The Israeli construction of the West Bank apartheid wall is clearly a politically motivated manoeuvre intent on reshaping the West Bank, rendering impossible a viable Palestinian state, and with it any lasting peace through a two state solution. In reshaping the West Bank and slicing off huge portions of Palestinian land east of the 1967 border, Israel has also annexed thousands of Palestinians, people it is now trying to expel through forceful expulsion, but also through destroying any remaining quality of life within this isolated area of land.
On October 2nd, the Israeli military released an order declaring all occupied West Bank land between the “security” wall and Israel’s pre-occupation 1967 border a “closed zone”. The order states that “no person will enter the [closed zone] and no one will remain there.” Free access to the closed zone will only be granted to “Israelis”. In this order, General Moshe Kaplinski defines “Israelis” as any citizen of the state of Israel, resident of the state of Israel, and any one eligible to emigrate to Israel in accordance with the Law of Return, 1950. This means therefore, that while the 15,300 Palestinian residents in this 115 square kilometre area, or those in adjoining communities who own agricultural land here (another 180,000 people), must now obtain highly unreliable permits to validate their existence, any Jewish person from anywhere in the world is quite free to come and settle on this land.
The order stipulates that all crossing into the isolated areas is prohibited unless a “permit” from the occupation “civil administration” is obtained, which can only be done by land owners who “prove” that they have land residing behind the wall or are “officially registered” workers. Farmers and residents are fearful however that, were they to apply for such “permits”, the well-grounded reality is that they would be denied on the basis that their Jordanian land certificates will not be recognized - Israeli authorities are all too aware that the majority of Palestinian certificates are Jordanian since land registration in the West Bank took place under Jordanian rule prior to the 1967 occupation.
On the ground this policy is already causing extensive suffering. The prevention of access to land has meant that many families are losing their livelihoods, farmers prevented access to their crops are forced to watch their untended crops rot - either that or see their produce stolen by settlers free to wander through Palestinian lands.
The idea of applying for a permit to be on one’s own land is rejected by Palestinians who have been on these lands for generations. Those few who have sought permits have been confronted with a haphazard policy of discrimination which randomly rejects applications for permits citing various criteria yet at the same time failing to establish any formal set of guidelines. Many heads of households for instance have already been denied permits to reside in their villages on the grounds that they were not born there. Furthermore those who are granted permits are not assured permanent residency rights - the permits are to be renewed from “time to time” as demanded by the occupation civil administration.
Every day the children of Jubara must wait for the soldiers to allow them through the checkpoint, then walk in a line past soldiers armed with machine guns, to go to school.
Palestinian efforts to protest this latest stunt in Israel’s ongoing colonization process have been met with severe punishment. The community of Jubara for instance lies west of the apartheid wall and is completely isolated within the de facto annexed area. Jubara has no schools or health facilities of its own. Residents have always depended on reaching nearby Kafryat for such services yet residents are doing their utmost to defy the occupation’s system of expulsion and permits. As a result the village has remained under closure for more than 16 days - no one is allowed in or out which, considering that all services are only available outside the village, is having stark consequences for the residents.
The obvious intention of the Israeli government is to see that the reality of forced poverty and starvation, brought on by the imposition of the wall and the new “closed zones” become so unbearable for communities in the northern West Bank that people choose to leave in the hope of finding a better life. The village of Jubara is just one of many cases being fatally affected in this latest attempt by Israel and its military to cleanse the recently seized “closed zone” of all its Palestinian inhabitants and thus annex the land, and its existing illegal settlers to Israel proper.
Mustafa Barghouthi is director of the Health, Development, Information, and Policy Institute in Ramallah, and the general secretary of the Palestine National Initiative.
Article courtesy of the Daily Star, Beirut.