The Wall

Published in the book Inshallah, third edition 2005

 

By Donald Boström

The suicide bomber chose to detonate the bomb when the bus stopped at the red light level with the petrol station at the German Colony.  Dead and injured were thrown out over the street when the number 14 bus exploded during the morning rush hour in West Jerusalem. Reporters were crowded at the barrier and snatches of their conversations floated over to me as they spoke into their microphones: ‘‘This outrage shows what it’s all about”, stated the reporters with the remains of the bus in the background. Eight dead, some of them children on their way to school and sixty injured. ‘‘This is what it’s all about”, said the reporters into their tv cameras, referring to the controversial wall that Israel is building on Palestinian land. For most Israelis it was obvious; Israel must build a wall around the Palestinians to protect themselves from ‘the savages’ as one well-placed representative of an Israeli voluntary organisation put it.


A rescue worker completely covered in white protective clothing shoved me away from the lamp post that I was leaning on whilst taking pictures. When I had been moved out of the way he reached out with his plastic gloves to pull down a piece of brain tissue that had been thrown out of the bus by the force of the explosion and become fastened on the lamp post. He put the brain tissue into a plastic bag, rinsed the area with water and dried it off with a paper towel. 
The cleansing operatives routinely collected possessions and body parts in bags and washed away the tiniest speck of blood on the ground. 


After the wreck of the bombed bus had been removed it was impossible to imagine the catastrophe that had taken place a couple of hours previously. Many Israelis who had witnessed the destruction around the bus live in the belief that a wall around the Palestinians is probably the only solution to their daily terror.


‘‘Security has become a religion for Israelis and one problem is that many of them find it difficult to see Palestinians as human beings,” says Jessica Montell from the Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem. This was expressed with admirable clarity by the Israeli representative for the voluntary organisation, when she said that in her opinion it is worse for a Jewish mother to lose her only child than for an Arab who has eight children.


‘‘Even though there are more than twice as many Palestinians killed and wounded, this situation has led to the Israelis regarding  themselves as the victims”, says Jessica.
”You can’t occupy another people gently”, says Arik Diamond, an Israeli Army Sergeant and Paratrooper.


”We aren’t boys coming along with a smile. We are an occupying force that comes with weapons,” says Arik, one of the officers who refuse to serve in occupied territory and who belong to the organisation ‘Courage to Refuse’.


‘‘I refuse to breach the 1967 borders because it is not necessary.  When I served in Gaza we were not there to defend our country but to build a colony. The occupation is illegal from every perspective. We are Zionists who are fighting for our flag and our country. It is precisely those values we are protecting when we refuse to participate in the occupation project.”
‘‘We try to explain this to people, but the problem is that Israel’s population does not know what is going on and there are limits to what an Israeli can cope with hearing. Therefore we can never tell them the worst stories,” he adds.


‘‘It is impossible to tell them how one of our soldiers went up to a pregnant Palestinian woman and shot her in the stomach. Then everyone would immediately stop listening to us. The truth is, that today we can shoot Arabs indiscriminately without being punished.”
‘‘The oppressor also becomes a victim. Israel is paying an enormous price and we are creating a sick society on both sides.”


‘‘The wall is the government’s most important tool for Palestinian mass flight and ethnic cleansing. It will not protect us from suicide bombers but it will force hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to flee from their land, which is exactly what the government wants. But at the moment it isn’t possible to talk about the wall among Israelis,” says Arik.   
The United Nations special envoy from the Commission for Human Rights writes in a report on 8/9/2003 (e/cn/4.2002/6) that the wall constitutes illegal annexation and that: ’Annexation of this sort, known as conquest in international law, is forbidden in the United Nations Charter and the Fourth Geneva Convention. The envoy also writes that: ‘‘The time has come to condemn the wall as an illegal annexation’ and that the international community ‘shall not acknowledge any Israeli control over Palestinian territories within the wall.’


The United Nations General Assembly demands in Resolution 58/98 from 17/12/2003 that Israel must stop building the wall. But after suicide bombers and bus explosions many Israelis do not understand the un’s argument.


‘‘Fuck you, Hague Court!” people scream around the remains of the bombed bus in Jerusalem, referring to the discussion in the International Court of Justice in The Hague about whether or not it is legal for Israel to build the wall. Most people have a simple, clear picture in front of them that Israel is simply building a protective wall along the border to protect its citizens. To strengthen this picture Israel’s pr machine has taken exception to the term ‘Wall’. The word ’wall’ gives off negative associations such as the Berlin Wall or a prison wall, whilst the word ‘barrier’ can be associated to the more positive word ’defensive barrier’. The entire Sharon government’s colonisation policy is built around the suicide bombers. Without them Israel would find it difficult to get the world community to accept its policy of extreme violence.
The United Nations has officially gone along with the demand to call the wall a barrier despite the fact the wall is twice as high as the Berlin Wall and three times as long.
The section of the wall from the north of the West Bank down towards Jerusalem is completed as well as a section near Bethlehem.  Building is now progressing east of Jerusalem and further south. 


 Today the wall is approximately 170 km long and winds around Palestinian towns and villages. In its completed state it will be around 700 kilometers long. The cost is estimated to be the equivalent of 1.7 billion USD.


 The wall is in some places an eight to twelve meter high concrete wall and sometimes a 60 -100 meter wide zone with ditches and barbed wire, electric fences and two-lane patrol roads with military watchtowers. The wall does not follow the green line, which in practice acts as the 1967 border, but includes vast areas of Palestinian land.  Many communities will be completely cut off and the people will be isolated from the land they cultivate, from their places of work and schools and from health and social services. The Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem estimated in late autumn 2003 that the wall directly harms 210,000 Palestinians in 67 villages and towns. Today it is more. 


But it is with a smile that the 75-year-old Palestinian farmer Mohammed Hassan Ismail Salah in Qalqilya picks up and cleaves one of his cauliflower heads down the middle. Sparkling white, not a blemish, this harvest ought to be able to be sold for a good sum, he thinks. He gets up and looks at the 12 meter high wall. His family have lived in Qalqilya for several hundred years. He is a farmer and not a refugee. The town of his birth is completely enclosed by the wall and fences. There was one opening that the town’s 45.000 citizens can pass in and out of during certain times of day, if they have obtained the necessary permit. Mohammed says they were told there would be several openings around the town but it didn’t happen.


Mohammed Hassan Ismail Salah lost 20.000 square meters of arable land to the wall this time. There are not many farmers who can cultivate their land when they cannot go in and out of the town.


‘‘If we are not given the opportunity to cultivate the soil for two years in a row there is an Israeli law that gives them the right to confiscate our land,” says Mohammed, the old farmer.
Most of Qalqilya’s arable land lies outside the wall as well as 32 villages which are included in the area and which fell outside the wall. Normal communication between the villages has stopped. There is talk of the villages being connected with underground tunnels instead of having communications above ground, according to a u.n. official.


Many people share Arik Diamond’s view that a new wave of refugees, the largest since 1948, is in the offing among the Palestinians. unwra, along with other aid organisations, is standing by but the political authorities are silent. A United Nations official, who wishes to remain anonymous, says that the silence of the world community is the worst part of it. ‘‘Why on earth does no one say anything?” he wonders. The diplomatic judgment is that the current situation in the occupied areas is now the worst since 1948. There is a constantly high level of violence. The numbers of casualties since September 2000 are: 2.600 dead Pal-estinians and 900 dead Israelis. A humanitarian and economic crisis is imminent. A summary shows a conscious Israeli policy of ethnically cleansing the territories of Palestinians.

a) House demolitions have increased from 30 houses a month  during 2000-2002 to 74 houses a month in 2003.
b) Extensive curfews.
c) Mass arrests: 6.000 Palestinians have been imprisoned, many  without trial.
d) Illegal assassinations. No assassinations are legal, but those refer red to are of Palestinians who have been selected by the Israeli army and killed by death squads.
e) Confiscation of land.
f) Uprooting of olive trees worth $167 million in 2003.
g) 4.630 hectares of arable land has been destroyed by the IDF  (Israeli Defence Force) since September 2000.
h) Expansion of settlements in defiance of the Oslo Accords.
i) Barriers: 734 road blocks make all Palestinian economic and social activity impossible.
j) Hundreds of thousands of children and young people cannot  complete their education.
k) 19 percent of the Palestinian population suffer from general malnutrition – in Gaza 13 percent acute malnutrition.
l) 41 Palestinians have died because they were not allowed through  the road blocks to receive health care. 11 women, 8 newborn   babies and 15 ambulance drivers have been killed.
m) The economy has been reduced: the number of unemployed  has risen from 10 percent to 53 percent and those living below the poverty line from 21 percent to 60 percent.
n) Physical destruction of Palestinian infrastructure rose from $305 million in 2001 to $728 million at the end of 2002.
o) Ethnic cleansing undermines the two state solution decided by   the un.
p) The peace process has come to a complete standstill.

The Palestinian Authority (pa) is close to breaking up and is living hand to mouth because of destroyed infrastructure which has caused the economy to fall apart and internal opposition and anarchy to blossom. Approximately 130.000 officials within the pa are in danger of soon not getting any wages.


Over and above all this, the Israeli government is now, literally speaking, building a concrete wall to finally try to break the already broken Palestinian society.
Anyone who travels round and sees the reality can see an extremely clear and well-planned pattern.  Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians cannot reach their cultivated lands or their places of work, the children cannot get to school, relatives can no longer visit each other and the sick can no longer get to clinics and hospitals.


So far all the signs show a new plan of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the West Bank.
Apart from the wall which will force the Palestinians into Jordan, the West Bank will be divided into four parts. Cantons, say the Israeli occupiers. Ghettos say the Palestinians. Bantustans, which in consequence will result in 800.000 refugees, say the international commentators. One of the crucial problems over the years is that Israel has refused to take any responsibility for the Palestinian refugees. Their reason is that it was not Israel that forced them to flee from their homes in 1948 but that it was the Arab leaders who encouraged them. Today the picture is clear.
Few people, apart from the Israeli Professor of History, Benny Morris, have described the Israeli outrage: the Zionist murders, Israeli terrorism and the ethnic cleansing that forced 750.000 Palestinians to flee in 1948. Benny Morris gained access to documents that no one had previously seen, which describes even more Israeli barbarism, rape and murder and no fewer than 24 cases of massacres of Palestinians.


Most of all, the documents prove that Israel had lied for years. The documents show there were clear orders from the responsible command to force the Palestinians to flee – orders that had been sanctioned at the highest level. David Ben-Gurion was a ’transferist’ according to Benny Morris. The Palestinians were to be driven from the land that Israel wanted to capture from them.
But Benny Morris does not see anything wrong with that. On the contrary, Morris blames David Ben-Gurion for not having completed the ethnic cleansing in 1948.


‘‘Now we still have the problem and it is more difficult to solve. David Ben-Gurion failed to drive the Palestinians away. It may be necessary to finish the job off in the future,” he says in an interview in the Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz that has attracted much attention. 
‘‘Even the great American democracy could not have been created without conquering the Indians.”


With the wall and the division of the West Bank into ‘Bantustans’, Sharon’s government is attempting to smoke out the Palestinians and complete the ethnic cleansing that David Ben-Gurion failed to achieve in 1948. When the Palestinians lose their ability to work, study, get medical treatment and enjoy a social life, and when the Palestinians once again must leave their homes and head eastwards, the Israelis responsible can say as they did last time:
‘‘It wasn’t us. We weren’t to blame.”