The Israeli “separation barrier” is the culmination of Ariel Sharon’s long-planned settlement scheme to appropriate vast amounts of Palestinian land and water resources and impoverish the non-Jewish population to the point of expulsion.
Bethlehem this Christmas, like most other Palestinian towns and villages, under “closure” of the harsh Israeli military occupation, has become a Christian ghetto–separated from its hinterland and Jerusalem. Bethlehem has become an open-air prison, like the Gaza Strip, surrounded by an Israeli-built electrified wall–an atrocity paid for by the U.S. taxpayers and supported by the U.S. government.
The tall and ugly electrified wall being built around the town of Bethlehem and its famous Church of the Nativity is but a small part of the more than 400-mile-long fortified wall designed to separate the population of the Holy Land into two ghettoes–one Israeli, the other Palestinian. The meek protests of the Bush administration do nothing to hide the fact that the Israeli barrier is being built with funds and political cover provided by the U.S. government.
Depicted by the mass media as a self-defense measure required to foil Palestinian terror attacks, the wall is actually the beginning of the final phase of a long-planned appropriation of Palestinian land and water resources begun decades ago by the current Israeli prime minister.
The real objective of the wall is the <>de facto<> annexation of Palestinian land to Israel and the eventual expulsion of the native population from their homes and land, according to Stop the Wall, a Palestinian “anti-apartheid” organization.
Maps of the barrier’s projected route through the West Bank and around East Jerusalem reveal how Sharon’s wall will carve up the occupied territory, annexing Palestinian land and water resources to Israel, leaving the native population in ghetto-like enclaves–isolated from their fields and largely without water.
The completed first stage of the wall has effectively separated the major Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem from the greatly expanded Jerusalem, and annexed vital water resources from the Western Aquifer under the northern section of the West Bank.
The day after occupying the West Bank in 1967, the Israeli military issued Order No. 92, prohibiting all water development, drilling and infrastructure building in the West Bank, unless a permit was obtained from the military’s “water officer.” Not a single permit has been issued since, according to the Palestinian Hydrology Group (PHG), for agriculture or domestic use, in any of the Palestinian areas above the Western Aquifer, the largest source of groundwater in the Palestine/Israel area. This demonstrates “Israel’s iron grip over Palestinian water resources,” the group says.
While the occupied territories have the region’s most abundant groundwater resources, Palestinians have the least access to water in the region. Israel uses more than 57 percent of the total available water, while Palestinians have access to only 8 percent. Palestinians use about 50 liters per day, half of what the World Health Organization considers necessary to meet basic human needs.
“Israel is creating facts on the ground in order to include all-important water zones within the wall’s boundaries,” according to an impact study done by the PHG. “Furthermore, Israel will further reduce the water quantities available to the Palestinian use and further its land confiscation policy,” the study said.
“The wall emerges as a massive attack on precious water resources and the communities and lands that depend on them,” the study said. The first phase of the wall separated at least 50 wells from the communities that depend on them. The wall has also effectively confiscated some of the most fertile lands in the West Bank.
In this fertile area in the region of Qalqilya, the Israeli wall has separated 72 percent of the land of Jayous, a village of 3,000, from its owners. The wells have also been separated causing at least 300 families in the village to have lost their only source of income as a result.
The city of Qalqilya, like Bethlehem, is nearly completely surrounded by the wall. Nearly 10 percent of its 42,000 population has been forced to leave their homes in search of employment elsewhere.
In the area of Tulkarem, Israeli closures and the wall prevent Palestinians from getting to work. The unemployment rate, which was 18 percent in 2000, rose to 78 percent in the spring of 2003 as a result.
If the wall is completed according to plans laid out by the Israeli army, some 54 percent of the West Bank will be on the Jewish side of the barrier–and effectively annexed by Israel. Many Palestinian villagers find themselves living in Israeli-annexed areas or between two walls, as Israel is building layers of walls in several areas. Ultimately the Palestinian population will find itself living on about 12 percent of historic Palestine. The wall is expected to be finished in 2005.
Nearly all of the illegal Israeli settlements built in the occupied territory will be included in the annexed areas of the West Bank, and 98 percent of the settler population will be on the Israeli side of the wall, according to Stop the Wall. Settlements which affect the population of an occupied territory are violations of international law.
Israel’s wall is the culmination of the settlement plan, and Sharon has been the driving force since the 1970s. It is no accident that Sharon, the architect of Israel’s illegal settlement policy, actually provoked the Palestinian uprising with his armed invasion of Jerusalem’s main Muslim holy site, known as the Dome of the Rock compound, more than three years ago.
The predictable violence that followed, known as the Al Aqsa intifada, is largely the result of Israeli occupation practices such as “closure” and “targeted killing” of Palestinian leaders, which Sharon has engineered.