Extreme Rambling: Walking Israels Separation Barrier - For Fun.
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'Good fences make good neighbours, but what about bad ones?'. The Israeli barrier is probably the most iconic divider of land since the Berlin Wall. It has been declared illegal under international law and its impact on life in the West Bank has been enormous. Mark Thomas - as only he could - decided the only way to really get to grips with this huge divide was to use the barrier as a route map, to 'walk the wall', covering the entire distance with little more in his armoury than Kendal Mint Cake and a box of blister plasters. In the course of his ramble he was tear-gassed, stoned, sunburned, rained on and hailed on and even lost the wall a couple of times. But thankfully he was also welcomed and looked after by Israelis and Palestinians - from farmers and soldiers to smugglers and zookeepers - and finally earned a unique insight of the real Middle East in all its entrenched and yet life-affirming glory. And all without hardly ever getting arrested.
re-routed four times by the Supreme Court under his ‘watch’. Our final journey to the third location is slightly longer, and with time on our hands, I start to ask about the Green Line. ‘International condemnation of the Barrier is largely based on the fact that it crosses over the Green Line,’ I say. ‘But what is the Green Line? It is not a law, it is not an agreement, it is not a border; it is nothing.’ Nothing? Not quite. The International Court of Justice finds the Barrier illegal because
Jerusalem. The international community deems these areas ‘Occupied Territories’, whereas Israel calls them ‘Disputed Territories’. 5 About a fifth of the West Bank, mostly in the Jordan Valley, is designated a ‘closed military area’. Once you add this to the settlements and the Israeli declared ‘nature reserves’, it turns out that ninety-four per cent of the West Bank’s fertile, water-rich Jordan Valley is off limits to Palestinians. Source: Save the Children, Jordan Valley Fact Sheet, October
Barrier promptly set about building on. ‘There was a legal action where you forced the army to reroute the Barrier …’ ‘Yes, it cancelled 1,500 apartments the settlement wanted to build, but there’s 1,500 already built.’ The existing apartments are illegal under Israeli planning law and furthermore are built on Palestinian land, but neither fact was enough to get the Israeli courts to remove the settlers and demolish the apartments. Bil’in’s land seems lost for ever. However, the villagers’
refugees, and were given land by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and the Jordanian Mandate. Here, they had made their homes. Israel, contrary to international law, then annexed the city in 1967, and Israeli settlers set about using the courts to evict the community, claiming Jews had lived there before 1948 and thus the land and homes should ‘return’ to Jewish ownership. One by one, the settlers are evicting the Palestinians using any and every means, leaving the families
and camouflage netting is hung across windows. We walk through it to a road that leads downhill and under a large wooden arch: the entrance to the Ayda refugee camp. Over the arch is an enormous metal key, the most potent of symbols for the refugees (many families still have the keys of their homes in Jaffa or Haifa after fleeing from them in 1948). We walk under the key and the arch, past the cramped homes and alleys, and past the arts centre that runs an outdoor film festival – it paints a