Thursday, September 20, 2018

Part 2: Exploring Israelís Apartheid Wall


By George Mandarin - June 27, 2012
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [Qalqylia] [the Wall] [IDF]

At the beginning of June, Dylan Collins and R. Guendelman rented a car and spent several days meandering through occupied West Bank. Their mission was to follow the Apartheid Wall’s northern route, from Jerusalem up to Qalqiliya, through Tulkarem and into Jenin. Below is the second account of a three part series documenting their journey, written by Dylan.

Part 1: Exploring Israel’s Apartheid Wall

Moving on from the village of Abu Dis and the thorny E-1 area, R. Guendelman and I headed northwest, following the Wall’s winding path towards the district of Qalqilya.

Before reaching the center of Qalqilya, we stopped briefly in the village of Mas’ha to visit the home of Hani Amer. Hani, along with his wife and six children, lives in one of the most absurd circumstances I’ve come across here in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Amer family home lays directly alongside the Israeli settlement of Elkana. Hani contends that since 1970 Israeli authorities have stolen over 7,000 dunums (about 7,000,000 square meters)—80%—of Mas’ha’s land in order to build and expand Elkana.

Hani’s home, which sits only several meters away from one of Elkana’s houses, is surrounded on three sides by high electric-censored fences, and completed on the fourth side by an 18-foot concrete wall. He has his own personal door in the wall through which he and his family have access to in order to reach their home as well as through which anything required in the home is to pass. One thing is for sure – they certainly won’t be remodeling their home anytime soon, as no furniture can fit through such a tiny ingress.

During the 2003-2004 construction of Israel’s Wall around and through the village of Mas’ha, the Israeli authorities demolished Hani’s 3,000 square meter plant nursery. All of Hani’s land, including his poultry farm, for which he sold his main house in the village to create, was placed on the other (Israeli) side of the Wall. The Israeli army demolished Hani’s farm in 2004. He is left with his less than one square kilometer piece of land, completely enclosed by Israel’s “Security Barrier.”

Nevertheless, despite demolitions, threats, and daily run-ins with Elkana’s setters and the Israeli army, Hani says he is determined to remain in his house and on the little amount of land he has left. “I will never give up my resistance,” he said. “I’m just worried about the effect this situation will have on my children.”


Continuing on to Qalqilya

After tea with Hani and his youngest son, R. Guendelman and I continued north into the main city of Qalqilya. With a population of about 46,000 people, Qalqilya is not only located directly alongside the Green Line (the line demarcating Israel’s pre-1967 borders and the original path on which the Wall was supposed to have been built) but is also surrounded on the other three sides by numerous Israeli settlements. Adding insult to injury, Israel’s Apartheid Wall completely encircles the city, leaving the 46,000 residents with one Israeli army controlled gate through which they are to access their agricultural lands, visit family in other areas of the West Bank, as well as to reach the nearest hospital.

According to Palestinian human rights group, Al-Haq, there are currently 350,000 Palestinians (almost the size of Tel Aviv) trapped within the no-man’s-land Seam Zone

By the time it is completed, the Wall will stretch an astounding 92 Km in length around the city.

Besides Jerusalem, perhaps nowhere else in the West Bank is the Wall’s presence more acutely felt than in Qalqilya. Here too, the Wall’s security pretext is exposed for the charade it is, as it wraps tightly around the city, leaving only a meter or two between it and Palestinian homes, while simultaneously stealing vast stretches of open land to the opposite (Israeli) side—effectively allowing for further expansion of the numerous Israeli settlements in the future. The city is strangled while the surrounding settlements flourish.

Many sub-sections of the larger Qalqilya area have now, after the Wall’s construction, found themselves separated from the rest of the city. Areas such as Arab Ramadi, Wadi Rash, and Ras Tira now all lie within the Seam Zone—the area sandwiched between Israel’s Apartheid Wall and the Green Line. All Seem Zone residents hold West Bank IDs but are in an area under full Israeli civil and military control. The Palestine Authority (PA) does nothing for them. According to Palestinian human rights group, Al-Haq, there are currently 350,000 Palestinians (almost the size of Tel Aviv) trapped within the no-man’s-land Seam Zone.
 

Everyday, Seem Zone residents in the Qalqilya area must pass through a special checkpoint in order to reach school, work, to buy groceries, and/or to reach friends and family living in the main section of the city. Groceries and school children are thoroughly searched everyday. The checkpoint closes at 10:00 PM and re-opens in the morning. If there are medical emergencies at anytime in between this period, residents often find themselves out of luck.

Israeli authorities, once again, have a clear policy of squeezing these unwanted residents of Qalqilya’s Seem Zone out of their homes and out of Israel’s way. In Arab Ramadin, for example, every single one of the 550 residents’ homes has a demolition order.

With so much special treatment for this particular area, one wonders why Israeli authorities have chosen to target Qalqilya so extremely. Is it because several Second Intifada suicide bombers were believed to have crossed into Israel from Qalqilya? This is likely the answer one will receive from Israeli authorities; however, Qalqilya’s location atop the giant Western Aquifer Basin, the largest water source in the West Bank, should also be taken into account. The Western Aquifer Basin produces approximately half of the West Bank’s annual water resources.

Prominent hydrologists have pointed out the connection between the Wall and the water basin as well. Clemens Messerschmid, a German hydrologist based in Ramallah, noted in a 2007 piece published on the Electronic Intifada, that long before planning and building of the Wall, “Israeli hydrologists had already drawn up so-called 'maps of water interests,’ on which those areas that are now located behind the Wall were marked as zones of strategic interest for Israel. It was in these areas that all future Palestinian groundwater development had to be prevented.”

”The main water objective of the wall, then, is not to steal a handful of wells, but to prevent any future expansion of Palestinian capacity to mine the Western Aquifer,” Messerschmid goes on to say later in the piece.

The 1995 Oslo II Accords allotted Israel 94% (362 million cubic meters MCM) of th Western Aquifer Basin’s annual discharged. Leaving Palestinians in the area a measly 6%—one can only wonder how this allotment has changed since the arrival of the Wall.

Shut the f— up!” shouted one, rather aggressive, soldier in flawless English. “What are you doing? Don’t go ANYWHERE! No one goes anywhere! Stay where the f— you are

R. Guendelman and I spent a few hours driving around the tiny enclosed space, following the Wall, and stopping sporadically to take photos and video. Many residents have set up ad hoc farm plots in an attempt to avoid the untimely process of going in and out of the ever present military checkpoint in order to reach their little remaining farm lands lying outside the Wall,  as they are directly cut short by the rising and out of place concrete edifice.

As the sun went down, we stopped the car to take a clip of a dead goat lying in the middle of the road. R. Guendelman, the video master, went about his work, and I made myself absent. I walked toward the Wall in order to a get a photo of some the small farm plots, their tenders collecting their tools and preparing to go home. These ghetto-like farms, alongside the monstrous concrete edifice, created quite a powerful image.

Suddenly, one of the farmers directed my attention to an Israeli army watchtower built into the Wall situated right behind me. Its camera was following me as I walked. Within minutes two Israeli Humvees screamed onto the scene. Five well armed soldiers descended. “Bo! Bo! Bo!” (Hebrew for come) they began screaming. I thought they might have wanted me to move my car, as it was parked rather close to the Wall.

“Hey, how’s it going?” I said. “Do you want me to move the car?”

“Shut the f— up!” shouted one, rather aggressive, soldier in flawless English. “What are you doing? Don’t go ANYWHERE! No one goes anywhere! Stay where the f— you are!”

As the soldiers began the timely process of unlocking the security access gate built into the Wall, R. Guendelman, who had been abruptly pulled away from his dead goat meditation, stumbled over. “What did you do?” he asked. I was equally as perplexed.

Once through the gate, several of the soldiers immediately came towards us and photographed our faces. “Why are you taking pictures of? What are you doing? Why are you here?” they began asking.

Unbeknownst to us, this section of Qalqilya, in addition to being sectioned off by the Wall, had been declared a closed military area. Only residents with permits to farm in the area were allowed. All of our photos were deleted. Our passports were taken, our car was searched and we were detained for about 30 minutes. “It’s okay, but you can’t go anywhere,” the soldiers said.

Eventually we were told we could go. Slightly confused and a bit irritated, we continued on our journey, slightly more cautiously, in the dark up to Tulkarem.




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