Palestinians Walled In, and Walled Out

JERUSALEM – The security wall Israel is building around Jerusalem is raising concerns among Palestinians about their future and where they belong.

The wall is firming up Israeli control in areas it occupied after the 1967 war. Up until then Israel had more or less clear control of territory in west Jerusalem within a border that has come to be known as the Green Line. The occupation beyond that area after 1967 established Israeli control to the north, east and south of the Israeli area jutting out within the Green Line.

The security wall as Israel calls it is now coming up to the outside of several of the occupied areas, creating in effect a wider enclosed circle around the Green Line. The result is that many Palestinians are trapped between the Green Line and this outer circle, often close to new Israeli neighborhoods that came up outside the Green Line. Many more Palestinians will be kept outside the wall.

Living outside the outer wall is giving rise to fears among Palestinians that they will in effect be cut off from Jerusalem. Many Palestinian Jerusalemite families living in the northern neighborhoods are moving into the city in what is being described as a new immigration wave.

After 1967 Yousef Natsheh, 53, was driven out from the old city of Jerusalem to live in A-Ram, a Jerusalem neighborhood about nine miles north of the city. His house was taken over by a Jewish family.

Today Natsheh is looking for a new house to rent inside the city. "If we are kept outside the wall we will lose our rights as Jerusalemites, including the education of our children and grandchildren, and the national insurance," he says.

Natsheh is among many Palestinian Jerusalemites who would end up in the "out-walled" area, says Khlial Tufakji, a Palestinian geographer and expert in Israeli settlement affairs.

Once the wall is completed, Palestinians there would have to go through Israeli checkpoints to get in and out of the walled-in area of Jerusalem. "This means that all these neighborhoods and villages on the outskirts of Jerusalem will be isolated," Tufakji told IPS. "Under the excuse of security, Israel is implementing its political plan to isolate Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem and to turn them into isolated cantons."

Tufakji says Israel is "expanding the borders of the city of Jerusalem at the expense of Palestinian lands expropriated from the West Bank, while limiting the Palestinian built up areas."

The wall will isolate Jerusalem from its West Bank surroundings and paralyze commercial, industrial and tourist life for Arabs in Jerusalem, he says. "In the long run, this situation will force Palestinian citizens of the city to leave."

The separation wall north of Jerusalem will come up on the land of the northern Palestinian communities in A- Ram, Qalandia, Kufr Aqab and Rafat. It would be about eight kilometers (5 mi.) long and 40 to 100 meters (131 to 328 ft.) wide. About 800,000 square meters (0.3 sq. mi.) of agricultural land will be confiscated to make room for construction of the wall.

"Those people who live in the village and refugee camp of Qalandia and Kufr Aqab will find themselves in a state of disorder at the service, security and legal levels," says Tufakji. "Meanwhile the municipality of Jerusalem, which is an Israeli municipality, will continue to ask those communities to pay taxes and, in turn, will cease to provide them with any services."

Furious about this wall, thousands of residents of these neighborhoods supported by Israeli peace activists are organizing a massive campaign against what they call the apartheid wall.

"This wall has nothing to do with security," Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery told a group of Israeli and Palestinian demonstrators who gathered last weekend to protest the building of the wall. "It does not separate Israelis and Palestinians; it separates as anybody can see Palestinians from Palestinians in order to make their lives miserable."

Natsheh says the most important thing for him is access to the holy al-Aqsa Mosque. But living outside the wall will mean that "the trip that used to take us 10 minutes will take us an hour or maybe more."

Natsheh’s attempts to find a new house are failing every day. "Houses are already taken by other families. What we find available is very expensive ranging from $800 to a $1000 a month."

The wall was proposed as a solution to end attacks by Palestinians inside Israel. The Israeli cabinet had decided in 2002 to build the wall roughly along the Green Line. But in order to include Israeli settlements built outside it, the wall is being built around a bigger area. This has meant among other things that large areas of Palestinian agricultural land have been confiscated.

The Israeli peace group Gush Shalom says that in the area of Qalqilia north of the West Bank "the wall is expected to have a devastating impact on the lives of some 210,000 Palestinians living in 67 towns or villages." The records show that among these "11,700 people in 13 villages will be imprisoned between the wall and the Green Line."

The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem says that "since October 2003 Israel has implemented a new permit system in the enclaves it created between the separation barrier and the Green Line. As a result Palestinians without a permit are denied the right to work their lands."

The wall in Jerusalem is a part of the larger wall Israel is building in the West Bank. The wall is expected to be 750 km long (466 mi.).

Read more by Walid Batrawi