Thursday, October 01, 2020

Part 1: Exploring Israelís Apartheid Wall

By George Mandarin - June 20, 2012
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [the Wall] [Abu Dis] [Maíale Adumim]

Photos by Dylan Collins

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 first account of a three part series documenting their journey, written by Dylan.

Having lived in the occupied Palestinian territories for about half a year, both of us considered ourselves to be relatively well acquainted with the Wall, its general shape & size, and its altogether ugly façade and imposing demeanor.

Likewise, I knew via my own reading that the Wall is an insidious mechanism designed by Israeli authorities as an excuse to unilaterally seize Palestinian land.

However, upon examining the Wall first hand, following its twisting and what at first glance seems to be a zigzagging nonsensical path, one is given a deeper understanding into the sinister character and actuality of Israel’s nominal “Security Barrier.”

Basic Info

Putting what I knew before the trip and what I discovered during the trip aside, let us first touch on the physical aspects of Israel’s Annexation Wall.

For one thing, it is massive.

Composed of 8-9 meter (26 – 29 ft) slabs of concrete in urban areas, the Wall dwarfs anyone standing next to it.

However, the Wall is more than just concrete slabs; it is an assortment of electric-sensor fences, razor wire, military patrol roads, sand paths, trenches, and surveillance cameras. Only 5% (37 kilometers) of the Wall is made of the imposing concrete slabs; however these segments have been placed directly alongside, and often through, Palestinian urban areas lying in proximity to the Green Line (in particular, areas such as Jerusalem, Qalqiliya & Tulkarem) and as a result are often the most visible sections.

Al-Haq, a prominent Palestinian Human Rights Organization, estimates the length of the Wall to be 708 kilometers, rendering it twice the length of 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). Once the Wall is completed, it estimated that 85% of it will lie within the West Bank.

Al-Haq estimated that as of April 2012, approximately 61.8% (438 kilometers) of the Wall had been completed, while an additional 8.2% was under construction and a further 30% (213 kilometers) planned.

Completion of the Wall is not expected until some point in 2020. By then, it will have cost Israeli Authorities (with the help of Israeli and US tax payers, amongst many other countries) an estimated $1.8 billion (USD).

Day One: A morning in E-1

It was an early start to a long day. R. Guendelman and I left the house around 7 am and headed out of Ramallah towards Jerusalem, through the villages of Jaba and Hizma.

Passing by Hizma and continuing down the long sloping hill in the direction of the Dead Sea, the beautiful vista of rolling hills and small villages is abruptly interrupted by the backside of the monstrous Ma’ale Adumim settlement bloc, one of Israel’s largest illegal settlement colonies inside the occupied West Bank. Comprised of 5 connected settlements, both Ma’ale Adumim’s size along with its well-established physical infrastructure point to the deliberate and seemingly unstoppable nature of Israel’s greater colonization project. It is clear that Ma’ale Adumim, along with its nearly 40,000 inhabitants, is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Ma’ale Adumin is located within the controversial E-1 Area on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Its location and continued expansion is part of a larger plan by Israeli authorities, one that began in the late 1990s, to effectively Judaize Jerusalem and to prevent expansion of any and all Palestinian neighborhoods within the municipal area.

Officially approved by the Israeli High Court on 4 October 1999, the E-1 plan intends to develop the area between Palestinian areas in East Jerusalem and the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, adding approximately 2,560 acres to the Ma’ale Adumim bloc, establishing geographic contiguity between the settlement and the other Israeli settlements in north-eastern Jerusalem: Pisgat Ze’ev, Pisgat Omer, Neve Ya’akov and French Hill. In effect, the plan drastically enlarges the municipal borders of Jerusalem and the number of its Jewish Israeli inhabitants.

The current construction of Israeli only roads connecting Ma’ale Adumim to Jerusalem will soon severely inhibit Palestinian travel southward. If the Israeli authorities’ plans for E-1 are completed, Palestinians travelling south in the West Bank will be forced to take a detour around the entire settlement. In effect, the West Bank will be cut in two and Jerusalem will virtually inaccessible, thus destroying any chance of a viable Palestinian state in the future. The Wall is planned to fully encircle the settlement bloc, effectively annexing the entire territory into Israel.

The annexation of the E-1 area comes hand in hand with the planned expansion of Ma’ale Adumim, whose area is expected to be expanded to about 47 km2 (almost as big as Tel Aviv’s area of 51 km2) and whose population is expected to exceed 60,000 by 2020.

Israeli only roads have made travelling to Ma’ale Adumim seem like travelling to any other Israeli city; however it is a well-known fact that the entire settlement is built entirely within the West Bank. A 2006 report, published by the Israeli human rights group Peace Now, detailed that 86.4% of the settlement was built upon privately owned Palestinian land.

Abu Dis

After stopping in several spots around Ma’ale Adumim for some film and photo work, we continued on into Azeriya and Abu Dis – two Palestinian towns located within the greater East Jerusalem municipality but which are now, along with several other East Jerusalem Arab villages, positioned on the West Bank side of the Wall. Pinned in between the Wall on one side and the colossal Ma’ale Adumim on the other, right in the middle the E-1 district, residents of these towns now find themselves in a pseudo prison. Thousands of dunums of land have been annexed on either side by both the Wall and Ma’ale Adumim, leaving Palestinian villages in the area not only squeezed for space but often left without access to what was once their farm land and their main means of subsistence.

One of the Wall’s most distinguishing characteristics, that of it being a mechanism designed to usurp land, is clearly visible in Abu Dis. The Wall runs directly along side the town’s center as well as along the campus of the prominent Al-Quds University, leaving the city with a cramped, overcrowded feeling. However, on the other side of the Wall, the Israeli side, lie large wide-open fields essentially devoid of any houses or structures. Empty space. One sees this time and time again throughout the West Bank: the Wall comes right up to the edge, and often through the middle, of West Bank Palestinian towns and villages, and leaves wide open fields on the other (Israel) side.

Additionally, many residents have been stripped of the blue Jerusalem residency IDs issued by Israeli Authorities. Since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the entirety of Jerusalem, not only have Israeli authorities controlled the entire city’s population registry, but they have embarked on a explicit policy of limiting the number of Palestinian residents to no more than 28% of the city’s population. As of 1991, Israeli authorities had revoked the residency rights of more than 100,000 Palestinians via autocratic administrative decisions. The policy of ID Card confiscation increased by no less than 786% in 1996 after the Israeli Ministry of Interior implemented its “center of life” policy, a policy that greatly increased the criteria necessary for Palestinians to maintain their status as Jerusalem residents.

Israeli authorities are gradually squeezing Palestinian residents out of the E-1 area. Via Jerusalem ID revocations, settlement expansions, and attributed land grabs, not to mention the significant decline in economic activity brought about by the creation of the Wall and its effective severance of Abu Dis and Azzariya from Jerusalem, one can only wonder what the area will look like ten years from now.

Please check back for the next edition of Exploring Israel’s Annexation Wall

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