When I passed through one of the concrete wall sections into the West Bank on 6th August I was travelling in a yellow plated Israeli vehicle before meeting Ghassan in his white plated Palestinian car, who would be our translator and driver over the next 3 months. Ghassan is never allowed to cross the wall into occupied East Jerusalem or Israel. He has tried multiple times to obtain a permit from the Israeli authorities to cross the separation barrier, each time his application has been rejected. However Israelis in cars with yellow number plates can come and go between Israel and the West Bank as they please. My Dad visited Bethlehem in the year 2000. Speaking with him it suddenly dawned on me that the wall had not yet been built in Bethlehem during his visit. I rushed to show him a picture on my phone of what it is really like. He was shocked. So much has changed. In Bethlehem the wall snakes around in a seemingly illogical fashion, it takes days to understand its path.
For the Israelis the Wall or separation barrier around the West Bank is a ‘security fence’ used to keep out ‘Palestinian terrorists’, but as mentioned earlier there are still a number of gaps and some Palestinians, willing to risk arrest for the sake of employment do make use of them. For Palestinians it is an ‘apartheid wall’ which controls and prevents their freedom of movement out of the West Bank (occupied Palestine) and within it. If Palestinians want to cross through the barrier they have to pass through an Israeli military checkpoint, where armed Israeli soldiers check their documents. The whole process is degrading of human dignity. Many checkpoints out of the West Bank involve metal fence cramped passage ways, metal detectors and metal turnstiles which can be locked without warning, in my experience.
Palestinians with working permits for Israel queue in the metal maze inside Tarqumiya checkpoint west of the West Bank city of Hebron. Photo credit: I. Rasalanavho/EAPPI
In order to successfully cross through an Israeli military checkpoint Palestinians have to apply for a permit from the Israeli authorities. There are over 100 types of permits, for instance to cross checkpoints and the barrier for work, school, health or family visits and 94% of Palestinian permit applications are rejected by the Israeli authorities, like Ghassan’s applications were. The Wall/separation barrier physically restricts and prevents Palestinians’ freedom of movement and represents the violation of human rights and dignity which the Israeli occupation of Palestine entails.
If you sing ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ this Christmas cast your mind back to these photos and think about what Bethlehem really looks like due to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the separation barrier the Israeli authorities continue to build around the West Bank.
I have been sent by Quaker Peace & Social Witness (QPSW) as a human rights observer serving on the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained in this email are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of QPSW or the World Council of Churches. If you would like to publish the information contained here (including posting it on a website), or distribute it further, please first contact the QPSW Programme Manager for Middle East [email protected]for permission. Thank you.