First they were told that they were building a wall between the two populations for the protection of both. â€¦.. Then they were told them that the wall on their land was necessary for the protection of
Then they told the Palestinian farmers on whose land the wall rests that they would have unlimited access to their landsâ€¦â€¦after which gates were erected along the wall â€“ gates which would be opened only three times a day. â€¦.Then the Palestinian farmers were told that if they wanted to work their land â€“ now on the Israeli side of the wall â€“ they would have to get special Israeli work permits in order to pass through the gates which only opened three times per day.
This is the story of Jayyous. Jayyous is a small village of approximately 3,500 people located six kilometers from the â€œgreen lineâ€ (the internationally recognized border between
These events have had disastrous social and economic consequences for the farmers and community of Jayyous. This land has been taken illegally, and in direct opposition to the Military Court of Israelâ€™s decision just last year that land would not be taken from farmers. In a matter of less than a year following that decision, various measures have been taken and barriers erected to make it extremely difficult â€“ if not impossible â€“ for these farmers to get to their lands. In the end, it seems as though the observation made to me by a soldier one year ago has turned out to be true: â€œthe [security] wall will be the new green line.â€
I first came to Jayyous two years ago, when the path for the security wall was then being cleared. At the time, I, the Palestinians, and other observers had to watch as huge caterpillar bulldozers tore away hundreds of olive trees. Villagers stood in the path of the bulldozers and armored military vehicles in an attempt to resist this injustice by peaceful means. Jayyous, like most other Palestinian communities, has maintained a commitment to non-violent resistance. This commitment is admirable considering the levels of violence and incidence of theft which they have endured for many years. On the one hand, it is amazing and inspiring to see such spirited and sustained non-violent marches, actions, and protests after all these years. On the other, it is an unbearable tragedy to know that their non-violence has not been successful, nor even recognized and valorized. Many people in the
A few days ago, when I came to Jayyous it was for a social visit. Seeing friends in the Palestinian territories is often one in which sadness and despair can easily overwhelm hope and desire. In the midst of asking such simple questions as, “How are things?â€ I have been informed that, as bad as things have already been, they continue to deteriorate from one month to the next. Ample examples were provided: A new Israeli settlement is being built on Palestinian farmlands immediately to the latterâ€™s side of the wall on lands which are currently being cultivated. Jayyous residents only discovered this when they stumbled across signs and maps on their land stating – in Hebrew – that over 850 Dunams (225 acres) â€œto startâ€ would be taken for the construction of Jewish only housing. The settlement is to be placed in front of the two gates which the Jayyous residents currently use to access their farmlands on the Israeli side of the wall. They will effectively be barred from ever passing through the gates again. No new gates have been planned at this time.
Furthermore, because the new settlement is to be built right next to the fence and within meters of existing Palestinian homes, the villagers believe that it is likely that their homes will be destroyed. The justification for this destruction will be that the Palestinian homes pose a security risk to the settlers. Accompanying the new settlement will be a large military base as well, just meters from the village. While listening to this news, I sat in shock and groped for words for my old friends. I could never imagine something like this happening to my own community, and so it was difficult for me to put myself completely in their shoes. What can one say about the fact that their entire livelihood and means of sustenance had been completely torn from them by another people with claims to the need for â€œsecurityâ€?
The situation in Jayyous is similar to that of many communities located immediately next to the â€œsecurity wallâ€.
The sinister history of settlements
To understand the reasons why
Zionists began building settlements in the first half of the 20th century. It was their belief that settlements would eventually provide the practical, ground level basis for sovereignty claims. In 1948, when
Israeli architects Segal and Weizman made the following observation:
â€œWhat becomes evident is that by placing settlers across the landscape, the Israeli government is not merely utilizing the agencies of state power and control, namely the police and army, for the administration of power, but that it â€˜draftsâ€™ the civilian population to inspect, control and subdue the Palestinian population. An inconsistency develops between what the settlers want to see, the way they describe and understand the panorama, and the way that their eyes are hijackedâ€™ for the strategic and geopolitical aim of the state. The desire for a single family home is being mobilized to serve the quest for military domination, while an act of domesticity, shrouded in the cosmetic faÃ§ade of red tiles and green lawns, provides visual territorial controlâ€.
What can settlement building be except the conquest of land and the subordination of another people to Israeli political will? These acts cast doubt on the rhetoric of Israeli officials claiming that
Perhaps the entire problem can be debated as one of how a state defines itself.
Americans cannot understand that the basic source of conflict in this area is settlement and the taking of land. The conflict is about space. As such, the conflict is more than resistance to a foreign military occupation, but also resistance to foreign civilian colonists. The ways in which the settlements have been planned and built has been about controlling the land and dominating the lives of the Palestinian people.
Palestinian Poet Darwish expresses it well: â€œThe Occupation doesnâ€™t content itself with depriving us of the primary conditions of freedom, but goes onto deprive us of the bare essentials of a dignified human life, by declaring constant war on our bodies, and our dreams, on the people and the houses and the trees, and by committing crimes of war. It does not promise us anything more than the apartheid system, and the capacity of the sword to defeat the soulâ€.