Oct. 12, 2002
Tulkarm, West Bank, Palestine
“The Israelis are stealing our land and bulldozing our olive trees to build their new ‘security fence.’ They fire at us, refuse to let us enter our land and humiliate us. We will try to get them to stop bulldozing our land.”
So spoke Mohamed Abal Al-Tif on Oct. 9 as he and 60 other unarmed Palestinian olive farmers in Kafr Jamal prepared for what turned into a five-hour confrontation with Israeli soldiers and the machine gun-toting private security guards who are protecting the bulldozers.
These bulldozers are implementing Israel’s unprecedented plan to surround the entire West Bank with what it calls a “security fence.” This “fence” will dwarf the Berlin Wall, enclosing the entire 340-kilometer length of the West Bank.
Israel claims the wall is for security purposes. But the new “security fence” is another form of Israeli occupation. It will extend well east of the Green Line, the boundary between Israel and the West Bank established in 1948. To build it, Israel is taking over the Western Aquifer that supplies fifty percent of the West Bank’s water and grabbing tens of thousands of acres of the West Bank’s richest agricultural land.
The wall around Jerusalem will bring the now divided Holy City fully under Israeli control.
“The idea of walling in the whole West Bank is truly insane. Israel wants to turn the West Bank into a giant prison, strangle our economy and force us to leave,” said Osama Qashoo, who participated in the Kafr Jamal farmers’ protest.
Doron Liber, general secretary of Israel’s Metzer Kibbutz, an agricultural collective inside the Green Line, says, “If my land was being taken away the way Israel’s fence is taking away Palestinian land, I would turn the world upside down.”
WHAT EXACTLY IS THIS “WALL?”
In most towns, it will be a 30-foot high concrete barrier with gun towers placed every 100 meters or so. In most agricultural areas, it will be a wide barrier that from east to west includes a 15-foot deep, 20-foot wide trench; a dirt path that will be a “killing zone” for Palestinians who enter it; an electrified fence; a trace path to disclose the footprints of infiltrators; and a two-lane Israeli patrol road.
Since Israel barred most Palestinians from working inside Israel, unemployment in the West Bank has soared to well over fifty percent. Agriculture is therefore more important than ever. In one village after the other, the mayors of Tulkarm/Qalqilya say that Israel has confiscated more than half of their villagers’ agricultural land and water supply to build the wall.
Omet Abed, 64, a landowner and grandmother of thirty, exclaims: “It’s harvest time and the soldiers often won’t allow access to our trees. We have to walk two kilometers around the trench they have dug and ask permission. It depends on their mood. Sometimes they let us in. Sometimes they fire their guns at us or beat us. One person has been killed. Others have been told to undress or to buy treats for the soldiers. Are we not human beings? Why do they treat us this way?”
The farmers’ protest in Kafr Jamal silenced the bulldozers, but only for a few hours. Square foot by square foot, olive tree by olive tree, village by village, Israel is relentlessly taking over Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.