The Barrier of Jerusalem – Political Not Security
December 9, 2003
I would like to voice serious concerns with the extremely negative impacts of the Jerusalem barrier on the city of Jerusalem, its people and surroundings, caused by the construction of the barrier. I add my voice to those who are opposed to fences and are opposed to violence. I believe that Israelis and Palestinians should work together to put an end to the violence and put an end to the construction of the barrier. Jerusalem, the Holy City to us all, should become the city of peace. Jerusalem should not be a city fenced in on all sides. Jerusalem should be a city without violence and with security for all of its inhabitants, Israelis and Palestinians alike. We should all call on all Israelis and Palestinians to respect their Holy City and end both the violence and the construction of the barrier around the city.
Most Israelis and Palestinians are not aware that the most significant project of changing the borders in Jerusalem since 1967 is being undertaken. The Jerusalem barrier that is surrounding the city will create detrimental consequences for both peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, in and around the city of Jerusalem. Many sections of the Jerusalem barrier will divide Palestinian communities into pieces and remove many people from their lands, livelihood, schools and access to services, such as hospitals, commercial centers, and more. The current route of the Jerusalem barrier will remove thousands of Palestinian Jerusalem residents from Jerusalem. The current route will also include thousands of Palestinian non-Jerusalem residents within the Israeli side of the barrier without enabling them the ability of free movement within Jerusalem. Many parts of the barrier in Jerusalem will create ghetto communities of Palestinians, cut off from access to areas beyond the barriers.
One of the most immediate consequences of the construction of the barrier in Jerusalem is the migration of thousands of Palestinians from the periphery of the city into the East Jerusalem city center and into the Old City. This migration is occurring despite the severe shortage of adequate housing, the great lack of schools and classrooms, and the almost complete void of municipal services to most of the neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. Without providing municipal, social, educational, and health services in addition to the existing high levels of unemployment and growing poverty, significant and lasting negative impacts will befall on the life of the entire city – East and West.
In addition to the rapid and continuing deterioration of the quality of life in all parts of Jerusalem, thousands of Palestinians will experience great suffering in their daily lives with Jerusalem being essentially dismembered from the rest of the Palestinian hinterland. The consequences of the construction of the Jerusalem barrier will be felt by all. Human suffering will have a causal affect on a continued deterioration of security and a lessening of law and order throughout the city. The Israeli authorities, municipal and national, cannot excuse themselves from their responsibility for the developing human catastrophes. The Jerusalem barrier is being constructed under the guise of providing security to the citizens of Jerusalem. The outcome of the construction of the barrier will be a lessening of security and a growing entrenchment of the political deadlock with regard to the peaceful future status of Jerusalem.
While recognizing the need to protect people from violence and terrorism, in my assessment, many aspects of the barrier will not increase security and in significant ways, may even lead to a greater destabilization of the area. The Jerusalem barrier is not a security barrier. This must be out loud. If the Israeli decision for the construction of the barrier in Jerusalem was based on security concerns then it would aim to put all Palestinians in Jerusalem beyond the barrier – fully separating Palestinians from access to Israel. However, the barrier being constructed in and around Jerusalem will include close to 350,000 Palestinians on the Israeli side of the barrier. If the purpose of the barrier is to prevent potential Palestinian terrorists from delivering suicide bombers or cars carrying bombs into Israel, then the barrier would not add tens of thousands of Palestinians to the Israeli side of the barrier and additional tens of thousands of Palestinians in the center of the country. It is time for honesty – the security barrier may have started in its conceptual phase as a security barrier, but in its translation into reality it has been manipulated to be a political border. The aim of the political border is to unilaterally determine the shape and the size of the Palestinian state. According to the concept of Prime Minister Sharon, the Palestinian State, whether created in agreement or unilaterally by Israel will be in about 40% of the West Bank. The famous security map of Sharon first designed by him in the 1970’s covers about 40% of the West Bank.
Senior officers responsible for the barrier have already stated that in order to protect the barrier and to ensure its effectiveness there is a need for a full battalion of soldiers to guard every 20 kilometers of barriers. Israel is now planning to building hundreds and perhaps thousands of kilometers of barriers, this will not be sustainable. This barrier will dissolve the available security resources of the Israeli army and security to a breaking point. Children in the most northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Kafr Aqab have already removed sections of the Jerusalem barrier. Palestinians cannot be artificially disconnected from their homes, lands, jobs, schools, families. The barriers will destroy any belief that peace is possible in the future and it will add only minimal security for limited times to the people of Israel. This barrier is a disaster attempting to confront the disaster of terrorism. Terrorism must be confronted by addressing the root causes of terrorism – mainly the continued occupation, but also the Palestinian political decision to keep the armed struggle option alive and viable. Both of these must end!
* Dr. Gershon Baskin is the Israeli Co-Director of IPCRI, the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information