Palestinians have been watching with despair the visits of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Washington. Amid the rhetoric of negotiations, more than 100 bulldozers are working every day to continue construction of the wall, highlighting the actual path that the road map is paving.
While President Bush was correct in calling the wall “a problem” and referring to it as “a wall snaking through the West Bank,” on the ground there is no sign of an end to what has been called the largest “project” ever undertaken by Israel.
In this context, the negotiation process seems void of any meaning, or a smoke screen for what is being implemented on the ground.
Current projections suggest that the wall, with an expected length of 400 miles, will solidify Israeli control of almost one-half of the West Bank. The wall is already snaking its way up to four miles inside the West Bank, and in some areas may cut 10 miles into the West Bank. It consistently follows a path that ensures maximum settlement annexation and large-scale control of Palestinian lands.
The wall (misleadingly referred to as the “security fence”) takes on a number of horrific constructs. In some areas, it consists of a 25-foot-high concrete edifice with armed watchtowers hovering over residential areas. In others, the wall is layers of electric fences and buffer zones of trenches, patrol paths, sensors and cameras. Whatever the structural differences, the effects are the same.
Palestinians will be imprisoned in walled ghettos, deprived of the most basic human rights. Such oppression and misery are already taking hold in the areas where the wall is currently being built. Some 10 percent of the West Bank is already affected by the destruction created by the wall’s “first phase.”
Building the wall has involved razing agricultural land, damaging irrigation networks, isolating water resources, and demolishing homes, stores and community infrastructure. With the daily subjugation of closures, sieges and curfews, Palestinians have become particularly dependent upon their lands for mere survival, but they are unable to access them. The fertile lands of 51 villages have been either confiscated or isolated because of the wall.
The latest opening of three “crossing points” — in addition to dividing Palestinian lands — further highlights the institutionalization of the land theft caused by the wall. In less than a month since the gates were opened, Palestinians have been shot, beaten, humiliated and prevented from accessing their lands. Such scenes are a part of the daily Palestinian landscape around the wall. This wall and its so-called crossing points are inhuman and illegal.
For us, and for all who have witnessed what is taking place, the wall is nothing less than a collective noose around the Palestinian areas and their people. In Qalqiliya, where wall construction is nearing completion, close to 15 percent of its 41,600 inhabitants have been forced to leave, unable to survive in what many in the community call an apartheid cage. Among various solidarity groups, the wall is considered a project that embodies within it the long-term policy of occupation, discrimination and expulsion.
The wall is to guarantee that a free and sovereign Palestinian state will become impossible. Consequently, the recent usage by Sharon and Bush of the terms “viable” and “state” takes on a particularly cynical and empty meaning.
Their increased calls for a “state” run in direct parallel with the impossibility of such a state existing, as the sealing of the fate of the Palestinian people into ghettos of the dispossessed takes hold.
Jamal Juma’ is coordinator of the Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network.