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Photos by Sune Segal
In August 2002 the first group of “Ecumenical Accompaniers” sent by the World Council of Churches (WCC) arrived to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories as part of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). As a result of the second Palestinian Intifada, WCC member churches, their specialized ministries and related organizations from all over the world came together under the umbrella of the World Council to create one of its boldest programmes in direct non-violent action and resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This was carried out in solidarity with the churches and their communities in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.The EAPPI evolved during 2002 when the year’s focus of the Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace (2001-10) was the ecumenical campaign “End the Illegal Occupation of Palestine – Support a Just Peace in the Middle East”, coordinated and led by the WCC International Affairs, Peace and Human Security team.
During their five-month stay, one particular issue became ever more central in Palestinian daily life: the so-called “security fence”, a system of fortifications Israel is currently erecting on Palestinian lands in the West Bank in order to separate the Palestinian population from Israel and Jewish settlements.
Months after the construction of this “wall”, the reality and tremendous impact on the everyday life of Palestinians was not being reflected in the reports of either international or Israeli media. The ecumenical accompaniers gradually discovered that the official information available was far from a comprehensive picture of the whole project. The terminology used both by Israel and international media reports has been misleading and insufficient to describe what is being built at the moment: a concrete wall eight metres high, wire fences and electronic sensors, ditches four metres deep on either side, a dirt path to reveal footprints, a forbidden entry area, a two-lane road for army patrols, watch-towers and firing posts.
The construction of this “wall” and confiscation of more Palestinian land proceeds today as the Israeli authorities negotiate land for peace with the Palestinians under the auspices of the Quartet on the Middle East – the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and the Russian Federation. Meanwhile, “the world is asleep...”
The reality of how this “separation wall” had already deprived thousands of Palestinians of a sustainable future became a concern to two of the ecumenical accompaniers, Eva Balslev and Sune Segal, both from Denmark. With a background in journalism, both accompaniers felt it crucial to tell the story of how the “wall” has already ruined the livelihoods of thousands of Palestinians and will continue to do so as its construction progresses. Just as important was their wish to create a basis for a sobre and factual discussion around it. In accordance with one of the stated purposes of the EAPPI – to bear witness to and report on human-rights violations resulting from Israel’s practices as an occupying power – the two accompaniers devoted much of their stay to conducting research on the subject as well as collecting testimonies from affected villagers. This booklet provides an alternative to most media stories, as told by two young ecumenical accompaniers to whom we are most grateful.
Thanks are due to the former EAPPI acting coordinator in Jerusalem, Rudolf Hinz, who was responsible for the assignment of the first EAPPI group and supportive of both Eva and Sune. Sincere appreciation goes to all those Palestinians and Israelis who participated in the compilation of this report. Last but not least, I would like to extend special thanks to another ecumenical accompanier, Sarah Gjerding, for all her work in assisting me to ensure that this booklet sees the light of day.
6 August 2003
While the first phase of the so-called Road Map to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is moving forward, albeit slowly, another less palpable process is taking place – a process which is actively precluding a successful outcome of the negotiations envisaged in the Road Map. Thus, at the time of writing (August 2003) the Israeli government has completed the construction of the first section of a physical barrier between Israel and the West Bank. Extending approximately 145 kilometres, this section will eventually become part of a barrier that – judging from recent Israeli confiscation orders on Palestinian-owned land – will encircle approximately 40 percent of the West Bank, which Israel plans to allot the Palestinians as part of a final settlement of the conflict.
Whereas it might be argued that, historically speaking, wall-building has not proved a particularly effective means of conflict resolution, the separation wall presents another more immediate problem. According to Israel the wall is meant solely to prevent suicide bombers from entering Israel from the West Bank. However, the wall does not follow the 1949 armistice line, the so-called Green Line, which constitutes the unofficial border between Israel and the West Bank. Instead, in most places the wall runs or will run deep inside the West Bank. The completed portion runs up to six kilometres east of the Green Line, whereas the planned route includes, among other areas, the settlement of Ariel some 20 km east of the Green Line. Finally, and even more disturbing, judging from the confiscation orders, the wall will eventually be extended to separate the future Palestinian enclaves from the Jordan Valley, thus completely surrounding the territories supposed to constitute, in the words of the Quartet Road Map, an independent, viable, sovereign Palestinian state.
While the question of independence, sovereignty and viability remains speculative, the siting of the completed section has already had four immediate implications, namely:
1. Thousands of hectares of heavily
cultivated Palestinian farmland have ended or will end up on the Israeli
side of the wall.
In other words, the wall is not only
an obstacle to the Palestinian state envisaged in the Road Map. It also
severely infringes human rights, most importantly:
The primary aim of this publication is to convey an impression of what these infringements look like on the ground. Therefore, the focus in the following pages is on the physical reality engendered by the fact that the wall is being built east of the Green Line, i.e. inside the West Bank.
However, because Israel claims that the above-mentioned infringements are lawful, since the wall is intended to provide security to Israel’s citizens, some of the more technical and legal aspects of the question are briefly discussed in the chapter “The legal issues – security vs. human rights and international humanitarian law”.
The diary sections are based on three field visits by the authors to Falamiya, a small village which lies in the West Bank near the Green Line, which has been heavily affected by the construction of the wall. During each of their visits, the authors stayed in Falamiya for several days and had the opportunity to conduct in-depth interviews and engage in informal discussions with a number of Falamiya’s residents. Moreover, these field visits provided the authors with first-hand experience of the situation on the ground, i.e. the progress of construction work, the ensuing confiscation and destruction of farmland and, not least, the sentiments of the residents of Falamiya.
The factual information relies on various sources, mainly Palestinian and Israeli, all listed under "References".
Red plastic bands and written land confiscation orders pinned on the stems of their olive and lemon trees were the first signs warning Palestinian farmers living close to the Green Line that they were about to lose their livelihood.
At first a number of farmers attempted to object to the Israeli authorities. However, all they achieved was to postpone the inevitable. At present none of them believes that protests will have any effect whatsoever.
Security or land grab?
What the more or less finished route has revealed is that the wall will be surrounded by a so-called security zone varying in width between 50 and 100 metres. The first portion of the wall has thus resulted in the destruction of an estimated 600-1200 hectares of Palestinian farmland.
This, however, is nothing compared to the amount of land that has ended up on the Israeli side of the wall, namely about 100 square kilometres out of the West Bank’s 5800 square kilometres. The bulk of the confiscated property is agricultural land with olive trees, vines, seasonal fruit trees and various field crops.
Furthermore, it is estimated that 36 communities east of the wall will be cut off from their agricultural land. In most cases, agricultural production constitutes the villages’ main or only source of income. In these 36 communities alone some 72,000 Palestinians will thus be partly or totally deprived of their livelihood.
In total, the livelihood of some 210,000 Palestinians has been or will be negatively affected by the first section of the wall.
In no-man’s land
However, this claim has been disputed by observers on both sides. Most importantly, in many places the wall actually runs through low points in the landscape – a fact in obvious conflict with the claim that maximum security is the only concern.
One claim that has been raised by Palestinians as well as Israeli critics is that the route is decided by the demands of Jewish settlers living in West Bank settlements close to the Green Line. Whether this is indeed the case remains an open question, but facts are that ten Israeli settlements currently east of the Green Line are now situated on the Israeli side of the wall.
A side-effect is that at least 13 villages with 11,700 residents will be trapped in a no-man’s land between the wall and the Green Line. The future legal status of the residents of these villages is not yet clear, but they will certainly not gain Israeli citizenship. Whether they will be allowed to keep their West Bank ID is likewise unclear.
of Falamiya – A village on the road to dependency – part 1
Man with chainsaw: “If I don’t do it, someone else will.”
Man hugging olive tree: “That’s what people in Nazi Germany used to say.”
Man with chainsaw: “Well, at least Hitler was a leader who knew what he wanted.”
Man hugging olive tree: “Are you saying that you admire Hitler?”
Man with chainsaw: “God forbid, no! My grandparents were killed at Auschwitz.”
This peculiar exchange takes place between two Israelis with different agendas to say the least. From his position between the branches of a partly cut down olive tree, Adam is trying to persuade David, the chainsaw man, to halt his work. The request does not go down well, however. David revs up his tool and brings the snarling machine down on a branch dangerously close to Adam who clings to the trunk. So close, in fact, that the blade brushes Adam’s forearm, inflicting a superficial cut.
The meeting occurs in an olive grove near Falamiya, a small Palestinian village of approximately 700 inhabitants, situated in the West Bank between the cities of Qalqiliya and Tulkarem, some three kilometres from the border with Israel.
Falamiya is a farming community which makes its living from the fertile, well-irrigated lands along the northern part of this border – a livelihood now threatened by the fact that 28 square kilometres of terrain constituting three-quarters of the village’s land with its tens of thousands of olive and citrus trees will eventually end up on the Israeli side of the so-called security fence.
As the over-riding majority of Falamiya’s income stems from olive and fruit production, and as the residents were totally unprepared for this situation, they have no alternative sources of income. The consequences will therefore quite simply be catastrophic should the project be carried through as planned.
Adding to the seriousness of the situation is the fact that access to the area’s vast reserves of high-quality groundwater, currently distributed through an extensive, French-sponsored irrigation system, would be lost, as the majority of the area’s wells would also end up on the wrong side of the fence. In short, the worst-case scenario is that Falamiya would not only lose most of its land, but also its access to those water resources that are essential for irrigating the remaining groves.
Finally, the 50-100 metre wide security zone that will surround the fence would eventually lead to the cutting down of many thousands of olive and citrus trees.
Far from it. For the past couple of days, Falamiya has been the centre of attention in a campaign by international activists to protest the destruction of Palestinian land in connection with the construction of the fence. Some seventy foreign nationals of all ages have invaded Falamiya within the past two days, increasing the town’s population by more than a tenth.
Their presence brings some hope to the people of Falamiya, among them Rasheed Abu Mohammed, 65, who owns 11 hectares of citrus groves and greenhouses in Falamiya, and his son in law, Sami, a very energetic, red-faced and persistently smiling man in his mid-thirties. Sami is all over the place, talking to people, outlining the situation, getting excited about the rumours flitting back and forth: “The BBC is going to come here tomorrow”, “Sky News is going to do a story”, “Both The Guardian and The Independent will be here”.
But what encourages Rasheed and Sami more than anything else is that the French consul in Ramallah has responded positively to their appeal that he visit Falamiya. The consul, whose government has, as mentioned, sponsored the area’s irrigation facilities, has agreed to come to the village in order to negotiate with the Israeli contractor in charge of the actual construction of the wall. So basically the challenge is to delay the work until the consul arrives.
However, delays are something with which the contractor is not happy at all. In fact, he has been far-sighted enough to hire guards from a private Israeli security company – four of a kind, each equipped with two handguns and a sub-machinegun, all of them seemingly cut from the same template – gangly and very aggressive 20-year-olds.
Their task consists in escorting David on his rampage through the groves. Not that David really seems to need their protection. With his shaven head, muscular body, tattoos and a bright blue and hugely challenging gaze, he radiates a clear message.
A message that becomes manifest on more than one occasion when he explodes in fits of uncontrolled rage: for instance when he runs up to a bespectacled German woman in her late twenties and punches her in the stomach, or when he waves his saw in front of another activist’s face screaming “I’m gonna kill you, I’m gonna kill you.”
To add to the general confusion, the scene is watched by a group of Israeli soldiers deployed to police the situation – a job they carry out in a somewhat random fashion. Thus the soldiers’ attention is suddenly drawn to something else far away just as one of the armed guards grabs a tiny and utterly unthreatening American girl and shoves her with all his might, sending her tumbling several metres across the rugged soil.
Rasheed Abu Mohammed discussing with IDF soldiers
Some way off, Rasheed Abu Mohammed is in discussion with an IDF (Israeli Defence Force) officer, trying to persuade him to make the contractor halt his work, at least until the next morning when the French consul is due to arrive.
Eventually, in spite of the hostilities, the activists’ efforts seem to pay off. In any event, whether it’s because it’s getting late anyway or because the contractor does in fact decide to yield to the protests, he decides to call it a day.
The coming of the consul
At 10 a.m., just half an hour late, the consul arrives. He is seated in the spacious reception hall of Rasheed’s house. Various factions put the problem to the consul. Falamiya’s farmers, Palestinian officials – among them representatives of the Palestinian Hydrology Group – and activists from various international movements put forward requests to the French government to exert pressure on Israel to build the fence on the Green Line. The consul in turn addresses the gathering, stating that he’ll do what he can.
The motley group takes off: the consul and his aides, Palestinian doctors and farmers, engineers and lawyers, local teenagers waving the ‘Tricolor’ that moments ago adorned the facade of Rasheed’s house, a few journalists from smaller media, graphic designers from Spain, German students, Dutch clerks and an Israeli punk.
As the delegation makes its way through the groves, the hydrologists outline the facts on the ground for the consul, showing him various maps and pointing out the land to be confiscated by Israel. They inform him that even though the Israelis say they’ll allow the owners access to their land, from previous experience they’re more than sceptical that this promise will be honoured – a concern arising from the fact that there has yet to be an actual case of Israeli-confiscated Palestinian land being returned to its original owners.
At the same moment a crack of thunder rumbles in the distance. Within minutes, the rain is coming down in sheets. No shelter around, only trees and muddy soil. The delegation, all of its members now totally drenched, makes its way towards the point where the fateful meeting is taking place.
However, it turns out that two IDF jeeps and four soldiers have blocked the track. No one is allowed to go near the well, a voluminous concrete construction, in the shelter of which the consul, the contractor and the Israeli government representative are discussing the fate of Rasheed, Sami and the rest of Falamiya’s residents.
The delegation decides that it might as well begin to head back to Falamiya. Spirits are high, something is being done about the problem, at consular level at that. Back in Falamiya half an hour later, it turns out the result has already been announced. The contractor has given the consul a guarantee that no harm will be done to any of the installations donated by France. As for the route of the fence, it will remain unchanged.
Israel’s separation wall will not only engulf vast tracts of Palestinian farmland. It will also put Israel in control of a significant portion of the West Bank’s water resources.
Water is a central issue in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The permanent water shortage in the region means that vast expanses of Palestinian West Bank farmland are currently drying out. Already, thousands of families do not have running water in their homes. Once the fence is up, the situation will deteriorate even further as the wall will engulf scores of Palestinian wells.
Allocation of water
The total amount of water, including water for agricultural and industrial use, allocated to the Palestinian population in the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories) amounts to some 227 liters per capita per day. The corresponding amount for Jewish settlers in the OPT is 4000.
Israel in control
Thirty-two wells have already been annexed by Israel, depriving the Palestinians population in the West Bank of some 18 percent of their share of the WAS. However, Israel will not only confiscate wells. Eventually, it will also be in near-total control of the entire WAS, which produces approximately 50 percent of the West Bank’s fresh-water resources. Israel ensures this control by building the wall in such a way that it leaves the most productive zones of the system on the Israeli side of the fence.
Palestinians fear that Israel will not only control the water resources, but also use them. This would leave the Palestinians with only the Eastern Aquifer System, which is already exhausted. In any case, Israel has not allowed the Palestinians to drill new wells there since 1967.
A joker for future negotiations
Needless to say, the impact on the Palestinian agricultural sector of the partly man-made water shortage is devastating. Traditionally, olives, lemons, oranges and vegetables are the principal West Bank exports. Losing these means losing the major source of income in a situation where there are few or no alternatives, since most Palestinians who used to work in Israel have lost their jobs while local businesses are closing down as the economy collapses.
Finally, Palestinians fear that in future negotiations Israel will argue that there is no urgent need for water in the West Bank, since large tracts of irrigated Palestinian farmland will have been confiscated.
|27 November 2002|
|The hope of Falamiya’s
inhabitants is evaporating at the same speed at which the bulldozers gobble
away at their livelihood. Not a single international activist is left. During
the past ten days, thousands of olive and citrus trees have been lost.
In a fog of cigarette smoke, a few men from the village sit around lamenting their loss. It is Ramadan, but the holy month’s ban on consuming food, water and cigarettes during daylight is largely ignored. A combination of cheap, home-made cigarettes and sardonic humour seems to be the immediate way of coping with the inescapable reality. “If we can’t demonstrate against the Israelis, we can demonstrate against God,” Ahmed Said, a young farmer, says with a laugh.
The ditch for the wall in the midst of the citrus grove in Falamiya
Rasheed Abu Mohammed walks aimlessly around his groves. He knows that in the near future, he’ll lose all of the eleven hectares that feed him and his ten children. Only this morning, Israeli soldiers prevented his son Mohammed from going to the groves, stating that the area is a now a closed military zone.
Abu Mohammed’s sun-baked wrinkles express resignation as he stands between his trees. “I love my land like I love my children. I have worked here all my life - I have spent time on every single tree,” he says.
Rasheed Abu Mohammed in his citrus grove: "I love my land like I love my children. I have worked here all my life - I have spent time on every single tree," he says
Mohammed forces himself to go to his land every day although he feels that
it is an altogether futile exercise. The oranges are not ripe, but he has
started harvesting them anyway to make the most of what seems to be his
last harvest. Usually he would make 20 shekels (4,5 USD) for each box of
oranges. He now sells them at four shekels, losing 4-5,000 shekels every
“The Israelis promise us that we will get access to the water even when the wall is up. But they are lying – they never keep such promises. Why would they build the wall here if it weren’t precisely in order to steal our wells? What they want is land and water for new settlements,” he says, while resting for a few minutes by the side of the road. “Some of the fields will not be confiscated, but what good is that when we cannot irrigate them?” he asks with a sarcastic grin. “In the future, all I will be able to do to is sit in my house and grieve. This is like building a house, creating a home, and then having uninvited strangers move in and take it over.”
Ibrahim Abu Khaled, Abu Mohammed’s cousin, is accompanying his relative on his walk through the groves and fields. Abu Khaled, who is 64, has had no income since the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising some two years ago.
Up to that time, the future looked reasonably bright. Abu Khaled had returned to his native village of Falamiya in 1994 after spending thirty years abroad, most of them in Germany. Upon his return, he opened a dry cleaners in the nearby city of Qalqiliya, right on the Green Line. The business provided for him and his family, as well as for six young men from the village who worked for him.
Abu Mohammed's cousin Ibrahim Abu Khaled
well-stocked market and low prices, Qalqiliya drew many Israeli customers.
In fact, Israelis made up a significant part of Abu Khaled’s clientele
since his prices easily beat those found in Israel. However, over the past
two years Israel’s military invasions and curfews have slowly but
steadily killed Qalqiliya’s business-life. On top of that, the city
is now surrounded by an eight-metre high concrete wall - yet another piece
of the separation wall. The wall has dashed any hope that the Israeli customers
“All I wanted when I returned after all those years abroad was to establish my own business, build a nice house for my family and then in due course retire with the savings from the store,” he says. He did indeed build the house he had dreamed of. However, he did not manage to save money for his retirement.
Later when dinner is being digested and clouds of cigarette smoke once again gather over the men, Abu Khaled expresses relief that at least he has only got two children. Pointing to his companions, he says: “They have made a big mistake having so many children. Most of them have six, seven, eight children. How are they going to create a future for them?”
“The mayor of Kokhav Yair actually sent a fax to Sharon, asking him not to take our land – he explained that there have never been any problems whatsoever between Falamiya and Kokhav Yair.” “Of course it will not make any difference, they’re going to build the fence no matter what. But the point is that there has never been a suicide bomber from Falamiya. What I don’t understand is why we have to be punished for what someone else did.”
THE LEGAL ISSUES - SECURITY vs. HUMAN RIGHTS AND INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW
The need for security occupies every Israeli mind; it has resulted in a majority of the Israelis supporting a unilateral separation from the Palestinians in the West Bank. But can Israel’s military needs justify the infringements of human rights resulting from the construction of the wall? And what are the implications of the wall in relation to international humanitarian law, e.g. the Fourth Geneva Convention?
1. Infringement of human rights
The right to property
Israel claims that these infringements are lawful since the wall is intended to meet what is coined as “imperative military needs”, i.e. to reduce the number of Palestinian attacks inside Israel.
To be sure, certain infringements of human rights are allowed where a legitimate military objective exists. Moreover, Israel’s stated rationale for building the wall is indeed a legitimate military objective. In other words, erecting a wall such as the one that is currently under construction is not necessarily in conflict with human rights.
However, for military needs to legally infringe human rights, there must be an absence of alternative means that cause lesser infringements. Concerning the case in point, Israel is therefore obliged to place the wall in a manner that causes the least possible infringement of the human rights of the affected population.
The actual siting of the wall does not live up to this obligation. Furthermore, the siting strongly indicates ambitions other than those of merely improving security in Israel. Finally, Israel has at no point put forward any legal claim justifying the siting.
2. International humanitarian law
Confiscation of private property is illegal
Already having led to extensive expropriation of privately owned land, the wall constitutes a clear breach of these articles.
Land grab – temporary or permanent?
Concerning the wall, the question is therefore whether it is in essence a temporary or a permanent venture.
Israel claims that in building the wall it is merely exercising the right provided by the Hague Regulations to assume temporary administrative control – and the military orders used to seize land in connection with the construction of the wall are indeed provisional (valid until 31 December 2005). Moreover, Israel claims that even though the land of a number of Palestinian farmers will end up on the Israeli side of the wall, those farmers will be allowed to access their land through gates in the wall.
However, precedent as well as the current situation on the ground point in a different direction. Firstly, the orders in question can be indefinitely renewed. Secondly, precedent indicates that in reality, IDF land confiscation orders are in effect permanent.
The precedent in question is the IDF military confiscation orders used in the 1960s and 1970s to seize lands to build Jewish settlements in the OPT. At that time the pretext was security needs. This changed in 1979 when the Israeli high court approved the establishment of the settlement of Elon Moreh near Nablus. This case represented the first instance where expropriation of private land for reasons other than military necessity was approved in an Israeli court. Since then, the Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories have acquired a status of ever-growing permanency with an extensive and well-maintained infrastructure, industrial zones, intensive agricultural production and housing facilities, indicating anything but an interim situation. In short, the territories confiscated for the building of these settlements have in effect been annexed to Israel.
Annexation is illegal
of Falamiya – A village on the road to dependency – part III
It’s almost as if he wants to punish himself. As the sun slowly rises to shine down on the hilly groves, Rasheed Abu Mohammed sits quietly on a plastic chair contemplating the view, letting his gaze wander across the landscape. In the distance dusts clouds rise and dance to the rhythm of the pneumatic drill which continues to beat away on the barren rocks.
The cutting-down of trees seems to have ceased for the time being. On the other hand, the bulldozers and excavators have claimed a new victim. Several water pipes, all part of an irrigation system that usually waters some 150 hectares, have been destroyed.
“The French consul was here again not long ago to check on the pipes,” relates Abu Mohammed. “He asked the soldiers what happened to the pipes. They claimed that we had destroyed them ourselves,” he says with a contemptuous laugh. “Since it’s winter right now, water is not a problem. But in a couple of months there will be no rain.” He sits quietly for a while, then breaks the silence, saying out loud the name of his cousin, Ibrahim Abu Khaled, while pointing to the sky, indicating the new home of his cousin.
His widow Shitam is sitting in her living room, surrounded by her sisters and friends. The crowded room doesn’t change her feeling of being left behind. She partly blames Ibrahim’s large intake of cigarettes for his death, but according to her at least one other major player was present when his heart let him down at the age of 64.
“He was so angry about the situation. The anger was bottled up inside him - the anger helped death on its way,” says Shitam as she explains how a severe chest pain woke Ibrahim in the middle of that fatal night. “He told me to get a doctor,” she says and explains that friends took him to a doctor in the nearby village of Kafar Jammal. The doctor immediately gave him a heavy dose of medicine, supposed to keep him alive long enough for an ambulance to arrive from the town of Tulkarem, some 15 kilometres from Falamiya.
But the ambulance didn’t take the usual ten minutes to reach Kafar Jammal from Tulkarem. Military checkpoints and roadblocks prolonged the trip by half an hour. The ambulance was still on its way when Ibrahim’s heart stopped as he was attempting to climb a roadblock outside of Falamiya.
As Shitam relates her story, Zuheir Abdel-Hadi, a friend of the family, enters. He shakes his head as he lets himself fall on the soft couch. Moments ago, his 13-year old son was playing in the fields with a couple of friends when suddenly the Israeli constructor’s security guards opened fire in their direction.
“They were shooting at my child! All my son did was to play in the fields with his friends. Our fields! My son, the children here, they have never been confronted with these things before. He was so scared,” he says, shaking with frustration.
While the world sleeps
“It is a crime,” he says. “They are taking away our land, our water, our subsistence. And the world is asleep.”
It should be stressed that the destruction of their livelihood resulting from the erection of the wall affects not only Falamiya’s residents, but also the livelihood of several thousand Palestinian farmers in some thirty other villages near the Green Line.
Palestinian organizations have compared the future status of these villages with that of the 59 Palestinian refugee camps in the OPT and the neighbouring countries. The comparison is precise: each of these villages - a “village” meaning a cluster of houses as well as the surrounding farmland on which the residents of those houses depend for their subsistence – is being transformed into clusters of houses with no land and hence with no sustainable means of subsistence; that is, a situation identical to that of a refugee camp. The term “village”, and all of its connotations of “home”, “family”, “safety”, “stability”, and so forth, is quite simply rendered meaningless as the entity it normally describes is deprived of one of its essential components. In short, a cluster of houses without land is as little a village as some farmland without houses.
The Israeli authorities have promised that crossing points will be set up in order to enable farmers, whose land has ended up on the Israeli side of the wall, to tend their fields and groves. However, crossing these points will require a “special permit” and will leave the farmers completely dependent on Israel’s security assessments and the whim of the soldiers manning the crossing points. Moreover, past experience at the well over 100 Israeli military check-points in the West Bank clearly shows that the connection between alleged security concerns and the relative difficulty of crossing check-points is often negligible. For example, soldiers frequently close up checkpoints if they’re unsatisfied with the behaviour of those waiting to pass. Crossing such points is thus at best a time-consuming, humiliating and dangerous experience. At worst, check-points are closed for days on end. Needless to say, such a situation is unsustainable for any farmer anywhere in the world.
Finally, it should be noted that not only farmland, trees and greenhouses have been destroyed and/or confiscated. In the town of Nazlat Issa on the northern sector of the Green Line, the Israeli army demolished 62 out of 170 shops in the town market in January 2003, thereby depriving the shop-owners of their only income. Israel alleged the shops were built illegally. However, whether this is actually the case or not seems immaterial in view of the fact that the Israeli authorities had ignored this for more than ten years. The Israeli Ministry of Defence is currently planning to build a wall in the very same area where the now-demolished shops once were in order to separate Nazlat Issa from the Arab Israeli village Baka Al-Gharbiyeh, to which it is physically connected.
Also, in the time that has elapsed since the authors made their last visit to Falamiya at the beginning of January 2003, the village of Al-Daba in the Qalqiliya area has received confiscation orders on all of the villages’ 42 houses, 60-70 hectares of land, a mosque and an elementary school for 132 children.
In conclusion, Israel’s continued de facto annexation of Palestinian land creates a fundamental and ever-growing obstacle to the establishment of an independent, viable, sovereign Palestinian state at the very moment when a road map towards a viable Palestinian state is being negotiated. As explained in the introduction, the Israeli government’s plan for the completion of the wall does not indicate that the practice of de facto annexation will be halted.
Barrier, Position Paper”, Sept. 2002.
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