Tear Down This Wall
TBy MAZIN B. QUMSIYEH
Published on 7/14/2004 (The Day) http://www.theday.com/eng/web/news/re.aspx?re=D9A7740D-E488-4475-9ABA-2C42ECFAB09B
A Palestinian woman hangs her laundry in front of her house close to a section of Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank on Sunday (AP).
The International Court of Justice just ruled that the so called ”separation barrier” that Israel is building in the occupied areas is illegal and should be dismantled. This barrier is a series of fortified walls, ditches, fences, and moats that are built on Palestinian land. It isolates Palestinians from each other, villages from cities, farmers from their fields, and students from their schools. Israel is counting on more US arm-twisting of other countries and, should that fail, yet another US veto at the UN to protect it from sanctions and from any meaningful enforcement of International law.
What the wall does is literally make concrete existing atrocities. Israeli occupation forces have already confiscated some 30-40 percent of the land of the occupied territories (West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza) for illegal colonies that now house over 400,000 Jews from all over the world. The areas controlled by these colonies are not random. They include major hilltops, the water aquifers, the so called Jerusalem envelope, and the best agricultural areas (including the Jordan River Valley). These are the real reasons for the settlements/colonies.
The West Bank and Gaza together are a mere 22 percent of historic Palestine. Israel seems to have gotten away with ethnically cleansing the other 78 percent of most native inhabitants. Between 1947-1949 over three-quarters of the native Palestinians (Christians and Muslims) were driven out (by Zionist terminology the land was “cleansed”). More than 530 villages and towns were completely removed off the face of the map.
Israel's cruel program
Israeli historians clearly documented through declassified material the meticulous nature of the cruel program that led to the creation of the largest remaining refugee problem in the world. Defying International law and its own promises when joining the UN, Israel refuses to allow them to return and instituted laws to remove the remaining inhabitants from their lands. Hence the anomaly of 300,000 “citizens” of Israel who are considered by law “present absentees.” They are internally displaced people whose homes and lands were taken over under the so-called “absentee property laws” and turned over to the Jewish Agency for use by Jews only. Through this process, some 93 percent of the land that was owned by Palestinians is now off-limits to non-Jews.
Fencing people in to force them to starve into leaving is not a new tactic. For example, after the end of hostilities in 1949, the remaining 1500 residents of the town of Al-Majdal were pinned down and fenced in with no access to their fields or jobs until they ‘voluntarily decided to join their relatives' in the refugee camps in Gaza. This was late 1950; no wars, just economic pressures. Al-Majdal was promptly renamed Ashkelon and now houses the largest number of Palestinian political prisoners from the Gaza strip. Israel holds some 7,000 prisoners. On a Palestinian population basis, this would be equivalent to 700,000 Americans thrown in jail for resisting occupation by a foreign government.
Atrocities did not end in 1950. Just in the past three years Israeli occupation forces left some 35,000 Palestinians homeless. All of this is supported and paid for by the U.S. government. The U.S. used its veto power at the U.N. no less than 36 times. I myself became politically active in the late 1980s when the U.S. used its veto power to block a resolution asking Israel to lift the siege on my biblical town of Beit Sahour (the Shepherds' field). Why was there a siege? Because residents were tired of paying taxes to the army which used it to build Jewish-only settlements on their lands, to build Jewish-only roads, to fund the occupation while Palestinian schools and hospitals were decaying. The army of course laid siege with tanks for over 40 days while they rampaged and stole furniture, TVs, cars, and everything of value in the predominantly Christian town.
U.S. citizens would be up in arms if they learned the facts of the massive ethnic cleansing program, of the massive killing of civilian natives (3,000 murdered in less than 3 years, 35,000 injured), of the opinion of the majority of the public around the world. They would be outraged if they learned of the real cost to them (in blood and treasure) that the unconditional support given to Israel. They would be appalled at the incredible grip on the political process that Israel's lobby in Washington has over both Democrats and Republicans. But much of this knowledge is shielded from the public by a largely subservient media.
Walls like the Berlin wall are ultimately destined to fall. But this will happen only if the psychological walls of misinformation, lies, and distortions are torn down. Only then will we have justice, freedom and democracy in Palestine/Israel , broadly in the Arab world, and also here in the U.S.. Democracy requires full disclosure and an informed public. Truly cultured citizens interested in a more rational discourse on globalization, justice, truth, and equality around the world do well to start the hard work of going around all the propaganda and obstacles created by the media concentration in the hands of the few.
Memo to Mr. Sharon: tear down this wall.
Memo to Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry: stop funding and shielding colonial occupation.
Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD, is an associate professor at Yale University and the author of “Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human rights and the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.” He lives in Orange.