If you walked by Cross Campus yesterday, you could not have possibly missed the 150-foot-long sheet of tagged insulator, Students for Justice in Palestine’s latest attempt at creating awareness about Israel’s “Separation Wall.” Also known as the “Security Fence,” often dubbed the “Apartheid Wall,” it represents Israel’s latest attempt to annex more territory and put any future negotiations on a viable, sovereign Palestinian state in question.
There has been very little attention paid in U.S. media and on campus about Israel’s latest endeavor. This wall passes right in front of my house and separates me from most of my family and friends and separates my parents from their offices — and most Palestinians have it much worse. So naturally, this complicit passivity makes me uneasy — to say the least.
Reaching up to 25 feet high, and expected to extend at least 403 miles (that’s four times as long as the Berlin wall), Israel has managed to build the only other human construction, along with the Great Wall of China, that would be visible from outer space. In addition to the towering concrete slabs, sections of this “wall” include electric fences, two-meter-deep trenches, roads for military vehicles, electronic sensors, thermal imaging and video cameras, sniper towers, and barbed wire. Indeed, to say that this barrier is a “fence” can be misleading; it represents the greatest, most monumental physical obstacle to a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Yet the Israeli Government claims that the wall is meant to separate the Palestinians from the Israelis and prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from entering Israeli territories, offering Israelis long-sought security.
If this was true, and if the wall was built along Israel’s proper borders, very few Palestinians would oppose the construction of a separation wall. However, this wall separates Palestinians from other Palestinians; it separates Palestinians from their farmland, Palestinians from their workplaces and Palestinians from their homes.
The “Security Wall” is not about security. If it were, it would be built on the internationally recognized 1967 border (commonly referred to as the “Green Line”). Instead, it is being built deep inside the Occupied Palestinian Territories (with only 11 percent of the barrier built along the Green Line), frequently dividing Palestinian communities. In effect, Israel is grabbing more Palestinian land by creating de facto borders, annexing a significant amount of the West Bank, and separating it into about 12 noncontiguous zones.
The wall, the fences and the new movement restrictions on Palestinians are caging Palestinian communities into Israeli controlled Bantustans — or, if the comparison is bothersome, into tiny, noncontiguous areas with guards who are ordered to kill anyone in the “closed zones.” In fact, there have already been casualties due to these “protective measures,” and the wall has not even been completed yet.
The Palestinian town of Jayyus, with a population of approximately 3,100, illustrates the effects of the wall on Palestinians. The town’s irrigated crops, now on the other side of the wall, provided 90 percent of the town’s total income. With all its wells on the other side, the town now only gets running water for two hours every three days as Israeli authorities control the water supply. Per capita water consumption is five times lower than the World Health Organization’s minimum 100 liters per day per person. All in all, 87 percent of the families have lost their means of livelihood, and some have left their homes and moved into the tents they put up in their fields.
Israel’s “security” argument is bankrupt. The fact that the walls’ proponents cite Israel’s security needs and ignore the Palestinians’ entitlement to those same rights suggests that the wall’s proponents don’t understand how intimately linked Palestinian human rights are to Israeli security. Israel will never know peace until Palestinians live in security, dignity and in freedom.
Needless to say, the construction of the wall, as collective punishment and annexation of territory, is illegal under international law. The wall is also illegal under the Oslo agreements because it violates the territorial integrity of the West Bank, and restricts Palestinian movement.
I am surprised at how little opposition there is among Israelis and their supporters to this wall. Ultimately, they will be held accountable for their government’s actions, since it is being built in the name of the Jewish state, and no one can deny that silence is complicity. If the ethical and humanitarian disaster that this is causing is of no concern, then Israelis should oppose the wall out of self-interest. We might disagree on our views for prospective solutions, but we can all agree that unilateral actions designed to contain an entire people in massive prisons will never bring peace.
All colonial enterprises ultimately failed after decades of bloodshed and violence. Unless Israel exterminates Palestinians, or “transfers” them out of the West Bank and Gaza strip — as several high-ranking Israeli officials suggest — the Jewish State will one day have to make peace with the natives of the land.
Diala Shamas is a sophomore in Berkeley College. She is a member of Students for Justice in Palestine.