The security fence runs roughly along the
1967 separation line between Israel and the
Bassem Waked’s house, built on the outskirts of the West Bank village of Jayous, overlooks the idle bulldozers which have torn across the valley, uprooting olive trees, tearing through citrus groves
and destroying greenhouses to make way for the giant wall the Israeli government is building to encircle the West Bank. “They work day and night,” he says. People here think the wall will be complete by May.
The planned fence, which will run the entire 360 kilometre length of the West Bank, is one of the measures the Israeli government is taking to stop Palestinian resistance fighters. The Israelis will control who goes in and who leaves, in a similar way to the Gaza Strip, which, since the intifada began two years ago, has effectively become a prison for the more than one million Palestinians who live there. The first stretch of the wall has already been constructed and in January 2003, Israel officially celebrated the completion of its first four kilometres.
This stretch of concrete wall, which loosely follows the 1967 border between Israel and the Palestinian Territory, encircles the town of Qalqiliya in the north of the West Bank. However, in several places the wall veers many kilometres into the West Bank confirming fears that not only will it lock the Palestinian population in the West Bank, but that it is also an excuse to confiscate further Palestinian land and create a new de facto border. The fears are hardened by the continual revision of the wall’s route to include Israeli settlements lying deep inside the West Bank.
Both north and south of Qalqiliya the wall wriggles along the northwest edge of the West Bank, carving through villages like Jayous lying close to the Green Line. In all, a total of 10 percent of the Palestinian Territory will be confiscated. Over 30 groundwater wells stand to be annexed in just the first phase of construction, cutting off many villages from their only source of water.
The land confiscation and destruction directly translates into the loss of 6,500 jobs. For Jayous the impact is devastating: 72 percent of its lands have been confiscated, along with seven groundwater wells meaning that 300 families will lose their only source of income.
Basem Waked, a policeman in Qalqiliya, has seen 16 dunums of his land confiscated to make way for the wall (one dunum is equivalent to approximately 1000 square metres). The bulldozers he watches from his window uprooted 60 olive trees, passed down to him over many generations.
The wall will take away from some
Palestinians their livelihoods
He shrugs his shoulders. “At first we just couldn’t believe what was happening,” he says. Now he and his family watch from the window as his land is being torn up to build the wall, locally dubbed the "apartheid wall", which is swallowing their land and livelihoods. “What will my son think of me?” he asks, looking at his four-year-old boy who is perched on his knee. “I have nothing left to give him.”
Sharif Khalid’s land lies on the Israeli side of the wall and he fears that despite Israeli commitments to allow farmers through specially created gates to access their land, Palestinians will not be allowed to cross. He points to the great gash across the land:
“Generations of my family’s sweat poured onto that land. Now my lifetime’s labour and my grandchildren’s inheritance have been stolen.” He believes that the wall is just an excuse to expropriate Palestinian land. “Israeli arguments that the wall is being built for security reasons do not explain the path the wall is taking. Why does it not follow the 1967 border?”
Sharif Khalid’s neighbours are ruined. Two years ago, Moufidi decided to supplement her husband’s meagre salary by producing olive oil. She sold her gold, her dowry from her wedding, to buy 10 olive trees. Lying in the direct path of the wall, these were among the first trees to be uprooted. The family has nothing left. “I feel that I am in great disaster,” she confided. “Only Allah can help us now.”
Sami Salim, who lives on the other side of the village, reiterates her concern. “We are destroyed,” he says. Salim’s family owned 80 dunums of land, and now he is left with only four. He too had olive trees, and a citrus grove. He also has goats but now he has nowhere to take them. He spends his mornings collecting grass in the back of his tractor and feeding the goats in his garden. “I can’t continue like this,” he complains. The alternative is to sell them, but the market price for the animals has plummeted as so many farmers in the district are faced with the same problem.
The harsh economic situation, shaping the lives of the people in Jayous, is aggravated by Israeli-imposed area closures, which have strangled the Palestinian economy for more than two years, and led to Palestinian poverty rates of 60 percent. Israeli travel restrictions throughout the West Bank have hindered products from reaching the markets, with lorries transporting produce often having to take long detours to avoid blockaded roads or having to wait for hours to pass Israeli checkpoints. During long curfews the food simply rots.
As more and more land is confiscated, towns are isolated from each other, communities dismembered and people turned into refugees in their own land, fears that the wall represents the death of a viable Palestinian state seem to be coming true. And as life behind the wall grows increasingly desperate and miserable, rather than reducing the security threat, the wall would appear to be breeding hatred and stoking the fires of resentment.