It would one day stretch 436 miles, and is over halfway completed already. Supporters of this eight-meter-high barrier state that this is the only way to protect civilians from terroism, that it is a matter of national security and homeland security. Opponents, however, argue that the wall is really a ploy to annex Palestinian lands in the name of the “war on terror,” that it violates international law, preempts status negotiations, and severely limits the lives of those Palestinians living on the border of the barrier. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_West_Bank_wall#cite_note-humanitarianinfo_Rprt05-37)
While The Jerusalem Post recently stated that the wall might not be finished until 2010, seven years behind schedule, thousands of Jordanians and Israelis are currently living behind the West Bank Barrier. This wall has already gathered many names around its base, names which are all true and signify its different meanings on both sides. Israelis alternatively refer to the wall as the “separation wall,” “security fence,” or “anti-terror fence,” intimating their trust and hope that the wall will provide all three of these ends. Palestinians living just on the other side of this sixty-meter-wide seclusion area have dubbed the barrier the “racial segregation wall” or the “Apartheid Wall.” A good friend of mine told me stories of those living on both sides of the wall and the daily hardships they faced trying to get to the other side for bread, milk, cheese, education.
The Israeli government has stated that, “An absolute halt in terrorist activities has been noticed in the West Bank areas where the fence has been constructed,” though many experts claim that the increased number of Israeli intelligence operations against terrorist groups has actually precipitated the decrease in attacks. The U.N.’s 2005 report states,
… it is difficult to overstate the humanitarian impact of the Barrier. The route inside the West Bank severs communities, people’s access to services, livelihoods and religious and cultural amenities. In addition, plans for the Barrier’s exact route and crossing points through it are often not fully revealed until days before construction commences. This has led to considerable anxiety amongst Palestinians about how their future lives will be impacted…The land between the Barrier and the Green Line constitutes some of the most fertile in the West Bank. It is currently the home for 49,400 West Bank Palestinians living in 38 villages and towns. (http://www.humanitarianinfo.org/opt/docs/UN/OCHA/OCHABarRprt05_Full.pdf, emphasis added)
Palestinians who have lived on this land for generations now must re-register if they are to remain in their homes and continue with life as they know it. By May 2004, the fence construction had already destroyed over 100,000 Palestinian olive and citrus trees, 75 acres of greenhouses and more than 20 miles of irrigation. Many physicians and human rights groups such as Médecins du Monde, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, have all highlighted that the wall makes healthcare much harder for individuals living on the wrong side. Upwards of 130,000 Palestinian children will be prevented from receiving immunizations, and more than 100,000 high-risk pregnancies will be re-routed away from nearby medical facilities in Israel. Groups such as the Red Cross decry the wall as in violation of the Geneva Conventions, and groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch take offense at the way the land was obtained and the routing of the wall through important population centers.
In 2004, the World Council of Churches released a statement calling for Israel to halt and reverse construction of the wall and to begin to right their numerable human rights violations against Palestinians. President Bush in 2003 said, ““I think the wall is a problem…It is very difficult to develop confidence between the Palestinians and Israel with a wall snaking through the West Bank.” Bush reiterated this in 2005, months before the Secure Fence Act of 2006 was passed in his own country.
Residents on the North and South Banks of the Rio Grande are thinking the same thing on this July 21, 2008. As the wall approaches its supposed ground-breaking this week, the men and women on both sides of the border tremble at its assured repercussions. They must be looking at their patch of the river with renewed love for its water, its mesquite tree banks, its children diving from the mud-caked walls on either side, its fish, its serenity. Residents on the North Bank are being offered paltry cheques form the federal government in the realm of $10-20,000, and although this may be the face value of these homes in some of the poorest parts of our nation, none of these people will be able to replace their home and their lives with a check the size of a used F-150. Mexicans must be looking north where the wall is intended and then looking out to sea, where a hurricane is developing right now in the Gulf of Mexico; they must surely be wondering what a wall and levee in violation of international accords will do to their flood-level during the upcoming hurricane seasons. The thousands of winter Texans, eco-tourists, struggling grapefruit farmers, AMFEL mechanics, maquilladora factory workers, migrant laborers, Border Patrol agents, coyotes, Americalmosts, English-as-a-Second-Language students, first-generation immigrants, multi-generational land grand families – all of them must be wondering now, as we all should, whether so-called preventitive measures in the name of national security can ever be justified in the light of so many certain drawbacks. Should the wall go up in Hidalgo County this week, and should it spread its concrete tendrils up and down the Rio Grande, our entire nation will mourn the loss of land, Nature, livelihood and life that this 700-mile border wall already has come to represent in California and Arizona. May the people of the West Bank pray five times a day for the Mexican-Americans on the North Bank, and may we Americans also work towards a wall without walls in Palestine and Israel as well as in our own land.