The debate over Israel’s separation wall part 1
This summer I have been able to see for myself the effects of the illegal Separation Wall being built around Bethlehem. I spent two months in Palestine, teaching English in Jerusalem and volunteering at Bethlehem Bible College. My daily walks to the College offered me an opportunity to see the relentless expansion of the prison walls.
For every metre of the Wall there is a story of dispossession and loss. The librarian at the Bible College, Hala, and her husband Daoud, have experienced the consequences of the ‘security fence’ at first hand. Shortly before the start of the intifada they used their life savings to purchase some land in Beit Jala as an inheritance for their children.
Now the route of the Wall threatens to take their property as part of a ‘buffer zone’, and the family is faced with the prospect of seeing their life investment disappear at the hands of a military occupier accountable to no one.
Their story is repeated hundreds of times amongst our brothers and sisters in the Bethlehem District. Over recent months, numerous land confiscation orders were issued to Palestinian landowners, in a campaign of expropriation that for the town of Beit Jala will mean 40% of its land is stolen.
Visitors to Bethlehem currently walk past the construction site for a new checkpoint, located deeper into the city so the Wall can incorporate the area of Rachel’s Tomb on the ‘Israeli’ side. The already shattered economy will suffer more losses.
Across the West Bank the Wall snakes through Palestinian land, denying villages access to water and agricultural lands, and hammering yet another nail in the coffin of a viable Palestinian state. The Wall will annex 25-45% of the West Bank, and directly affect the lives of around 875,000 Palestinians.
The false cry of security is undermined by the route the Wall takes. As John Dugard, the Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights commented recently, “There is no compelling evidence that suicide bombers could not have been as effectively prevented from entering Israel if the wall had been built along the Green Line”, and a more likely explanation is that the Wall aims “to expand Israel’s territory”.
Because the settlements define the route, the issue of the Wall is inseparable from that of continued Israeli colonization of the Occupied Territories since 1967. The question remains whether Christians in the West will stand idly by as their Palestinian brothers and sisters are literally walled in, or whether we will strive to see a solution that brings genuine peace to both Israelis and Palestinians.
Published in The Church of England Newspaper.