- Created: Thursday, 30 April 2009 14:44
- Written by Manal Darwish
‘The seeds for the coming revolution are germinating’
On 30 April 2006, the Israeli cabinet approved a revised route for the Apartheid Wall as part of the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s ‘convergence plan’. This extends its total length from 670km to 703km, more than twice the length of the Green Line (which runs between the land claimed by Israel in 1949 and the West Bank), which is 315km. Only 20% of the Wall runs along the Green Line; 80% of it is inside the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs).
Olmert’s plan is to use the construction of the Wall to lay down unilaterally the final borders for the Israeli state. Thus in an interview with Ha’aretz on 11 July he stated that ‘I am absolutely determined to carry out the separation from the Palestinians, and establish secure borders’. Two days later, on a visit to London, and immediately after the massacre of the Ghalia family, he was even more explicit: ‘We’ll never agree to pull out of all the territories, because the borders of 1967 are indefensible’. What the Palestinian people will be left with will be a number of Bantustans on the West Bank without any viable economy and completely subject to Israeli military control.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the OPTs recently reported that when the Wall is complete, 60,500 West Bank Palestinians living in 42 villages and towns will reside in closed areas between the Wall and the Green Line.
This has far-reaching implications for almost every aspect of their lives. They will be cut off from their schools, families, health centres, markets and jobs. They have to obtain a permit from the Israeli army to cross the Wall. Even children going to school have to show a copy of their parents’ ID before Israeli soldiers will let them through. If they do not provide this, the soldiers will simply turn them back. Such residents have to be registered on an army list; no one can pass if his or her name is not there. Relatives from the Palestinian side of the wall cannot visit them since they are not eligible for the permit.
The gates are only permanently open if there is an Israeli settlement on the other side of the wall. In June 2006, UN staff counted 73 gates along the Apartheid Wall; of these only 38 are accessible to Palestinians with the correct permit. These Palestinians face an uncertain future in terms of both their personal and land status. In addition to this, there are about 124,300 Palestinians who live in 28 villages which will be surrounded by the Wall on three sides, with the fourth side controlled by a closure. These include Qalqilya town, and the areas of Biddya and Biddu.
About a quarter of the 230,000 Palestinians holding East Jerusalem residence permits are located on the West Bank side of the Apartheid Wall. These East Jerusalem ID card holders need to wait in line to cross through one of four terminals to enter Jerusalem for daily services and jobs. Jerusalemite Palestinians have to prove that the centre of their life is in Jerusalem otherwise they will be deprived of their ID and consequently of all their rights to enter Jerusalem or to gain access to their property there.
Yasmeen, a 17-year-old female student whom I met who lives 10 minutes from East Jerusalem by car with her parents in A-ram, told me that sometimes she leaves her house at 6am but only reaches her school at 10am as she needs to wait in line at the checkpoint. It is her last year at high school and a crucial one for her as it determines her future.
Olmert’s convergence plan is intended to establish final borders, and these are already visible in the form of the Wall. In their report Under the Guise of Security, Israeli human rights organisations Bimkom and B’Tselem detail how the Wall has been erected to create prime real estate and hasten expansion of the Jewish settlements, which are of course illegal under international law. In the north of the OPTs, the Ariel settlements bloc extends 22km or 42% across the width of the West Bank. Closer to Jerusalem, the planned Apartheid Wall route will encircle the Ma’ale Adumim settlements bloc (also known as E-1), and will extend 14km into the West Bank or 45% across its width. Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions writes: ‘Since 40% of the Palestinian economy revolves around Jerusalem and its tourist based economy, the E-1 plan effectively cuts the economic heart out of any Palestinian state, rendering it nothing more than a set of non-viable Indian reservations.’ E-1 will completely divide the West Bank and prevent Palestinian contiguity. Olmert says development of E-1 will go ahead despite the disapproval of the US State Department. The building of 3,500 units on E-1 precludes natural expansion by Palestinians of East Jerusalem on their own land which will be confiscated. 69 West Bank Israeli settlements will lie between the Green Line and the Wall as will an estimated 183,280 Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem.
Where the Wall is complete, Palestinians face economic hardship because they cannot reach their land to harvest crops. In some cases where there is a nearby settlement, armed settlers harass and prevent them reaching their land. This is the case with the Kaddum village and Kiddumeem settlement.
In A-ram, a town of 62,000 Palestinians north of Jerusalem, the Apartheid Wall runs along its main street which connects Jerusalem with Ramallah. Here the economic situation has deteriorated sharply. The town used to have lots of jobs, but after the construction of the Wall the economy collapsed creating a high unemployment rate. More than 500 businesses were forced to close, as well as three schools. The town, which used to be busy with cars and merchants, looks dead these days. The mayor, who has not received his salary for some months as a consequence of the financial blockade of the Palestinian Authority, is being paid by the local people.
The level of solidarity among the Palestinian people has increased as a result of their international isolation. While I was interviewing the mayor, a man named Marwan approached him complaining that the contractor for the Apartheid Wall had come to him in the early morning with Israeli soldiers to inform him that they would demolish the entrance to his house to complete that section of the Wall. Marwan’s parents built their authorised house in 1976 as their family increased. They have five daughters and five sons who are all married, and the sons with their 17 children live in the adjacent building. It is a beautiful entrance with a 33-year-old vine and cherry trees. The contractor did not have either a court warrant or an army one for the proposed demolition. If the entrance is demolished and the Wall completed the family will be left with no entrance or exit. Marwan said ‘the Israeli army exercise the policy of facts on the ground. Their logic is that of power and might’.
The convergence plan means that Israel will remain in the West Bank. The infrastructure for this already exists in the form of Apartheid roads that connect the settlements with Israel, known as bypass roads. Palestinians cannot use some of these at all, others only in part. The plan means continuing Israeli control over 58% of the West Bank and the annexation of both the Jordan Valley and the big settlements as mentioned above. This plan violates both the Oslo Agreement and the Bush Roadmap, both of which were compromises from the Palestinian side.
The already-compromised Palestinian state will be further reduced to below 22% of historical Palestine. Since the 1967 occupation any viable Palestinian state has become a dream. It is time to expose the Israeli lies. A glance at the maps of Palestine proves that any viable Palestinian state is impossible. As the mayor said: ‘The seeds for the coming revolution are germinating.’
FRFI 192 August / September 2006