Building to destroy: The ‘separation’ wall and the future of Palestine

The Road Map is in tatters, and not by accident. It is business as usual for the most right wing government in Israel’s history. Business is building, and building is booming.

For many months now, before and after the launch of the Road Map, land has been confiscated and homes and agricultural land levelled for the construction of the “separation” wall along the north of the West Bank. People are being separated from their land and each other, greenhouses and crops have been destroyed and towns and villages are being encircled by the wall as it snakes through the West Bank annexing land to Israel. In areas outside the major enclaves that are being created, individual Palestinian villages and towns will be enclosed. Concentrations of Palestinians of 3,000 up to 25,000 are being crowded together behind razor wire and electric fences.

Thirty six years ago the settlements were a “temporary” measure according to the military orders that stated that the massive land confiscations for the construction of the settlements were absolutely necessary for “security” reasons. These “security” reasons have seen the construction of 123 settlements over the years since Israel occupied the Palestinian territories and 380,000 Israeli settlers now live on Palestinian land. If the wall is for security, then why is it not being built on the Green Line?

It is these “temporary” settlements, these subsidised, fortified towns that drive the route of the wall. A “temporary measure for security purposes” now drives another “temporary measure for security purposes” – the destructive cycle of construction goes on. This latest temporary measure, a concrete wall or a high tech electric fence with up to 150 meters of roads, ditches and barbed wire on either side of it, will cost $1.3 billion. Coincidentally, the wall will annex approximately 50% of the West Bank to Israel, conveniently land that holds only 2.4% of the Palestinian population. Take the land, leave the people, has long been the Zionist philosophy.

Nowhere is the land grab more obvious than in the Jerusalem area. Here the wall is constructed so as to leave a clear passage to the settlement city of Maale Adumim to the East. Maale Adumim, is the largest illegal colony in the West Bank with a (confiscated) land mass larger than Tel Aviv. This will leave some 300,000 Palestinians on the Israeli side of the wall. This is a “separation” wall that separates Palestinians from Palestinians, not Palestinians from Israelis.

There will be no freedom of movement once the walls are built. Bitter experience has taught Palestinians that freedom of movement is a privilege to be granted or withheld at the whim of individual soldiers. Where the wall has been constructed in the north farmers now sleep in their fields as they never know when they will next be allowed to reach their land.

In Jerusalem it is not just land that is being confiscated but a whole capital. Annexing East Jerusalem and its hinterland prevents any future Palestinian state from being possible by breaking the West Bank into pieces and giving Israel control of tourism, water, mineral resources and most of the fertile agricultural land of the West Bank – the economic and natural resources vital for a Palestinian state to function independently.

The Road Map is in tatters and the the Sharon government has been hard at work tattering those aspects necessary to build a Palestinian state: territorial contiguity – broken, transportation axis – severed, public services – disabled, revenue generation – blocked. The world has condemned this Israeli government’s hunger for Palestinian land through the General Assembly resolution on 21st October. Now to preserve any opportunity for a sovereign Palestinian state, with the Green Line as its borders, we must see an engaged international community actively pushing for the end of construction of the wall and for its destruction where not built on the Green Line. Otherwise, given Sharon’s promise to complete the wall within a year, the construction of the wall will mean the destruction of the possibility of the Palestinian state envisioned by President Bush by 2005. It seems that the Sharon government has decided that the Palestinians will remain stateless, but now cut off from each other and imprisoned in their own houses.

The author is legal advisor for the Negotiations Support Unit.