting movement of the Palestinians within Palestine and between Palestine and Israel. The wall is exacerbating this imprisoning effect of the occupation, further affecting employment, eduction, heath care, and the movement of goods. This stifles the already parlous Palestinian economy. In addition to these deliberate effects of the wall, its tortuous route, encroaching in places as much as 6 km inside the agreed Israel/West Bank border, furthers the Israeli government policy of progressively taking more and more land from the Palestinians.
Ten Israeli groups have issued a detailed statement against the separation barrier. This will be part of the Palestinian case against it which the international court at The Hague is about to hear. The declaration states: "the fence creates a political barrier that defines a Bantustan state that Israel is planning for the Palestinians in the West Bank." I hope our government will follow these groups in speaking out against this big turn of the screw of oppression.