In one case, a man’s house is being entirely encircled by it. When it is done, his family will be given a key so that they can enter and exit their property through a gate cutting them off from land they have lived on for years. A guard tower will sit just a few meters from their home. The owner has a wife and two kids, and the kids are not allowed outside to play because of the construction, which is scheduled to be completed by mid-September.
In another instance, the house is locked between it and a settlement. One of the owner’s children has scars on his right eye from being hit by rocks thrown by the new neighbors because of his refusal to leave his land. Court battles with the government finally allowed the owner of the house, who had lived on the land for 35+ years, to come and go through a gate he has control over, as opposed to having access to his home controlled by the military. If you visit him, he will be interrogated by the military shortly after you leave.
In other cases, entire communities are encircled by it, and the gate for entry and exit is controlled by the military. It cuts them off from their neighboring communities, effectively killing their economy and creating outrage among the residents.
When it is done, it will be approximately 760 kilometers long. 90% of it is a fence topped with barbed wire, and 10% of it is a 8 meter tall concrete structure.
“It” is a separation barrier dividing the State of Israel from the West Bank.
In past postings I have mentioned the wall briefly. I have referred to the checkpoints that people have to pass through as they live their daily lives. However, I haven’t really taken the time to explain what it is, where it is, the justifications for it being built, and what effects it is having on the lives of people living in the region. While there is debate over the legitimacy of this structure and about the historical precedent behind such a division, what I find to be the most interesting (and pertinent to ones understanding of the state of affairs here) is the simple truth behind where it is being built, and what effects it is having on life in the region. And as the international community remains committed to the idea of a two-state solution, it is important to understand what would be left of a Palestinian State after this structure is fully set into place, let alone who currently has control over the land in the West Bank.
To understand this structure, it is first important to have a basic understanding of the geography of the region. If you look at the map, you’ll see that the West Bank is the area between Israel and Jordan. On the most basic level, the West Bank is what would be considered the State of Palestine should a two-state solution ever come to fruition. The dividing line between the two regions is what is referred to as the “Green Line,” and is based on the 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and its neighbors after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
This separation barrier is essentially designed to physically divide the West Bank from the State of Israel. However, instead of following the 1948 Armistice Agreement line and building on what would be considered Israeli land, the structure being put into place to divide the two territories follows a different path, and effectively annexes 10% of the land from the West Bank.
Note: Because this is such a controversial topic, I will do my best to just stick with the facts in this post. There are many debates around where Israel begins and ends according to religious texts, whom the land belongs to, what ethnic group was here when, and why the wall is being built at all. However, in this piece I will stick to the simple facts as shown by a map of the region, and try to explain what is happening to the land as a result of the wall and other policies being put into place.
What is truly noteworthy about the path of the wall is where it is being built. If you take a look at Figure 2, you’ll see that the path of the wall cuts through about 10% of the West Bank. In many cases this cuts families off from farmland they have been tending for years. In the northern end, some of the cities are being entirely bottlenecked - leaving only one entrance to the region that is guarded by a checkpoint. Lives of those living within the walls are affected on many levels. Access to proper healthcare facilities is extremely limited. Exporting goods is rendered almost impossible. While some farmers are allowed to tend their lands on the other side of the wall, there are curfews put into place, allowing them only access to their land at certain times of the day, and at the will of those in charge of the gates and checkpoints. Getting to work and traveling from one city to another now takes significantly longer, and checkpoints regularly close, making it almost impossible to know how long it will take to get from one place to another.
As I noted previously, the international community currently remains committed to the idea that there is a two-state solution to this conflict. There will even be a vote in the UN in September (that will likely fail) to recognize the West Bank as the sovereign state of Palestine. The reason that this analysis of the wall and its location is important is that while the international community works to bring the two parties back to the table for peace talks, the "second state" is shrinking geographically as a result of where the wall is being built. And with this in mind, I'll leave this as a closing thought:
In international mediation and negotiation theory there is often discussion of where the concepts of truth, justice, and peace intersect when working to end conflict in a region. And as the international community seems to remain committed to the idea of peace, I can't help but feel that it will never be reached unless people feel that there is justice. For there to be justice, there first has to be truth. This being said, the aim behind my writing at this point is to share the version of truth that I see with my eyes. If the two-state solution is really the plan for the future, the international community must be aware of what is happening to the communities in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. If they are aware, and we as voters believe in the idea of human rights and a future of peace, then we must hold our governments accountable for their policies by being aware ourselves of what our political leaders are doing with our tax dollars. By doing so, we can work to ensure justice and put us back on a path to peace.
In this case, the idea of a two-states solution means two groups of equal people living in separate sovereign territories. However the current solution to the conflict is looking more and more like a one-state solution, where one group is seen as more important than the other, and the government works to control the West Bank through military means. If control over the West Bank ended with the building of the wall, there would be less in the way of tension in the region than there is. However, control over the Palestinian territory extends into bureaucratic policy as well. On another day I will do my best to explain the laws behind areas A, B, and C in the West Bank, and what is happening on the land as the government controls who is allowed to build where. However, for the sake of keeping these posts to a reasonable length, this is where I’m going to leave off today.