The "Wall": A Barrier to Peace
Dr. Tony Klug
It doesn't seem so long ago when an explosion of joy consumed Israel and
the wider Jewish world as the barricades that had divided Jerusalem for
19 suffocating years were triumphantly dismantled in the wake of Israel's
military victory in the 1967 war. Now the barbed wire, fences and
concrete barriers - eight metres high in some places - are back, courtesy
of Israeli politicians and engineers, not only in the capital city but
all over the captured territories.
As a researcher, I used to move about virtually unhindered through the
West Bank in the 1970s as, mostly, did its Palestinian inhabitants. There
were few Jewish settlements, few roadblocks and few terror attacks. Even
travel across the old Green Line border was barely monitored. The
official Israeli approach was to let the Palestinians see the Jewish
state for what it was - not as "mendacious Arab propaganda" had projected
it for two decades.
Once Palestinian attitudes had changed, the argument ran, the territories
would be returned. Indeed, Palestinian attitudes and policy did go
through a steady, profound transformation. The Israeli strategy was not
unsuccessful. Peace was on the horizon - until the settlements policy
started in earnest.
With it came the waning of Palestinian hope for eventual independence and
the onset of despair and fear for the future.
The fine sentiments of the Oslo Accords restored hope for a while. But
the concomitant division of the West Bank into three security areas,
giving rise to a major expansion in the number of Israeli checkpoints
(currently estimated at nearly 500), severely curtailed the Palestinian'
freedom of movement between their own towns and villages. Humiliating
searches by young Israeli recruits became commonplace.
The enforced requisition of Palestinian land and other resources to
accommodate the burgeoning Jewish settlement programme continued apace.
Palestinian resistance grew in tandem, at times involving murderous
attacks on Israeli civilians.
And now, in apparent response, we have the monstrous "wall". Were its
route to trail the markedly shorter "Green Line", as envisaged by its
original architects, this would at least lend credence to the security
argument (and keep it within international legality). Instead, it has
been weaving its way around settlement blocs deep into the West Bank,
effectively annexing huge chunks of Palestinian land and separating
Palestinians from their fields, workplaces, schools, universities,
hospitals, places of worship, and their families and friends.