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Wall chokes Palestinian hopes

Ray Hanania, a veteran journalist, was the national president of the Palestinian American Congress in 1995. He can be reached at

By Ray Hanania
From the Orlando Sentinel
February 10, 2004

Why is Israel building a barrier in an age when walls are being torn down? Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says it’s to prevent terrorism. But that’s not the real story.

Sharon’s wall does three things: confiscates more Palestinian land, gives Israel control over all of the West Bank’s water, and imprisons Palestinians in an archipelago of ghettos intended to prompt Palestinians to “flee.”

Although only partly built, when completed, the wall will be 408 miles long and annex 42 percent of the West Bank. Coincidentally, these are the very same lands Sharon’s predecessor, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, tried to retain in his so-called generous peace plan.

In analyzing the route of the wall at a recent conference in Chicago (the maps are on my Web page at www.hana, the purpose of it became very clear: to force Palestinians out. The Sharon wall annexes the best farmlands in the West Bank, including farms immediately adjacent to Palestinian villages and cities.

Agriculture is the primary form of subsistence for Palestinians. After the wall is built, that subsistence will end. Recently, under international pressure, Sharon’s government has talked of minor changes to the wall’s route.

Observers of the route of the wall say they are often puzzled by the manner in which it zigzags with no apparent purpose around the landscape. But it does have a purpose. The wall “annexes” into Israel 31 of the West Bank’s most productive water wells.

Unable to farm their lands without water, the Palestinians will either starve to death or flee — as Palestinians were forced into refugee status by Israeli forces in 1947 and 1948.

The issue of water is overshadowed by the conflict. Rainfall is not equitable in the region. Annually, 22.5 percent falls in Jordan, 29.7 percent falls in Israel, and 47.8 percent falls in the West Bank.

Annual water usage, controlled by Israel, shows a more desperate picture. Israel uses 52 percent of the water. The residents of the West Bank use 18 percent of the water to grow what little crops they live on.

Jordan uses 30 percent of the water. Recently, Sharon used water as a threat, warning that if Jordan did not cooperate with Israel’s security plans, it would reduce water availability to the Jordan River through its control of Lake Tiberias in the north.

The 31 seized water wells are legally owned by 636 Palestinian families and shared with all Palestinians. But that has not stopped Israel over the years.

From the day Israel first occupied the West Bank in June 1967, one of its first acts was to adopt Order No. 92, prohibiting Palestinian water development without an Israeli government permit.

Since then, Israel has not issued one permit to Christians or Muslims — but permits have been issued to Jewish settlers.

With the Sharon wall, the Israelis no longer need to hide behind pretend permit application processes like Order No. 92. All the water will be in their control.

Palestinians face few choices. It is likely that in their desperation, they will turn to violence and suicide bombings under the morbid assumption “if I die, you die, too.” It’s that kind of twisted rewriting of the old biblical logic of “an eye for an eye” that drives today’s conflict on both sides.

As you can see, Sharon’s wall will not discourage violence. It will most likely encourage more violence, and more violence means Israel can expand its control over Palestinian lands.

And that’s precisely why Ariel Sharon wants this wall.

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Videos & Multimedia

Amnesty International Video:
Dina Goor, Yesh Din

3/20/2004 demonstration in Karbatha, Palestine – activists shot

Watch International Court of Justice’s Hearings on Barrier

UK Guardian Interactive Graphic on Wall

View footage from 2/6/2004 demonstration at Georgetown University, USA

View footage from 12/26/2003 demonstration in Mas’ha, West Bank—Israeli activist, Gil Ne’amati, is shot

View footage from 11/9/2003 demonstration in Ramallah, West Bank

View footage from 11/9/2003 demonstration in Zbuba, West Bank

MORE footage from 11/9/2003 demonstration in Zbuba, West Bank

News Without Borders 8/24/2003 Presentation on Israel’s Wall

Related Articles

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Israel redraws the roadmap, building quietly and quickly

Injustice and Stupidity in Jerusalem

Israeli government decision aims to strip Palestinians of their properties in East Jerusalem

Imprisoned in Israel

More Articles on the Wall

Additional Resources

Booklet – The Wall Must Fall

Documentary – The Israeli Wall in Palestinian Lands


International Court of Justice Ruling

Electronic Intifada on the Wall

Palestine Monitor on the Wall


Stop the Wall

International Humanitarian Groups Condemn the Barrier

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

Amnesty International

Human Rights Watch

World Council of Churches


International Humanitarian Law Research Initiative

Oxford Public Interest Lawyers

The National Lawyers Guild

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