More than a year has passed since the Occupation Forces declared the completion of the first section of the Apartheid Wall – running from Jenin to Qalqiliya. Rapid construction around Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron marks the second phase of the project. Meanwhile, away from public attention, the Occupation has begun the third phase of the Wall, which will annex and ethnically cleanse the Jordan Valley. Under the rubric of â€œdevelopment,â€ the Valley has become a â€œMajor Governmental Projectâ€ for settlement expansion. The result has been the destruction of Palestinian land, increased house demolitions, and the expulsion of Palestinian Bedouins. Last week, two of the four â€œterminalsâ€ controlling Palestinian movement in and out of the area were closed to all Palestinians not residing there, thus completely isolating the northern areas of the Jordan Valley. In the south, â€œflying checkpointsâ€ exclude Palestinians without residency permits recognized by the Occupation â€“ including land owners.
The final step in the annexation of the Valley has begun.
Judaizing the Jordan Valley
The Jordan Valley has always been a key target of Zionist expansionism. The Valley comprises over 28% of the West Bank territory and provides access to the water reserves of the River Jordan. The hilltops yield control over a significant portion of the West Bank, providing strategic locations for the effective siege of Palestinians. Today the Jordan Valley, site of the first West Bank settlements, contains 21 colonies held by around 6300 settlers. Recently, they were reinforced by the arrival of a group of colonizers redeployed from Gaza.
In order to finalize the annexation of the Valley, Zionists have invested $24 million for â€œdevelopmentâ€ over the last two years, with a further $19 million slated for 2006 to 2008. Extensive land theft forms the backbone of the ethnic cleansing project in the Jordan Valley. Of the 2,400 km2 of land in the Valley, 455.7 km2 is considered â€œclosed military areas,â€ 1655.5 km2 will be controlled by settlements, and 243 km2 has been confiscated along the border with Jordan, This leaves only 45 km2 for Palestinians.
The 2% of the Jordan Valley that remains will consist of a ghetto around Jericho and a cluster of small, isolated villages without land â€“ in other words, the conditions for a catastrophic Palestinian exile.
The Expulsion of the Palestinian population
Because they dwell on large areas of land, Palestinian Bedouins have been a central target of the Occupation since 1948, when 50,000 Bedouins were expelled from the Negev (Naqab) desert. Today, the remaining Bedouins in the Negev and the Jordan Valley face an imminent threat of definitive expulsion.
Recently, the Occupation issued a series of military orders for the expulsion of Bedouins, the demolition of Palestinian homes, the confiscation of Palestinian land, and the expansion of Jewish settlements.
In April 2005, Occupation Forces expelled 300 Palestinian families (1500 persons) from east of Tubas and stole 10,000 dunums of land. Southeast of Bethlehem, the Occupation expelled 6 families, stole 20 water wells, and destroyed 20 shelters used for around 22,000 sheep and 500 camels. Later, hundreds of Bedouins in Sawahreh Al-Sharkiya, near the center of the Valley, were ordered to abandon 25,000 dunums of land. The Apartheid Wall will now isolate them from an area extending from Sawahreh at the outskirts of Jerusalem to the Dead Sea and up to the north of Jericho.
For months, sheep grazing on confiscated land have been regularly â€œdetainedâ€ by the Occupation and the owners penalized with massive fines, This week, Palestinian shepherds reported the outright theft of sheep.
The confiscation of land and isolation of the Jordan Valley, along with the harassment of shepherds, is systematically destroying the Palestinian livestock industry and depriving our people of yet another source of income.
House destruction is another element of the Zionist plan. Dozens of houses have already been demolished in the Jordan Valley. Four family homes have been demolished in both Jeftlik and Fasayel. For years, all construction has been forbidden for the 1500 inhabitants of Fasayel and the village has been denied access to infrastructure for water and electricity. In addition, villagers resist regular harassment and attacks from nearby settlements.
A total disaster threatens to engulf Al-Akaba village. 700 of its 1000 inhabitants were expelled after the 1967 war. The Occupation arbitrarily detains the remaining population in the nearby military camp and confiscates livestock and ID cards. Now, the village council has received 16 demolition orders covering most buildings in the village, including the kindergarten, health center, mosque and power station.
Meanwhile, settlement construction and expansion is colonizing the newly confiscated areas. Three months ago, settlers from Rotam fenced-off 1000 dunums of land. Miskyot colony is expanding and bulldozers are working relentlessly to prepare land and infrastructure for a new colony in the northwest of the Valley.
Settlement activity was recently bolstered when the Occupation ministry of Housing published tenders for 700 new units in two major settlements. Furthermore, the Occupation has approved a huge agricultural project, including access to wide tracts of land, free water, and $22 million of subsidies to seduce new settlers.
The third phase of the Apartheid Wall project
Racist occupation laws and a â€œdevelopmentâ€ scheme for the colonization of the Jordan Valley create a horrible reality of expulsion and ghettoization, known all too well throughout the West Bank. Fenced-in roads, military zones, settlements, checkpoints, trenches and roadblocks are contiguously deployed in a form that mirrors the cement walls enclosing Palestinians from the west.
While Palestinians in the Jordan Valley are forced to live in shacks and host entire schools in tents, Zionist settlers are building a new era of racist dispossession, oppression and expulsion. The final aim is to ensure that the region, once emptied of its Palestinian population, becomes a major Zionist strategic asset and provides large-scale agricultural and natural resources to sustain their economy and expansion. In the south, construction of the eastern Wall has begun near Eizzariya and will soon encircle Bethlehem and Hebron from the east and cut the West Bank in two.
While Palestinian governmental representatives are invited to the tables of global diplomacy, the Palestinian people are systematically being ghettoized. Physical isolation is part of the plan to fragment the Palestinian struggle and build walls between our struggle and the struggle for Arab self-determination.
The noose around the neck of the Palestinian people is rapidly tightening.
While the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem destroys the urban center of Palestine, the annexation and isolation of the Jordan Valley is depriving Palestinians of their land, water resources, agricultural and livestock production.
In the face of this reality, the frenzied debates about whether new Labor leader Peretz is a â€œpeace doveâ€ within the Zionist camp to promise a â€œPalestinian stateâ€ seem outlandish. These debates aim merely to silence the urgent Palestinian call to isolate Apartheid Israel and avert the worldâ€™s attention from the ongoing colonization of Palestinian land, a process that has always been fervently carried out by both Labor and Likud administrations. At this stage, a two state solution might be theoretically controversial; but it has become practically impossible. Negotiations for statehood without borders, a capital, or land merely deceive our people and the rest of the world.
Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign â€“ www.stopthewall.org