It is no coincidence that the decision by the Israeli cabinet, to accelerate completion of the wall surrounding the city of Jerusalem, was made on the first anniversary of the ruling by the International Court of Justice in the Hague that it was illegal and contravened international law, and demanding it be dismantled. However, Sharon showed the world his customary disregard of international decisions, by not complying and rejecting them.
The stepping up of the construction of the wall came after the majority of the temporary injunctions by the Israeli court were lifted. These had only halted work while the government introduced cosmetic changes that did not change its nature or effects.
Once complete, the Jerusalem wall that will surround this city, will be 48km long, and rising to nine metres or more in height. It is part of the wall Israel was putting up between itself and the West Bank over the past two years; totalling 680km in length, and grabbing 8% or more of the lands of the West Bank, while cutting of some Palestinian villages and towns, and scattering their inhabitants once complete.
The main objective of the Jerusalem wall is to expel as many Palestinians as possible from within the city boundaries, while absorbing Jewish settlements, some with high population density like Maa’leh Adumim; population 30 thousand. On its completion, areas like Kafr ‘Uqab, Qalandiya, Sha’faat refugee camp, and others will be outside the city limits of East Jerusalem. Israel says that the inhabitants of these areas number 55 thousand, while the Palestinians assert that the number is more than double that.
These Palestinians will be denied all education, health, and other services that they had been receiving when they were a part of Jerusalem; in the long term, some of them will lose their jobs or their businesses. Some had expressed the fear that Israel may declare them absent and so confiscate their possessions. Their entry into Jerusalem will depend on the whim of the soldiers manning the entry points Israel will put in the wall. There they will be subjected to rigorous search and identity checks, their fate no different from their compatriots in the West Bank; standing for hours in long queues, suffering difficulties and persecution making their life hellish.
According to Lubulianski, mayor of Jerusalem, the number of those entering and leaving stands at 65 thousand, including 3,500 schoolchildren – this will mean waiting for many long hours. This mayor – a Haridim Jew – had earlier described the wall as a talisman of good fortune, or one of the “gates of life”, even though it would provoke the anger of Palestinians and their hatred.
These words are in harmony with the mentality that builds the wall. In the sight of these persons, whatever causes torment and anguish to the Palestinians, is considered a gate of life. This torment will not only lash those leaving their city, but will be visited on those staying in it as well.
In addition to what the inhabitants of East Jerusalem were subjected to for many years, in terms of persecution in living space, their homes subject to demolition on the pretext of unauthorised building – the latest being the decision by the mayor a few weeks earlier to demolish 90 homes – prohibiting construction of new dwellings or extensions, then the geographical area will most definitely cease to accommodate them, especially after many of them had been displaced to the city centre, having learnt that the wall will be built in their areas, and will expel them from these.
In addition, their siege by the Jews will become more acute in future,, especially as the orthodox/Haridim Jews were slowly taking the place of the secular Jews, who had started to vacate the city many years ago. These Jews give birth to large number of children, twelve or more per family. Their model is the mayor himself, a Haridim Jew, with twelve children, and from them fifteen grandchildren until now, and he is expecting more.
According to what he has mentioned, the number of births in Jerusalem reached 18 thousand in 2004, and according to predictions more than two-thirds of these were to Jews, the population of the city was 700 thousand, of which two-thirds were Jews.
It goes without saying, that the objective behind building the wall is the Juda-isation of the city, and expulsion of the Palestinians from it by any means, so that Israel presents the Palestinians with a fait d’accompli, and ends all aspirations that East Jerusalem could be the capital of their future state.
What Israel is doing today is not only a contravention of international law, but contrary to the spirit of the times that rejects all forms of racism; its actions are an embodiment of such racism. The individual in face of the inaction of the world – despite the voices of criticism and courageous decisions to boycott – can only hope that the wall will cease to be one day, as other walls before it were also made to come crashing down.
- Iraqi academic living in London – this article was first published in Al-Hayat newspaper, and is re-published here by kind permission of the author.