Palestine: Barriers to Peace


by Janet Benvie

While saying they want peace, the Israeli government continues to erect a plethora of concrete and wire barriers on Palestinian land. These barriers severely restrict movement, imprison whole towns and cities and impoverish the Palestinian population. They choke the life of the Palestinian people and throttle any chance of peace.

Some of Israel's barriers are mounds of bulldozed earth, often where village roads join a main thoroughfare. The able-bodied can clamber over on foot, but vehicular traffic is blocked. The Beqa'a valley, north of Hebron, is full of such barriers. They not only restrict farmer's access to their land, but also impede shopping trips and to getting to school. Some of Israel's barriers are made of concrete, of varying sizes and shapes. In Hebron, barriers such as these block access to areas that Israeli soldiers say "are for Jews only." Palestinians who live in the Tel Rumeida area must leave their vehicles at the concrete barriers and make their way on foot to their homes. Vehicular access to the area is only possible for Israeli settlers.

Some of Israel's barriers are fences - unlike any fences I have seen before. They are double or triple layered with razor wire, electric fencing and ditches, like the one at Bili'in, severing villagers from much of their prime agricultural land.

Some of Israel's barriers are monstrous gray concrete blocks up to eight meters high like the one that snakes its way through Bethlehem, casting an ominous, dark shadow over the city. The only way to pass from one Palestinian neighborhood to another is through a large, Israeli-controlled terminal. The atmosphere inside is oppressive, the process de-humanizing. Red and green lights indicate whether or not you can enter, and if you err in any part of the process, a disembodied voice barks commands from some hidden control center. Only at the end is there a human face to check your ID.

Some of Israel's barriers are checkpoints, operated by the Israeli military, where Palestinian vehicles are stopped. Occasionally the soldiers quickly check the passengers' IDs, then allow the vehicle on its way. Mostly the soldiers insist that every passenger step out of the vehicle. Sometimes they check every bag, large or small, and question the passengers, even children, before allowing them back onto the vehicle.

None of these barriers separates Israel from Palestine. They separate Palestine from Palestine, Palestinians from Palestinians, farmers from their land, cities from their surrounding villages and food supply. Each post hammered into the ground for another fence, each block raised for another wall, each extension to the separation barrier, sounds the death knell for peace in this tortured land.