Update 8.8:The last protester detained has now been released. See also anaylsis and editorial for August 7 on IMC-Israel
Latest from IMC-Israel, 6.8.: 1 2
Breaking news 5.8.2003: Indymedia Israel reports 45 detained,3 arrested in protests in Mas'ha against seperation wall.
For a year now, Palestinian, Israeli and international peace activists have been calling attention to the building of the Separation Wall by Israel in Palestinian areas. Although it is the most acute threat to Palestinians getting bigger as we speak, the US sponsored Road Map to peace nor the corporate media paid attention to their pleas. But, this month it seems that finally the world is starting to listen. Dozens of pictures on the mainstream newswires and heated debates on Indymedia UK, and yes, protests too!
But what is really interesting, is how little global news actually reflects what is here. And no, I am not talking about representation of marginalised points of view, pro-Israeli bias or any of those touchy-feely media activist things. With daily reports in most national news papers and tv channels around the world and the largest permanent presence of foreign desk journalists, for months photographers and writers managed to miss what is everybody's personal top story here, even if they only spend half a day in Palestine.
It's the Wall, stupid!
In June 2002, the Israeli government decided to build what it calls a "separation barrier" between Israel and the West Bank to "prevent the uncontrolled entry of Palestinians into Israel". The government’s decision called for construction of a barrier around the entire West Bank. The western part of the wall, known as "stage 1 and stage 2", is already under construction. The Ministry of Defense has not yet completed its planning for "stage 3". However, the route of the eastern section of stage 2 suggests that Israel intends to extend the barrier southward, thus separating the Jordan Valley from the rest of the West Bank (B'Tselem, Israeli human rights organisation). What started out as a small project of the Israeli military is turning into a state-supported annexation of almost 30 percent of the West Bank to Israel.
In Palestine today, you see cement walls, barbed wire and electric fences in various stages of construction everywhere you travel. They separate farmers from their lands, villages from their urban centers and people from their families. The speed at which, and the places where they appear are seriously alarming. While the global story on Kalandia checkpoint (the main exit of Ramallah) is that it might be opened as part of Israel's "limited withdrawal" from the West Bank, the people waiting to pass see that from one day to the next engineers put together a much more permanent checkpoint construction and the omnious cleared path of land approaching from the horizon has neatly reached the checkpoint's fences. Someone commented to me that he fears it will become another "Eretz", the prison-like enterance to the Gaza Strip.
The activists shout "South Africa!", "Bantustans!". The Palestinians "If they want a security wall, why don't they build it on their land?", and "They are crushing any chances for a Palestinian state". But for months there was no reporter to record their sound bites.
(Detail: The person who commented on Eretz is a photographer for Associated Press, who has spent the last weeks taking pictures of Palestinian policemen reclaiming Palestinian streets as part of "The Road Map". Which to him was welcoming relief after months of photo-ops of Arafat and Abbas hugging various heads of state and donor agencies.)
But things change. Last week Reuters sent one of their top-photographers to shoot what every visitor to Palestine already has in her or his scrap book for months: the four-metre high cement blocks in Qalqilia. In the race for the commodity called news, AP and others could not but follow and now when you type "Wall" or "Qalqilia" into the News Photo search of Yahoo, you get dozens of pictures. It is no top story yet, but hey, it is difficult to beat the burial of Odai and Qusai.
In case a Reuters or AP writer feels like putting some words to the pictures, or Bush's advisers decide to add some relevance to the Road Map, here are some things to think about - lessons learned from confused Indymedia debates and yes, biased reporting:
- "One of the government's primary considerations was inclusion of as many settlements as possible west of the barrier in order to increase the likelihood of their annexation into Israel. The authorities also determined the route of the barrier in a manner that would avoid the political problems resulting from recognition of the Green Line as the border of Israel. In one of the areas, the route was changed due to pressure by residents of the Israeli town of Matan, who demanded separation between Qalqiliya and Habla, a village south of Qalqiliya, in order to safeguard their "quality of life." In other areas, it was decided to move the barrier eastward to prevent damage to sites containing antiquities. In the area of Bethlehem, the authorities decided to erect the barrier within the city to ensure Jewish worshipers free access to Rachel's tomb." (B'Tselem Position Paper)
- No, "the Wall" is not a four-metre high cement block wall everywhere. It is also electric fences, three-metre deep ditches and piles of barbed wire. What it will look like when finished is anybody's guess, but you know what: THIS IS NOT IMPORTANT. It is a _separation barrier_, with watchtowers every twenty or so metres; checkpoints and roadblocks; private construction security personel and settlers who prohibit Palestinians from going through the gates designated to them by the military; etc. The wall, barier, fence or whatever you want to call it, is built to lock Palestinians in and it will. THIS IS IMPORTANT.
- The International Solidarity Movement is organising a summer campaign of actions against the Wall. It has already been properly opened by farmers tearing down a gate to their land and a Palestinian activist jumping the fence in front of bewildered Israeli soldiers.
- If you like UK angles, maybe follow these leads:
On July 12, Manchester shoppers came face to face with Apartheid West Bank style when over 200 local activists built their own cardboard box wall across Albert Square. Full report | video | photos
Oxford Street Intifada
- Leila Sansour and Jeremy Hardy are on tour with her film "Jeremy Hardy v. the Israeli Army", about Hardy and ISM's activities in Palestine.
In autumn DAM, Palestinian hip-hop act will tour the UK to raise awarness.
Palestine based activist