November 9th marked the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s destruction — a monumental event in history that reminded the world that apartheid should never be tolerated.
But not too long after the Berliners united, the state of Israel began construction on a separation wall of its own in 2002: The Israeli West Bank Barrier, colloquially deemed the Apartheid Wall, signifies apartheid in modern times and thus prolongs our world’s exposure to separatism.
Article II of The International Covenant on the Suppression and Punishment of Apartheid classifies apartheid as “any measure, including legislative measures, designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separation reserves and ghettos.”
In violation of this covenant, Israel’s separation wall does just that.
Yet even despite the 2004 International Court of Justice’s decision to declare the wall illegal, it continues to run 450 miles along the West Bank, or the 1949 Armistice Line, fencing the landlocked territory entirely off from Israel.
But, it should not be considered just a fence, nor is it to be thought of as simply a wall: This is a strict separation barrier that detaches villagers from their farmland, isolates families from their loved ones, and prevents people from their livelihood. It has resulted in a destabilized Palestinian economy, politicizing essentials such as land, food and water.
No longer do Palestinians have the complete freedom of movement: Both vehicular and pedestrian travel has been limited (if not, entirely restricted) throughout the West Bank — even in urban areas such as Bethlehem and East Jerusalem. Denying movement into such major cities ultimately denies access to important public services including schools and hospitals.
Young children from the West Bank village of Bir Nabala now travel up to two hours – each way – to get to class. What was once a commute of only a matter of minutes, has now been multiplied tenfold as citizens are forced to abide by the strict regulations imposed since the creation of the barrier. Now, classroom sizes are smaller and schooldays are shorter.
Even more upsetting are the tales of restriction that reverberate from the small village of Azzun ‘Atma, a community divided by the barrier. The United Nations reported that because the rural village lacks necessary medical services, expectant mothers leave months prior to their delivery dates to ensure proper medical care. Still, the majority of babies born from this village are delivered at home — sans doctor, midwife and medication.
Most are not as fortunate to prepare in advance. Banaan Ismael Yacoub Yousef experienced labor pains at an unfavorable time: The checkpoints were closed; most are only open at the whims of IDF. Israeli soldiers delayed hours before finally allowing her vehicle to pass; however, Banaan had given birth in the car before clearance was granted. She has suffered postnatal complications since her delivery and has undergone two surgeries as a result.
The Israeli government claims that the wall is a defense mechanism, which ultimately lessens the number of attacks from the other side. However, such an expansive “defense” apparatus also resembles a ploy to reduce freedoms and colonize Palestinian land.
This past weekend, Palestinians gathered in Bir Nabala to prove their solidarity with the precedent citizenry of Berlin and to expose the parallels that exist between both walls of apartheid.
Activists equipped with sledgehammers and other tools attempted to break though the controversial wall — an act that not only honored the fall of the Berlin Wall, but also shed light on the current quandary that defines Israeli apartheid.
Their solemn yet optimistic voices echoed familiar messages that were heard in Germany from 1961 to 1989 when the Berlin Wall stood tall.
An unnamed Palestinian activist said it best.
“No matter how high walls are built, they will fall,” he said. “Just as the Berlin Wall fell, the wall in Palestine will fall, along with the occupation.”
Condensed version: The Poly Post, Vol. 30, Issue No. 7