This concrete barrier – commonly known as the apartheid wall, but referred to by Israel as a separation fence – being built through the West Bank is not a new idea. The notion has been circulating the Israeli political scene since 1973.

The wall is 8m high, twice the height of the former Berlin wall. Palestinian sources anticipate that it may reach 650km long, more than four times the length of the Berlin wall. On a daily basis 500 bulldozers can be seen working on it – and it is possibly Israel’s largest project to date.

It will be equipped with highly sophisticated surveillance equipment and electric barbed wire and, in parts, is bordered by trenches; it will also be patrolled. Palestinians above the age of 12 will have to hold a permit to cross it. The total estimated cost of the wall is more than $1billion.

In the summer of 2002, Sharon’s government provoked further controversy when it started building the wall east of the Green Line, near the village of Salim, west of Jenin (the original 1967 armistice line). This means that more Palestinian land is being encroached and more Palestinian people living within the vicinity of the wall will be displaced.

A boy tries to squeeze through
the wall while it is being built

One reason for the deviation in the route is to appease illegal Israeli settlers. They are putting pressure on their government to build the wall around them, leaving some Palestinian homes virtually surrounded.

The villages of Rummana, Taba and Yanin have been put into a canton and separated from the West Bank and from Israel by two separate walls.

A World Bank report of May 2003 states that the wall will hurt Palestinians immensely. The report claims: “95,000 Palestinians will remain living between the fence and the Green Line (61,000 of them in the Jerusalem district) when the fence is completed.” The report confirms that the wall will strip Palestinians living beside it of access to water resources.

The wall is said to have seriously affected the living of thousands of Palestinians. It separates farmers from their land, it divides families, and cuts businessmen off from their premises. Shepherds have been forced to sell their flocks owing to loss of pasture.

An estimated 100,000 olive trees and 50,000 fruit have been removed already along the first 112km (70 miles) of the wall according to Palestinian environment groups. 

Towards the end of October 2003 the UN voted overwhelmingly to demand that Israel stops building the wall and demolishes certain parts of it because it contravenes international law. However, to date, the wall continues to go up.

The first phase of building in the northwestern West Bank was completed in July 2003, and will continue south. Ariel Sharon has also announced that the wall will be continued on the east side of the West Bank, separating it from Jordan.