THE INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION (EAFORD)

5 route des Morillons, CP 2100.  1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

Telephone: (022) 791.67.27 Fax: (022) 788.62.33  e-mail: info@eaford.org 

Commission on Human Rights

Sixtieth session (15 March – 23 April 2004)

Item 6: Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and all forms of discrimination 

THE APARTHEID WALL IN PALESTINE 

            Israel’s presence and policies in the Occupied Territories are legally and morally unacceptable. Consequently, while the ordeal of the Palestinians have been tragic, its imprint on others with a sense of justice and knowledge of history was distressing, to say the least. With the construction of a wall, creating a de facto new border fraught with a host of  further predicaments, the lives of the Palestinians have become even worse.

            Especially after the provocative ‘grandstand’ of Ariel Sharon on the steps of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the eruption of another Intifada (29 September 2000), the Palestinians experienced one shock after another. The occupying power laid sieges to public buildings and residential quarters, carried out indiscriminate assaults from tanks, helicopters and military watchtowers on traumatized civilians and bystanders, killed or wounded them, targeted children, assassinated individuals, occasionally used poisonous gases, prevented medical teams to function effectively, carried out collective punishment, demolished edifices, shelled even academic institutions, damaged mosques and churches, devastated live stocks and agricultural complexes, raised industrial enterprises to ground, bulldozered water wells, destroyed crops, uprooted trees, pursued arrest campaigns, prolongated detentions with no charge or trial, applied torture under detention, transferred them illegally, set strict criteria for release of prisoners, helped the illegal extension of Jewish settlements, closed commercial stores, tightened curfews, denied the Palestinians access to their work places, and  harassed, arrested, wounded and even killed local and foreign journalists who documented these crimes.

            All these crimes have been documented as to names, places and dates. Even bee hives were destroyed. The Israeli occupation forces deliberately targeted several competitive industrial establishments, For instance, the Al-Bayan Company, producing iron-sheets, and the Abu-Ghalioon factory, turning out tiles, both serious rivals to Israeli manufacturers, were completely destroyed. The total losses upon the Palestinian industrial sector (until 30 June 2002) reached $1.164 billion.

            What were described above were bad enough. But perhaps worse, in a way, was the creation of a wall, described by various commentators as a “huge barrier, racist construction, separation barricade, a tool of settlement expansion or an apartheid partition”. Although the present Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is known to have brought up the issue of  the so-called “security fence”, racial discrimination goes to a much earlier date and attitude, as expressed by the assassinated PM Yitzhak Rabin who said: “We are here, and they are there”.

            The separation barrier, snaking into the Palestinian-owned lands, is composed of thick cement walls, deep ditches, and high-voltage electric fences. Pushing the Green Line aside, the wall now introduces a ‘new border’. It stretches from northeastern part of the West Bank to its southermost region and to the east of the Green Line and swallows vast arable and fertile Palestinian lands, isolating residential areas, forcing the indigenous residents to take refuge once more, and creating several hazardous economic and social consequences.    

            The wall’s length in the West Bank is 360 kilometers, and the width ranges between 80 and 100 meters. It penetrates some kilometers into Palestinian territory, for instance, ten kilometers into Salfit City. Some of the Palestinians houses are left between the separation wall and the illegal settlements. The wall has racist features because it is designed to separate two peoples, who had lived in peace some time in the distant past. Now, there are barbed wires to obstruct access.

            A trench, 4 m. in width and 5 m. in depth, is dug behind the wires. A paved road, 12 m. wide, is to serve reconnaissance. The sandy road, 4 m. wide and just behind the military road, is supposed to trace the “infiltrators”. The wall is after the sandy road. It is a cement casting of about a meter high, on top of which there is a 3 m. electric fence, bolstered by alarms, cameras, lamps and similar equipment. After the wall, there is again a sandy road, a paved road, a trench and barbed wire, as on the other side.

             Between East and West Jerusalem, there is also a separation wall, ostensibly 11 kilometers but actually 57 km. because it also snakes into Palestinian (and Jewish) areas. Here too, it swallows vast Palestinian lands, forcing Arab Jerusalemites to get out of or enter Jerusalem through special Israeli gates. The total surface area lost to the Palestinians, on account of the separation wall, adds up to 164.783 dunums (about ¼ acre) of Palestinian agricultural land. Some of the U.S. financial support of $9 billion will probably be used for the wall and Jewish settlements, none of which can help bring peace and security to the area

            An Israeli iron-made wall also separates the Palestinian and Egyptian borders. It removes the Arab dwellings within the 300-400 meters zone, destroys the water pipelines of 116.000 meters and increases unemployment and therefore poverty in the area.

            The apartheid wall is going to cause political, economic and social changes. It is not a temporary measure; it has permanent implications. The absence of workable international mechanisms gives the Israeli Government the opportunity to create a fait accompli before any negotiation. It forces the Palestinians to pay an incredible price in land, water, economic viability and environmental stability. It isolates them from medical centers, schools, the main water network and telephone services. It gives Israel the opportunity to dominate all the strategic sites of fresh water. It runs the risk of creating a new generation of refugees. It can only undermine the peace process and the Road Map and constitute another barrier in front of the creation of a Palestinian state. 

            While many of those who protested against such a wall are detained, arrested or deported, some organizations like the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were concerned with aid. and relief.

            The Palestine National Authority reconfirmed its commitment to the “two-state solution” of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But the racist separation wall limits the chance for a Palestinian state, and the Palestinians may demand a “one-state solution” if Israel seeks to impose a unilateral alternative on the ground.

 

 

EAFORD

26 January 2004