Wall on Palestinian economy and the Future of the Middle East
In April 2002, the Israeli government began building a complex series of walls, barriers, and trenches within the western border of the West Bank. The Wall is a separation barrier constructed in part by massive concrete walls, including watch towers that strike the observer (Kearney, 2003).
The Wall surrounds the Palestinian city of Qalqilya, imprisoning a population of 400,000 with eight-meter-high walls, with the single remaining access road controlled by an Israeli military base and checkpoint. At other points, the Wall consists of layers of razor wire, military patrol roads, sand paths to trace footprints, ditches, surveillance cameras and a three-meter-high electric fence in the middle. A "buffer zone" exists 30-100 meters on each side of the Wall. Palestinians are not allowed to enter this zone which consists of electric fences, trenches, cameras, sensors, and is patrolled by the Israeli military.
While gates have been included in the construction of the Wall, they are grossly insufficient and Palestinians are having a hard time crossing from one side to the other in order to access their farmland or to go to school (Kearney, 2003). According to Israeli army plans submitted to the Israeli High Court, Phase One of the Wall was to incorporate 26 "agricultural crossings" along its route, with an additional five crossings in the "depth barriers" located further to the east. In a report on the Wall however, the World Bank stated that their team found preparations for only one such crossing.
About the Wall
In a recent article, Lucy Mair and Robyn Long (2003) describe how the Wall is affecting the futures of Iraqi and Palestinian citizens. "Uncertainty about the future intensified for Mufida Ahmad's family this year when a mammoth wall ripped through their land in the West Bank village of Jayyus. Ahmad and her husband had bought the quarter acre for $1,400 -- a hefty but hopeful investment for the family of seven. On it, they cultivated eight olive trees. To pay for the land, and pay off a $4,000 bank loan they had taken to meet the family's basic needs, Ahmad worked nine hours a day in a sewing factory for a mere $150 a month. But the trees, land, and future for which they had sacrificed have all disappeared under the Israeli Separation Wall."
The Wall is referred to as "security fence" by the Israeli government and the "Apartheid Wall" by Palestinians. These different names reflect the feelings of both governments toward the Wall.
The first phase of construction was launched in June 2002 and finished just 13 months later, in July 2003. The completed section stretches for 90 miles in the northwestern West Bank districts of Jenin, Tulkarem, and Qalqiliya. At several points it cuts almost four miles into the West Bank. The Israeli government has planned three more building phases and aims to finish the structure by 2005.
Although it is relatively new, The Wall has already resulted in Israel's annexation of fertile Palestinian agricultural land, groundwater wells, and 10 illegal Israeli Jewish-only settlements.
If built in its entirety, the first, three-phase Wall alone will have enabled the largest confiscation of Palestinian land since 1967, devastate the agricultural base of the West Bank, and destroy any possibility of an economically viable Palestinian state (Mair and Long, 2003). If both walls are built, they will imprison the entire West Bank and run over 400 miles, four times the length of the Berlin Wall. They will take some of the most fertile land and richest water resources in the West Bank and partition the territory into three ghettos: one located around the cities of Nablus and Jenin in the north, a second in Ramallah in the north-center, and a third in Bethlehem/Hebron in the south. As a result, less than half of the West Bank will remain in Palestinian hands -- just 12% of pre-1948 Palestine.
The Wall will completely separate East Jerusalem, which was illegally annexed by Israel in 1980, from the rest of the West Bank. East Jerusalem is not only the planned capital of a future Palestinian state, but also the religious, cultural, social, and economic center of the West Bank. A total of 430,000 West Bank Palestinians, including those in East Jerusalem, will be imprisoned on the Israeli side of the Wall.
The Wall, according to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, was constructed for security purposes, and in particular to protect Israeli civilians within the Green Line from attack by Palestinian militants. However, the Wall is not just being built in this area. It is being built entirely within the West Bank and is even projected to cross through Palestinian land in the Jordan Valley near the border with Jordan.Therefore, the Wall will eventually come full circle and completely enclose two distinct and vast swathes of Palestinian territory, one to the north of Jerusalem and the other to the south. In addition, in that area of Occupied Palestinian Territory including and adjacent to East Jerusalem, labeled the "Jerusalem Envelope" by Israel, the Wall will create a third distinctive region, that will ultimately be annexed to Israel.
As a result, thousands of Palestinians between the Green Line and the Wall itself will be isolated from other communities and the Wall will annex that land to Israel (Kearney, 2003). In the words of Moayad Hussin, Mayor of the Palestinian town of Baqa al-Sharqia (McGreal, 2003), "If the fence is for security, if the fence is to keep us out, then why aren't we on the other side? With every kilometer of fence Sharon builds we are sure there is only one answer. This is not about security, it's about land and resources."
Palestinian rural society is based on an economy where agriculture is a main source of income (Yehezkel, 2002). The agricultural economy has become increasingly important during this intifada, as belligerent reoccupation, curfews, checkpoints and other forms of collective punishment and closure have isolated West Bank towns from each other, leading to more reliance on local and home produce for both immediate sustenance and employment.
The Palestinian economy is already in shambles and the completion of the Wall will undoubtedly make it much worse. The Palestinian economy was devastated by the three-year Israeli military crackdown against the intifada, mainly the enforced curfews, military destruction, and closures, which place movement restrictions on Palestinian people, vehicles, and goods. As of October 2002, closures had cost Palestinians $3.3 billion in lost income and more than two-thirds of Palestinian households living in poverty.
According to Mair and Long (2003): "The Wall will make permanent the state of siege experienced by much of Palestine during the current intifada. The full economic impact of the Wall is not yet known, but its first segment has already gutted productive assets, blocked access to resources, and hobbled people's movement."
In a nutshell, the Wall is destroying every aspect of Palestinian life -- many communities have lost valuable land, water, and resources that provide their sustenance. In addition, the Wall has caused the destruction of community and personal property. Palestinian villages and towns near the Wall are rapidly becoming isolated ghettos where movement in and out is limited, if not impossible, blocking travel for work, health, education, and visits to friends and family. For example, in the communities surrounded into an enclave in the Tulkarem district, the inability to travel due to the Wall and Israeli military "closures" has brought the unemployment rate up from 18% in 2000 to a whopping 78% in the spring of 2003. In Qalqiliya, where the Wall encloses the city with one Israeli military controlled checkpoint, nearly 10% of the 42,000 residents have been forced to leave their homes due to the city's imprisonment, closure of the market, and inability to find work.
According to Farsakh (2002): "The Wall is intended to deny any prospects for survival in communities, and therefore is not only the negation of Palestinian national aspirations and right to self-determination, but also a tool in the creeping "transfer" of the population and the realization of the Zionist/Israeli expansionist plans."
For obvious reasons, Palestinian communities and local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are mobilizing to stop the Wall (Mair and Long, 2003). To support these communities in their struggle, the Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network (PENGON) created the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign in 2002. Campaign coordinator Jamal Juma' describes the campaign name this way: "We are witnessing a 21st century apartheid, which will lay siege to Palestinians within fragmented, disconnected cantons, taking final possession of the Palestinian right to live in freedom, in a state like any other people."
The campaign is a Palestinian national grassroots movement that calls for the Wall's elimination, works to educate local and international journalists, coordinates the resistance of Palestinian communities, and lobbies the Palestinian Authority to take a stance against the Wall. Supporters argue that Israel should not be allowed to steal Palestinian land and claim that it is working for peace. The…