<b>The Apartheid Wall: <br />The Israeli Project for the Demise of Palestinian Life</b>

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Palestinian Grassroots Anti-apartheid Wall Campaign

It was the timing with which Israel began the construction of the Apartheid Wall in the northern West Bank in June 2002, together with the way this construction has proceeded, that made it clear for the Palestinian people that this would turn out to be a massive Occupation “project.” It was begun only two months after the so-called “incursion” by the Occupation of the West Bank; the residents of Nablus and Jenin were still searching for the bodies of their martyrs beneath the rubble of the houses demolished by the Israeli military during the incursions when 200 bulldozers started razing the land along a 145 kilometer stretch from Salem, north of Jenin, to Qalqiliya where the Apartheid Wall would be built.



In this “first phase” alone, 14,680 dunums of agricultural land were destroyed for the footprint of the Apartheid Wall; sixteen villages were totally isolated and ghettoized between the Green Line and the Wall; 51 villages lost part or most of their land behind the Wall; and 102,000 trees were uprooted. The commercial market in Nazlat Issa was completely destroyed. Qalqiliya – known as one of the richest Palestinian cities – today has turned into an open-air prison where 70% of the population now depends on humanitarian aid. Palestinians in the north denounced the Apartheid Wall as “the third Nakba [catastrophe],” a land grab, a plan to ghettoize and expel.



On October 2, 2003, after the completion of this “first phase,” Israel issued a military order declaring the isolated areas between the Wall and the Green Line a “closed military zone.” Since then, Palestinians who had been living on their land for generations have been prohibited from staying in their homes or tending to their lands unless they obtain special permits from the Israeli Occupation Authorities. Meanwhile, Israelis and Jews from all over the world are encouraged to settle these areas.



Now, two and a half years after construction began, 245km of the Apartheid Wall has already been built, destroying Palestinian land and lives, imprisoning the residents in their villages, devastating farm lands, closing off farmers from their land, and preventing the population from accessing water resources, work places, schools, hospitals, and other basic services.



In the face of the Apartheid Wall project – one of the most blatant expressions of colonization, ghettoization, expulsion and racial discrimination implemented by Israel in over 50 years – the term “Apartheid” has become commonplace in Palestine in reference to the Israeli Occupation and to the Wall. “An apartheid regime worse than the one that existed in South Africa,” as stated by John Dugard, UN Rapporteur for Human Rights and member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, in reference to the Israeli Occupation, commenting in his report on the reality in Palestine and aligning himself with the growing number of intellectuals, writers and activists that support this Palestinian call. Some of the most atrocious Israeli schemes of oppression have thus become known to the world through a comparison with the experience of South African Apartheid. Others, though, go tragically beyond all imagination.



The Bantustans created by the Wall force the Palestinian people behind eight-meter-high walls on only 12% of their land, enclosed in eight ghettos in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This is reminiscent of South African Apartheid, where the black and coloured population was “offered” 13% of their land in nine Bantustans. To sustain and strengthen the Bantustanization of Palestine, Israel is enlarging the network of settler “bypass” roads for an additional 500 kilometers according to the principle of “We are above, they are below,” with tunnels for the Palestinians to connect their ghettos and bridges guaranteeing free circulation for the Israeli settlers. The “Whites Only” bus stops and beaches of South Africa are recalled by the “Jewish Only” roads and settlements; the Pass Laws that restricted rights in Apartheid South Africa are evoked by the Israeli Permit System. This is in addition to 703 checkpoints, continuous closures and invasions, house demolitions, some 8,000 Palestinian political prisoners who fill Israeli jails, and continuous assassinations by the Israeli army, which has murdered 193 Palestinians in the last month alone.



The atrocious and criminal reality of the Occupation and the Apartheid Wall is unequivocal, and its illegality was confirmed by the International Court of Justice, which draws the historic parallels to the ICJ ruling against South Africa in the case of its occupation of Namibia in 1971. The decision played an important role in strengthening the momentum of international boycott and sanctions movements against Apartheid South Africa.



Yet Palestinians are once again facing the contradiction between the repeated verbal condemnation by national and international institutions of the Wall and of Israel’s Apartheid policies, on the one hand, and continued substantial support for the same policies, on the other hand. The Israeli government has recently closed successful negotiations on strategic trade agreements with the South African government, and seems poised to reach a successful agreement with India and the European Union. Meanwhile, the US administration assures its continuing support for Israeli Apartheid.



The fact is that neither the issuing of UN resolutions and the Israeli refusal to comply with them, nor the growing popular calls to end Israeli Apartheid, are met with governmental action. This shows the impasse of international institutions faced with a theoretical responsibility to follow their own legal obligations and to implement justice even against the interests of the leading countries in the world.



Today, civil society and worldwide mobilization against the Apartheid Wall and Israeli Apartheid and Occupation is called to take up this responsibility, just as it was in the case of the South African freedom struggle. An international outcry needs be immediate and sustained, and it must reflect reality rather than the current façade that is used to cover up the daily crimes of Israeli Apartheid.



During the South African struggle against Apartheid, people around the world united to defeat what seemed an unshakable stronghold for the West. Apartheid South Africa attracted major international investments and assured Western control over the African continent. But worldwide civil society undertook one of the most successful movements of solidarity. Everyone knew that when consuming South African products, “every bite buys a bullet.” The boycott and divestment campaigns conducted by churches, students, trade unions, and many other organizations were a necessary support for the South African movement to overcome Apartheid. This international movement against Apartheid managed to build up the critical mass necessary to force multinationals to divest, and in the end states were forced to institute sanctions against South African Apartheid. What had seemed a bulwark of international interests became, in the end, an unprofitable enterprise and a pariah state.



Ten years later, we see Palestine solidarity movements drawing on this past experience in support of the South African struggle, and the necessary basic components for an anti-apartheid movement have begun to take shape. Consciousness about the Apartheid character of Israel’s policies is growing, international support for the Palestinian struggle is on the rise, civil society conferences everywhere are calling for sanctions, student movements in the US are passing divestment resolutions, boycott campaigns are spreading. Hesitantly but in increasing numbers, churches, trade unions, and even the movement of the non-aligned countries are taking a stand and calling for sanctions.



A basic part of this growing worldwide momentum is the grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign. Since the start of the Wall’s construction, this national popular effort against the Apartheid Wall has brought together grassroots organizing, global information dissemination, and national and international calls for mobilization. The Palestinian Campaign is responsible for launching the International Week against the Apartheid Wall, and the 2nd International Week occurred on the 9th to 16th of November 2004. During this week, networks and organizations around the world mobilized some 70 events, protests, and demonstrations of all kinds in more than twenty countries. This united effort is an important occasion to strengthen the movement of civil society that stands up against racism, occupation, and colonialism by calling for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel until the Apartheid Wall falls, the Israeli occupation ends, and Israel applies all international resolutions granting the Palestinian people their full rights.



Jamal Juma’ is the Coordinator of the Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign – www.StopTheWall.org



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