From The Inside Looking Out: Hebron Report-12
—Supposing Everything West Of The Mississippi Was Palestine—
(Old City, East Jerusalem, Palestine, January 6, 2003) As the year
2003 begins, Israel is pushing full speed ahead on one of its most
astonishing unilateral actions to date. It is working furiously on a
vast construction project, which will effectively take many square
kilometers of Palestinian land off a future negotiating table by
building a very high barrier, which it is calling a "separation"
or "security fence." For the most part it is being built well inside
the "Green Line," which has marked the border between Israel and the
West Bank since 1967.
How to describe the geographic, political, and economic impact of
this latest unilateral action? Well, supposing everything west of
the Mississippi was the "West Bank" of Palestine, and everything
east of it was "Israel." If you flew over its path, you will find
what will be an impenetrable barrier, which has been and is being
laid out many many miles west of the Mississippi, often quite far
into Palestinian territory. When finished, all of Iowa, Missouri,
Arkansas, and parts of Minnesota and Louisiana will have been
annexed safely inside Israel without benefit of negotiations.
If you are having some difficulty perceiving the significance of the
analogy, think "wall" and not "fence."
Fence is an Israeli euphemism for the twenty five foot high barrier,
which in many places will be thick concrete—top to bottom—and in
other places a concrete base topped by an electrified fence. Imagine
that, and you will have the data necessary to grasp why Palestinians
are calling the new barrier a "Wall of Hate" or an "Apartheid Wall."
A critical slice of Palestine's most productive agricultural land
will be swallowed up. The land has been owned, tilled, tended, and
harvested by Arab farmers for centuries; but since work on the wall
began last summer, an increasing number of farmers have and already
are being denied access to their assets. So the process of defacto
annexation of this part of Palestine into Israel proper is already
As we all know, even before construction on the wall began west of
the Mississippi, Israel had already established in every area of
Palestine (in defiance of current international norms and
agreements), more than one hundred post 1967 settlements such as
Rochester, Moorhead, and Minneapolis, Minnesota; Ames, Council
Bluffs, and Davenport, Iowa; St. Louis, St. Joseph, and Poplar
Bluffs, Missouri; Fort Smith, Texarkana, and Hot Springs, Arkansas;
and Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, and Shreveport, Louisiana, and, of
course, more settlements further west than that—all the way to the
Pacific. Soon all those cities in Iowa, Missouri, and Arkansas and
some in Minnesota and Louisiana will no longer be settlements in
Palestine, but municipalities in Israel.
Their settler inhabitants naturally will continue to have all the
rights of Israeli citizenship. However, even though Israel's current
Arab population has legal second class citizenship status, the west
of the Mississippi Palestinians, who before long will find
themselves trapped on the Israeli side of the wall, will not have
even those rights. As a result, they will soon constitute a new and
special case in statelessness, helplessness, and hopelessness.
Furthermore the wall is being so craftily planned that it is being
laid out in such a way as to cut off Palestinian villages, which
will not be annexed, from their adjacent fields and orchards that
will—making those areas easy and inevitable targets and prey for
expropriation by nearby Israeli settlements. Also virtually all of
the wall will be dug out of some of the most fertile vegetable
tracts and fruitful orchards in the West Bank, some of which are
being despoiled. Typically the corridor is about half a football
field length wide. Often another fifty yards and more on one side—or
both—is used to dump spill from the leveling off process. At the
same time tens of thousands of dunams (about a quarter of an acre)
are in the process of disappearing beneath the concrete and wire—
removed forever from cultivation.
The exact route of what will be eventually an approximately 220
kilometer long barrier (it would be many times that in our west of
the Mississippi analogy) keeps shifting to accommodate vote-powerful
settler blocs anxious during the current parliamentary election
campaign to snatch more land from Palestinian control while they
have the electoral clout.
Current estimates—by both Palestinian and Israeli organizations
monitoring the construction—of the total West Bank area, which will
finally end up confiscated and/or destroyed, is around 10%. Besides
valuable farm land and orchards, Israel will be making off with
Palestinian water. Dozens and dozens of groundwater wells will end
up in Israeli territory, and thus be lost permanently to Palestinian
By way of example of the eventual effects of the wall, the Qalqilia
District of the West Bank—about half of Missouri in our comparison
(even so the multiplier is in double digits)—is going to be
radically and typically decimated and plundered as the wall goes up.
22 groundwater wells will disappear behind it. Also isolated from
their Palestinian owners will be 25,000 citrus fruit bearing trees
producing approximately 2.5 million boxes of oranges, lemons, etc.
each year; 80,000 fruit and almond trees yielding 2 million boxes;
2,000 greenhouses producing 3 million boxes of vegetables; 4,000
dunams of fields yielding another 1 million boxes of vegetables;
120,000 olive trees and their 500 tons of oil; and 12,000 additional
dunams of potential crop and pasture land. All those means for
survival will be lost to the Palestinian economy. And that's just in
the Missouri/ Qalqilia District.
A few days ago, a farmer standing in the middle of the recently
bulldozed corridor, which had destroyed dozens of dunams of his
holdings, and which also slices right through it, told how for
several weeks he has been prevented from working his land on the
Israeli side of the cut. He said that at one point, local Israeli
official tired of being approached by him to let him get through,
yelled, "You are a donkey!" The farmer said, he answered back, "Only
God can make a donkey and a man. Why are you trying to make me into
a donkey?" Naturally, the farmer still can't get to his fields. "In
every Palestinian house," he complained, "Sharon is making everyone
As long as the effects of this new and extremely serious issue
remain disregarded and/or neglected in the west, and, of course, by
the United States, Israel will be able to treat complaints here
about the wall harshly and with impunity, as for instance it did a
week ago in the town of Jayous, which is in the process of having
75% of its farm land, orchards, and all of its current water
resources disappear behind the wall.
A group of locals and internationals on their way down a hill from
the town to the wall to stage a nonviolent protest were stopped
short of their goal by Israeli military and armed civilian security
guards from a nearby settlement.
After a quiet discussion, the group was told that it would be
allowed to proceed in about thirty minutes. After about twenty
minutes, an army jeep and a Police jeep rolled relentlessly down on
the group from behind. Then two soldiers burst from the jeep
brandishing stout batons. After just a few seconds of angry
shouting, one soldier fired off a percussion grenade. Then others
fired tear gas canisters at the delegation. Then shots were fired by
Frustrated, angry boys began throwing and slinging stones back at
the soldiers, while older Palestinian men tried to get the boys to
stop but couldn't.
The barrage of stone throwing, which continued for about a half
hour, was answered with intermittent retaliatory gun fire. One
Palestinian was wounded. One was arrested. Then curfew was imposed,
and the demonstrators dispersed.
A few days later a similar event planned a few kilometers to the
north in Tulkarm, never got off the ground. The Israelis, perhaps
getting wind of what was planned, declared curfew early that morning
and dispatched extra forces to the area in order to keep things quiet.
CPT Christian Peacemaker Teams -Hebron, West Bank - Personal E-mail: jlevin0320yahoo.com