“The planners of the fence failed to predict its effects on innocent Palestinians,” National Security Advisor Giora Eiland told a high-level diplomatic-security forum in Germany this week (Haaretz, February 9). Like Eiland, other Israeli representatives are now trying to convince the western countries and the United States in particular that the route of the separation fence is a human, localized and almost chance error that can be corrected to minimize the damage.
We have a new sentry to blame for what has gone wrong: the rather anonymous planners of the separation fence. Some sort of personal, individual limitation caused them to fail and not to predict the extent to which “the lives of innocent people would be affected” by the construction of the fortifications, which has destroyed and is destroying wells that are essential to agriculture, is uprooting tens of thousands of olive trees and other trees and is wiping out hundreds of greenhouses in which thousands of people have invested the savings of years.
One really does need special analytical powers to predict that caging thousands of people behind iron gates and stationing 19-year-old soldiers to open them, if they feel like it, two or three times a day – would have a deleterious affect on studies at schools and universities, sabotage medical treatment for cancer and kidney patients and split up families. After all, only especially creative minds could have guessed that it would be very hard for 260,000 people to maintain “a normal fabric of life” in the 81 enclaves of various sorts that the fence creates. Eighty-one enclaves that separate them from neighboring villages, from the provincial towns and from the rest of the West Bank, shutting them in behind barbed wire fences and guard towers and excavations and double fences and bureaucratic-military systems of permits to go in and out of the enclaves that are needed by garbage collectors and doctors, family members and teachers.
The truth is that what was hard to predict was the international shock at the fence. United States National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is not pleased (and not only the United nations General Assembly) and Western diplomats are saying things in inner conclaves, especially when it turns out that development projects that had been funded by their countries have been destroyed under the fence’s bulldozers.
The European countries are opposed to holding the deliberations at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, but they too have reservations about the fence’s route and the damage it causes. Television channels around the world are showing documentary films about the fence and its ills, and it isn’t possible to keep repeating the chorus that the motives are anti-Semitic. If it were not for all this, it is doubtful that various representatives of the state – like the Prosecutor’s Office and before that, military sources – would be hinting about a change in the route of the fence and admitting a failure to “predict” how bad the damage would be to the innocent. They simply did not care about the damage.
After all, the kinds of damage that the fence is causing are not new. The Israeli occupation regime has been testing them successfully for 37 years now, sometimes in the name of security and sometimes in the name of the Jewish people’s right to preferential rights in this country. Neither the Meridor committee nor the Oslo agreement did away with the Israeli habit of harming the Palestinians’ rights to water, land, freedom of movement, earning a living and development.
By the second half of 2002 it was already possible to know that the route of the fence was far from the Green Line (pre-Six Day War border), that it creates enclaves and that it harms the “vegetable garden” of the Palestinian economy. But at that time it was hard to bring to the Israeli media – which evinced no interest in the matter at that stage – reports about the extent of the fence’s damage to the civilian population. The data and the reports on massive confiscations and uprooting of trees that were published by various Palestinian organizations were not read in Hebrew. B’Tselem published its first position paper in September, 2002, which warned of the implications of the route of the fence, including a mortal blow to Palestinian life. Who remembers?
By the middle of 2003 the planners of the route of the fence had full backing – from the political system, from the print and the electronic media, from the street and from key figures in the Israeli peace camp. The idea of the fence, without going into detail, offered people frightened by the suicide terror attacks a hope that their personal security was achievable with no connection to any political solution. It offered a refuge from the disturbing knowledge that Israel is evading an offer of a sustainable political, humane, rational solution that the Palestinians can accept.
The military plan to build elevated bridges and sunken roads between the enclaves is a bone thrown to international public opinion and another vain solution offered to the Israelis that diverts attention from the essence. The planners of the route that harms the Palestinians are doing this on behalf of the state of Israel, which almost unhindered has built in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip a regime of Jewish superiority that inevitably violates the rights of the Palestinian individual and collective. Key parts of Israeli society have become blind to the damage, and the occupation regime is as much taken for granted as the sunrise in the east.