Israel's Wall for Ethnic Cleansing

Revolutionary Worker #1220, November 23, 2003, posted at

The Israeli government calls it a "security fence"--the barrier that Israel is building across hundreds of miles of Palestinian territory in the West Bank. The Palestinian people--and many across the world--have a more accurate name for what Israel is constructing: the Apartheid Wall.

The first part of this wall, in northeastern West Bank, has already been finished. The barrier is made up of concrete walls, electrified fences, electric sensors, razor wire, trenches, and watchtowers. "Buffer zones" around the wall are patrolled by Israeli troops--with orders to shoot any Palestinian who approaches the wall without authorization.

Israel's Sharon government has begun construction on the next phase of the wall in the northeastern section of the West Bank. Other parts of the wall are planned around Palestinian areas in East Jerusalem and southern West Bank. Ariel Sharon has also said he wants a wall in the eastern part of the West Bank, near the Jordan River.

When completed, the Israeli wall will cut across more than 400 miles through Palestinian land. And just as the white racist rulers in South Africa forced black people into poor, segregated areas under the apartheid system, the Israeli occupiers aim to lock Palestinians in the West Bank in giant ghettos surrounded by military walls, troops, and armed Zionist settlers.

The entire Gaza Strip is already enclosed by an Israeli military wall, making that area into a giant concentration camp for more than a million Palestinians. The wall in the West Bank and East Jerusalem would turn those areas into a series of Gaza Strip-like prison camps for two million Palestinians.

The Israeli government is not simply building the wall along the "Green Line"--the boundary set up between Israel and the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Jerusalem. In most places, the wall is several miles east of the Green Line--meaning that many Palestinians are being trapped between the wall and the Green Line, in areas that Israel has declared "closed military zones." In some places, the wall forms closed loops--enclosing entire Palestinian towns and villages.

A recent report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that the completed wall will put about 15 percent of West Bank land into such closed military zones and adversely affect the lives of nearly 700,000 Palestinians.

According to the UN agency, "This land, some of the most fertile in the West Bank, is currently the home for more than 274,000 Palestinians." The land affected by the wall also contains key aquifers--or underground water sources--that are indispensable for Palestinian agriculture, industry, and daily life.

So far, the Israeli government has not ordered removal of those Palestinians living east of the wall. But the Palestinians in those areas are required to get special permits from Israeli authorities in order to live and farm on their own land. These Palestinians rightly fear that the wall will lead to an outright Israeli land grab--that they will be dispossessed of the land their people have farmed for countless generations.

And the UN agency estimates that an additional 400,000 or more Palestinians will suffer directly from the wall. In some cases, the wall will separate Palestinian villages and the surrounding farmland. Farmers will have to get special permission from the Israelis each time they want to work on the land. In many communities, workers and students must cross the wall to reach their workplaces and schools in the larger towns and cities.

The already completed first phase of the wall runs along the Palestinian districts of Jenin, Qalqiliya, and Tulkarem. Qalqiliya, a city of 42,000, is now completely enclosed by the wall. There is only one way through the wall for the residents--which is closed and opened at the whim of the Israeli occupation forces.

The wall is a major move by the Sharon government against Palestinians in Jerusalem. Palestinians consider Jerusalem the capital of their nation and a crucial cultural and political center. As A World to Win News Service (Nov. 10, 2003) points out: "The Zionists may strip Palestinian residents now living on the `Israeli' side of the boundary running through Jerusalem of their residency rights and force them out of the city. After seizing eastern Jerusalem in 1967--in violation of international law--the Zionists also stole some of the surrounding Palestinian communities and annexed them to the occupied city. They built a dozen large Jewish settlements where 170,000 Israelis live, many of them suburban commuters to the urban center. But Palestinians have not been allowed to build anything there. Since then the occupiers have been putting increasing pressure on the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, making life more difficult for them. Now the wall and the orders related to that have added to those pressures."

Israel's Apartheid Wall is pushing Palestinians into even deeper levels of desperate poverty. On November 12, the UN Human Rights Commission's Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food released a report warning that the West Bank and Gaza Strip were "on the verge of humanitarian catastrophe." The Special Rapporteur, Jean Ziegler, wrote that "severe malnutrition reported in Gaza is now equivalent to levels found in poor, sub-Saharan countries."

Ziegler said that many Palestinians he spoke with reported that they were trying to survive on little more than bread and tea. Ziegler also wrote, "For many Palestinians, the inability to feed their families is leading to a loss of human dignity, often heightened by bullying and humiliation at [Israeli] checkpoints."

The Bush administration has tried to distance itself somewhat from the Israeli wall, at times calling it "a problem." But when the UN Security Council voted in October to condemn the wall as a violation of international law, the U.S. vetoed the measure. No other country on the Security Council sided with the U.S. and Israel.

A week later, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution demanding that Israel "stop and reverse the construction of the wall in occupied Palestinian territory." The resolution passed by a vote of 144 for, 4 against, and 12 abstentions. The only countries voting with the U.S. and Israel against the resolution were two U.S. neocolonies, Micronesia and Marshall Islands. The next day, Israel announced it would ignore the UN resolution.

The Sharon government claims it needs the wall to protect the "security" of Israel. But what kind of a state bases its "security" on dominating and dispossessing a whole people? This is an oppressive settler-colonial state, founded on the vast theft of land and the violent suppression of the Palestinian nation. It is a state that serves as an attack dog for U.S. imperialism in the Middle East. And its wall is a weapon of ethnic cleansing against the oppressed people of Palestine.