Walls Of Shame
By Dr. Elias Akleh
17 November, 2009
On November 2nd many western leaders gathered at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, to celebrate the downing of the notorious Berlin Wall. These hypocrite leaders; German Chancellor Merkel, French President Sarkozy, Russian President Medvedev, British Prime Minister Brown, US Secretary of State Clinton, and US President Obama, praised those who tore down the wall, emphasized the need to “overcome the walls of our time”, “keep fighting for freedom …so people get to live their dreams”, and emphasized that “all men are created equal …have the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness’, yet none of them recognized the rights of Palestinians and Iraqis to their freedom, and none of them condemned the uglier Israeli separation and imprisoning wall that cuts the West Bank into smaller Bantustans, or the Baghdad wall that divides the city into smaller sections.
Contrary to their cajoling speeches the foreign policies of these leaders have encouraged the erection of these walls. Their political support and their citizens’ tax money had encouraged rogue Israel to violate international laws and to keep constructing its separation wall. The erection of the Baghdad concrete wall, similar to Berlin Wall, exposes the hollow rhetoric of Obama and Hillary
In 2004 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) had ruled the Israeli wall as a flagrant violation of international laws. Fourteen out of the fifteen judges in the ICJ voted against the Israeli wall. The sole backer of the wall was US judge Thomas Buerghenthal, who echoed the sentiments of then US president Bush and the presidential candidate John Kerry. .
Occupational governments, who erect such walls, claim that walls are needed to ensure security. One should notice that these walls are built to divide countries and cities into halves, to separate members of same family in order to disintegrate their social structure, to separate people from their farmland in order to destroy their economy, and to separate people, who had shared same culture and history for thousands of years, in order to destroy a nation.
The separation walls are symbols that show how governments can separate and alienate people in order to create misunderstanding and hatred. History shows us how governments had divided same people; e.g. Germany was divided into east and west, Korea was divided into south and north, great India was divided into Pakistan, Kashmir and India, Yugoslavia was divided into many segments such as Kosovo, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, the Arab world was divided into 22 separate countries, and lately Iraq was divided into three separate segments; Kurdish, Shiites, and Sunnis.
The Israeli separation and imprisoning wall is a unique phenomenon and is unlike all other walls. It cuts down a whole country and extends from one end to its other end. In the West Bank the wall extends 730KM long and 8-9 Meters high. This is five times longer and three times higher than the Berlin Wall. It has armed watchtowers with snipers every 400 meters, and a military buffer zone of 30-100 Meter wide in many areas. In other areas it consists of electric fences, trace paths, barbed wires, cameras and deep trenches. In yet other areas it cuts through the hearts of Palestinian towns separating families from their very neighbors.
While Berlin Wall was only in Berlin City, the Israeli wall is all over the West Bank of Palestine encircling many major cities such as Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Tulkarem, Qalqiliya and Nablus. Some of these cities are completely surrounded by the wall on all directions with a single military checkpoint serving as the only exit/entrance gate to the city.
The whole Gaza Strip is surrounded with the wall on all three directions, while the fourth is faced with a sea patrolled by Israeli torpedo boats. The Gaza economical siege and the last December Israeli military onslaught demonstrate the devastating effects of the wall on the people.
Israel is building its separation wall not for security reasons as its leaders keep claiming. In reality it is an isolation wall erected with the hidden agenda of creating an atmosphere of silent “voluntary” transfer of Palestinians out of their communities. Its purpose is to imprison whole Palestinian communities in a large open prison within a wall disrupting peoples’ lives and separating them from their farm land, from schools, from hospitals, from jobs and from all the social services in the neighboring cities. Thus exacerbating poverty and unemployment that would, Israelis hope, drive Palestinians out of their home towns searching for better livelihoods.
The wall is a massive land grab that has annexed 47% of the West Bank, which constitutes 22% of the whole Palestine proper leaving even smaller disconnected patches of land for the proposed Palestinian state. Its construction is a great crime against mother earth herself since Israel has razed the fertile layer of the confiscated farm land, and has uprooted hundreds of thousands of fruit trees especially one-thousand-years old olive trees. Many of these trees are protected under international cultural heritage laws.
The wall has also cut off all Palestinian cities from Jerusalem, the proposed capital of Palestinian state, and has destroyed the city’s historical and cultural characters. It has thus encroached on and violated Palestinians’ religious rights since they are cut off from their Christian and Islamic religious sites in the city.
Palestinians opposed the construction of the wall since its beginning in 2002. They have organized peaceful demonstrations and rallies against the wall. Weekly peaceful demonstrations are carried in the path of the wall, the most known are carried in the villages of Bi’lin and Ni’lin, where Palestinians are joined by many international and even Israeli peace activists. These demonstrations are usually faced violently by Israeli soldiers shooting live bullets, rubber-coated bullets, tear gas and sound grenades, arrests and savage beatings.
Palestinians had also taken the issue to the streets of major American and European cities leading to the establishment of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) with western peace activists, who expressed solidarity with the Palestinians verbally and actively. Many ISM members traveled to Palestine to help Palestinian farmers harvest their crops peacefully, to protect Palestinian homes from demolition, and to join in demonstrations against Israeli separation wall.
Israeli war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes against mother earth, and violations of international laws have shocked even the average western citizen. An anti-Israeli apartheid movement has begun to take shape and is gaining momentum. Boycott campaigns against Israel have been launched worldwide. Israeli goods are being boycotted in many European countries. Academic and sports boycotts are also gaining ground. Divestment campaigns are spreading within university campuses, churches, city councils, and many other organizations.
In the 20th anniversary of the dismantling of Berlin Wall Palestinians, with the help of international peace activists, have planned ten days (Nov. 9 – 18) of demonstrations, meetings, discussion groups, and information centers to bring people’s attention to Israeli crimes and to the inhumane Israeli separation wall. Demonstrations against the wall are planned in many countries such as Argentina, Australia, Austria, Basque Country, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Quebec, Scotland, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States and Venezuela.
In the occupied West Bank Palestinians led demonstrations against the wall. In a symbolic gesture and despite Israeli tear gas and rubber bullets, Palestinians with international activists in the village of Ni’lin and Qalandia refugee camp had toppled down one of the concrete slabs of the wall.
It took twenty years to topple down the Berlin Wall. But with such Palestinian resolve and international support the Israeli separation wall would, definitely, take shorter time to fall.