To the editor:
Benjamin Gurvitz (“Security fence is unpleasant, but necessary,” 11/19), claims that Israel’s separation wall is intended to enhance security. A glance at the map of the projected route of the wall quickly dispels this notion. That map, available at www.gush-shalom.org/thewall, shows what the West Bank will look like after the wall is complete. The wall, only a quarter of which has been built so far, will stretch over 400 miles, and will divide the West Bank into several noncontiguous regions. There will be two large regions, in the northwest and southwest, and several smaller ones completely surrounding the areas around cities like East Jerusalem, Jericho and Hebron, effectively turning them into prisons. All of the land that actually lies on the bank of the Jordan River will be walled off to the Palestinians and controlled by Israel. Nearly half of the land of the West Bank will meet this fate. Any Palestinian living in these “closed zones” will need a permit to continue living there, which can be denied for any reason. This is Palestinian land inside the West Bank, not in Israel.
Gurvitz cites the wall around the Gaza Strip as evidence that walls actually are effective at eliminating terrorism. His analysis is overly simplistic. He ignores the fact that the residents of Gaza essentially live under a 24-hour curfew. He ignores the fact that Gaza is very heavily militarized and that human rights violations are like background music there. Even the International Solidarity Movement has stopped sending internationals to Gaza because the IDF has no qualms killing them. Rachel Corrie learned this when she was run over by a bulldozer in Rafah. Most importantly, however, he ignores the fact that the Gaza wall was actually built on the Green Line (the internationally recognized pre-1967 border) and not inside Palestinian territory.
The wall around Gaza actually serves to separate Palestinians from Israelis. Because of the humanitarian crisis it caused and because it exacerbates the suffering of the Palestinian people, causing more resentment, I think the Gaza wall was a terrible idea. But I might be willing to accept, in theory, Israel’s rationale that it was intended to serve a security purpose. The same just isn’t true of the West Bank wall. If the goal is to repeat the “success” of the Gaza wall, Israel should be building this new wall on the Green Line. Moreover, it should be building it on the Israeli side of the Green Line so that it doesn’t have to demolish Palestinian homes to build it like it did in Gaza (there was no compensation for those homes). Instead, Israel is building it deep within the West Bank, demolishing homes along the way and separating Palestinians from other Palestinians and from the farmland and water they need to survive. If you live in Jericho, you will have to cross four walls to get to Jerusalem. I cannot believe this will enhance Israel’s security. It will only restrict the Palestinians’ freedom of movement and create ghettos.
Saqib Bhatti ’04
November 19, 2003
The writer is a member of the Students for Justice in Palestine.