The Apartheid Wall Carries On

10 April 2007
The general atmosphere of being under siege is a constant of Israeli society, political culture and media behaviour. Nothing exposes this self-righteous paranoia as much as the Wall, writes Achin Vanaik.
The general atmosphere of being under siege and of being the victim is a constant of Israeli society, political culture and media behaviour. But there have been two interesting changes in its public discourse that strike recent visitors like myself. Twenty years ago only the Israeli left used the term Palestinians. Now even the Israeli right uses the term as a matter of routine indicating at least that there is an entity and body of people that they have to deal with and cannot simply ignore as was indeed the case between 1967 and the first Intifada of 1987. Two former Israeli premiers, Golda Meir and Levi Eshkol, used to declare that there were no such people as Palestinians – talk of denying a people’s right to exist! There has also been the impact of the ‘revisionist’ historians like Benny Morris who basing himself on unimpeachable official Israeli sources have destroyed the falsehood that was once the common currency of public discourse – that in 1948 the Palestinians fled from their homes because called to do so by neighbouring Arab countries. Now it is widely accepted that they were ethnically cleansed by the Israeli military and political establishment of that time because that was the only way a Jewish majority Zionist state could have been established. But recognition of this truth has not led to any sea-change in attitudes to the Palestinians. Morris insists, and in this he expresses the dominant Israeli view, that this ethnic cleansing was necessary and justified and in fact should have been taken to its limit by expelling the remaining one-third of Palestinians in 1948 or thereafter. There would then not have been the problems that Israel currently faces. It is not that Israeli Jews lack access to information or knowledge about what their government and society is doing to Palestinians in the OT and within the Israel of the Green Line (the official line of demarcation between the Israel of pre-1967 borders and what it controls today). It is that they really do not want to know the truth because they would then have to confront the horror of what they and their society have become and of what they and it are doing and endorsing. In one sense, the most courageous people in Israel are the anti-Zionist Jews. They have all the rights of other Jews in contrast to the Palestinians of the OT or in Israel. But unlike Palestinians they have no community (even a small one) that they can lean upon for emotional, psychological and moral support. The likes of Ilan Pappe (the most remarkable of Israeli historians and a person of outstanding political courage and integrity) are respected and admired in Palestinian and enlightened international circles but they remain deeply isolated and largely ostracized where they have lived and worked -- which is in Jewish Israel. A Likud MP has recently proposed a bill that if passed through the Knesset would rob such people of their citizenship rights because the proposed bill demands as a pre-condition for enjoying such rights, ‘loyalty’ to the ‘Jewish and democratic’ character of the state. Nothing exposes the self-righteous paranoia of Israeli society as much as the Wall that is being constructed and the latest hysteria about Iran getting control of the full civilian nuclear cycle. Having toured the length of the Wall in Jerusalem, a sense of its horror becomes palpable in a way that no abstract understanding from afar can provide. The Wall is not just illegal. It is a human and moral obscenity. It has very little to do with promoting security from suicide bombers. Over 70% of the Wall extends beyond the Green Line (the 1967 borders) cutting into and enclosing Palestinian territory as well as the main new Israeli settlements in the OT which are thus to be protected.. When finally constructed (already more than two-thirds on the way there) it will run for approximately 700 kilometers at an average cost of one million US dollars per kilometer. The first aim of building this Wall is to take up as much territory as possible and make the big new Israeli settlements de facto irreversible and their future dismantling impossible. The second aim is to drive a massive wedge into the OT creating three separate cantons so that it becomes impossible for the Palestinians to ever have a viable, contiguous state even though much smaller than that based on the 1967 borders. There will be bridges and tunnels of all sorts (fully controlled at all crossings by Israeli soldiers) and this will be presented as the new Israel offer of a ‘contiguous’ Palestinian territory that also meets Israel’s ‘security’ needs. The third aim is to simultaneously enclose more territory and also enclose Palestinians between the Wall and the Green Line in such a way (the Wall deliberately snakes back and forth) that their daily lives become so miserable (cutting off people from fields and places of work, from schools and the rest of the village or town so that hours are spent traveling including humiliating treatment at checkpoints, etc) so that over time they will decide to ‘voluntarily’ leave to go outside the Wall into the OT. Thus Israel can achieve its ambition of both maximizing land grab and minimizing the Palestinian population within Israel. This applies not only to annexed land in the OT but also to the Arab part of Jerusalem. The Wall cuts off a 100,000 Palestinians who are Israeli citizens and legal Jerusalem residents causing them immense hardship since they have to spend inordinate time traveling to their workplaces on the other side of the Wall or to relatives and friends. Again the hope is that they will sell off their lands to Jews and move away thus helping to Judaize Jerusalem. Contrary to Israeli expectations, the Arab population at 240,000 has become 35% of the total Jerusalem population when it was 25% at the time of the annexation of Arab Jerusalem in 1967. This demographic fear of Palestinians among Israelis is huge. There is routine talk of future ‘transfer’ of Palestinians who are Israeli citizens because they might be manageable at 20% of the total population but if they become more than 25% (by 2035) then this would be utterly unacceptable. As it is, today the simple right to love of Palestinians is interfered with and made deeply insecure and extraordinarily difficult. A marriage between a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship and a Palestinian in the OT means the couple cannot live in Israel but would have to move out to the OT or outside. Such marriages are considered a demographic Trojan horse for Zionist Israel. Finally, what is there to say of the deliberately cultivated hysteria about Iran? There is already such a huge ‘holocaust industry’ waiting to capitalize on the stupid, unnecessary and immoral rhetoric of Ahmadinejad. The top-level strategic-political consensus in Israel rejects Iranian declarations that it does not want nuclear weapons. It also discards all demands for an immediate or early establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons which Iran and the League of Arab States have for decades supported. President Olmert made Israeli attitudes quite clear through his intentional or accidental public ‘slip of the tongue’ when he acknowledged Israel’s nuclear weapons capacity and expressed its determination never to allow such acquisition by Iran. An edited version of this article was published by The Telegraph (Calcutta)