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Bullet Point 22:  The Writing on the Wall
by Katherine Maycock
1st November 2003

Today as I came through the main checkpoint into Bethlehem - newly reinforced with concrete barriers for the start of Ramadan, two old ladies were pushing a supermarket trolley towards the taxi I was heading for. Dressed in traditional embroidered robes, and undaunted by the complaints of the driver who wanted a quick get away with me for a higher price, they started to unload sack after heavy sack and heave them up onto his roof rack. They had not pushed these olives past the
young Russian-speaking Israeli soldiers who were looking on, but had come round the checkpoint on a mud track to the side, having picked them in some nearby olive grove since 6am that morning. They could not have slipped their trade round the other side of the checkpoint as it has recently been swathed in 6 feet high rounds of new shiny silver barbed wire. This barbed wire is the trade mark of 'the Wall' which now comes right up to Bethlehem. It keeps the nearby fortress of Har Homa settlement built on Bethlehem land on the 'Israeli' side of the wall as well as Rachel's Tomb inside Bethlehem, enabling bus loads of Israeli
tourists to continue to visit the shrine. The would-be local Christian and Muslim pilgrims to the shrine, meanwhile, remain trapped in the city as they have done for three years, unable to make such a pilgrimage or exit Bethlehem. Gaps in the security apparatus remain however, through which people outside of the 1-45 year age bracket, can still risk making a trade. These wrinkled business women smiling through their metal-capped teeth told me they could sell a kilo of olives in Bethlehem market for about £1....

It was slipping through a gate in a completed section of the Wall near Jenin that Hanadi Jaradat, an attractive 29 year old Palestinian lawyer, was able to blow up herself with 19 other people in a restaurant in Haifa on October 4th. Every suicide bombing increases support of the average Israeli citizen for the wall as they associate it with increased security. Yet most suicide bombers have reportedly come through checkpoints. Hanadi's murderous act appears to stem from having seen her brother and cousin killed in Jenin during an Israeli army operation there in June. When people want revenge, it seems they will find a way, wall or no wall.

The Map revealed

On the 23 October, the Israeli Ministry of Defense published, for the first time, a map outlining the route of the Wall which it is building inside the West Bank to stop Palestinians entering Israel.  So far roughly 180km have been constructed.  When complete the Wall will run for over 600km excluding the Jordan Valley side of the Wall - that is, twice the length of the Green Line (1949 armistice line and boundary of the West Bank). Sometimes a complex series of trenches, barbed wire, electrified fences, and security patrol roads, spanning between 30 and 100 metres, and in other places 8m high concrete blocks, armed concrete turrets, cameras, and infrared sensors, the wall currently winds as much as 20km inside the West Bank to keep Jewish settlements on the Israeli side of the wall.

The Closed Zone

The land between the Wall and the Green Line looks set to trap approximately 200,000 Palestinians into what Israel calls a 'seam zone' or 'closed zone'. New regulations issued on October 2nd require all Palestinian residents already in this zone to apply for permits to continue to live in their houses, farm their land and travel. The permits issued so far have been found to be valid for periods between 4 and 6 months only. Yet Israelis of Jewish descent are permitted to freely settle and work in this area. "The Order effectively grants any Jew in the world the right to freely travel throughout the Closed Zone while denying the same rights to the Christians and Muslims who live on, farm and own the land." [Negotiations Support Unit, Palestinian Authority]. And all this inside the Palestinian West Bank, which according to international law is illegally occupied.

Another case of new Israeli laws which masquerade as necessary and logical regulations to bring about security and order, which actually annex more land, blur the fact of occupation, and continue to impoverish the lives of ordinary people. As I write, life for the Palestinian farmers and residents of the closed zone is grinding to a halt. Many of these people are joining the ranks of those dependent on food aid, unable to farm their land, travel to work or earn an income. Moreover, they are being forced out of this 'zone' eastward into ever smaller Palestinian areas in the hope of being able to survive.

Settler opinion

Two Jewish settlers who I met recently defy the widespread belief that all settlers are in favour of the wall. "I would feel safer if the wall doesn't come ... the community will stay more alert without it. It's a band-aid. It's a waste of money," said one who lives in Shilo, a settlement in the heart of the West Bank. Whether the wall encircles Shilo or not, he will stay there with his wife and five children, as he believes it forms a protective block for Jerusalem, and stops Palestinian territory from being contiguous. Another resident who believes that without a settler presence in the West Bank "Zionism has no soul" expressed similar sentiments: "The wall is a psychological security blanket. Its useless." At a cost of over £1m per kilometer, an expenditure that is being made at the same time as many welfare benefits are being cut in Israel, this is serious criticism.

Oh Jerusalem...

Last Thursday, a new part of the wall was announced for North Jerusalem. It will come from Qalandia, the large checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah, encircle the large Jewish settlements of Pisgat Ze'ev and Neve Yaacov near where I live and work in East Jerusalem, and enclose all the Palestinian suburbs and villages between it and the Green Line. Unless stopped, 45km of wall is due to be complete in East Jerusalem by early in the new year. It is already starting to divide 50,000 people from their schools, shops, medical services and families. It has become a spectator sport for internationals in the early morning hours to watch children and adults climb over concrete blocks in unfinished sections of the wall, or if small enough squeeze through gaps to get to school and work. Two colleagues of mine currently drive a loop of 20km on settlement roads to avoid climbing over the wall when it is only a distance of 5km from their homes to the office.

On Saturday 8th November a group of young Israelis will also be watching and demonstrating in East Jerusalem, in protest at the actions of their government...This is because Sunday November 9th has become 'International Wall Day' where protests will take place throughout European cities to highlight the devastation and division that is taking place. I don't often urge my readers to action, but I encourage you to explore the web links below, and if in London watch the wall come down in Trafalgar Square.

A little bit of Math

The wall is the final death knell for the two-state solution. In the 1947 UN partition of the land, the Palestinians were offered 45% of the Mandate Palestine. After the war of 1948 when Israel was created, the Palestinians were left with 22% (West Bank and Gaza).  In the war of 1967 Israel occupied the 22%. The Oslo Accords (1993) enshrined a process by which Israel would hand back the 22%. Seven years of negotiations produced little tangible result and saw the number of Jewish settlers in the Territories double. The Wall in its current projection including the as yet unveiled plan for the Jordan Valley will leave two Palestinian enclaves on about half of the 22% - that is, approximately 10% of what was Mandate Palestine. The oft quoted rhetoric of 'viable Palestinian State' will effectively become two seemingly non-viable ghettos in the West Bank plus the prison which is Gaza, already surrounded by a fence. 3.5 million people are currently being rounded up. This is the writing on the wall.

Katharine Maycock
PO Box 1838,  Jerusalem,
Israel  91017
Home tel +972 2 5835 986
Mobile +972 67 561 257

This series of emails began when I was an international observer for the Quakers in Bethlehem. I now work for a humanitarian
organisation and am based in East Jerusalem. The views expressed here are my own.  They may be forwarded freely.

Links - for new Israeli government map of Wall and official explanation of it - for an English translation of the Order regarding the Closed Zone - for the Palestinian campaign against the Wall including events for 9th November Wall day. - for Katherine's previous 'writing on the Wall' - Journal Letter Two - United for Peace and Justice put together resources for 9th November Wall day in the USA.