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Violating Sanctions

An American Woman’s Listening Tour Through the Axis of Evil

Apartheid Roads: Roadblocks to Human Dignity

The Author By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | March 23rd, 2007 | Comments 1 Comment »

I live in a town where freedom is defined by freeways. In Los Angeles, we are so obstinate about our 24-hour ability to get around, we build roads before we build schools, parks or moderately priced housing.

So, it’s jarring here in Jerusalem to be confronted with arbitrary roadblocks that restrict more than travel.
The “Separation Barrier” is what peace activists call The Wall. “‘Wall’ sounds too innocuous,” says Risa Zoll, International Relations Director for B’Tselem, an impressive human rights organization that documents the human and civil rights violations Palestinians endure.

The 700-km wall is more than a concrete barrier, it’s a series of slabs, trenches, electrified wires, and fences that snakes through neighborhoods, farms, playgrounds, migratory routes. It is supposed to have 73 gates open for passage, but only 23 are open on a regular basis, and those are open only erratically.

The Separation Barrier does indeed do its job, separating farmers from their fields, children from their schools, workers from earning their living and relatives from each other.
But, it’s more than that. “It contributes to the psychological warfare,” says Zoll. “One day it might take a Palestinian 20 minutes to get to school, the next 4 hours and the next day they might not be able to get there at all.”

It also provides opportunities for young, untrained, hyped, armed soldiers to harass, beat and humiliate Palestinians at its 49 permanent checkpoints. Additionally, there are 470 physical obstructions and “flying” checkpoints that can’t even be documented. Palestinians are required to get special permits for passage for each activity.

The Wall doesn’t just restrict Palestinians’ movement between Israel and the West Bank. It breaks the West Bank into 5 “sections,” restricting their north-south travel, forcing them to get creative in how they get around. Later this week, our delegation will travel from Hebron to At-Tuwani as Palestinians do, taking a patchwork of taxis, public transit, and treks through fields, then returning along the main road as Israelis do.

The Israeli government sells The Wall as a means of maintaining security, and even some prominent Israeli peace leaders, citing the drop in suicide bombings, support its existence while they abhor the human indignities. The Wall, however, is only 60% complete, and suicide bombings were already declining before its construction.

By and large, the peace community feels The Wall is a means of demographically separating Israel and Palestine, grabbing as much land as possible for Israel. The Wall gerrymanders through Jerusalem, for example, scooping up newly build Israeli settlements while isolating established Palestinian neighborhoods.

Zoll tells of a Palestinian family whose house was walled into the Israeli side, stranding them from relatives, from school and from their lives as they’d known it. The daughters no longer attend school; they were sexually harassed once too often by soldiers as they crossed the checkpoints. They are illegal in their own home, and could be arrested just walking down the street to buy groceries.

If nothing else, the Separation Barrier succeeds in separating people from their dignity.

[B’Tselem in Hebrew means “dignity,” and is the biblical reference to all humans’ creation in the image of God. The organization’s 9-person research team documents and monitors human rights violations and issues striking reports and videos available on their web site. B’Tselem ]

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One Response to “Apartheid Roads: Roadblocks to Human Dignity”

  1. Wafa Says:

    Seeing the wall in reality, I’m sure it has placed you in a total different persective from what you heard, read or even pictures you’ve seen.

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