Saturday, December 4, 2021

After nearly 20 years, the Israeli barrier shapes Palestinian life

Kaffin, West Bank (NWN) – Three days a week, Palestinian farmers in the occupied West Bank village of Kaffin line up at the Yellow Gate and show military permits to soldiers so they can plant their crops on the other side of Israel’s secession barrier. Can keep

Farmers say they can no longer live on their land because of Israel’s increasing sanctions, which is suffering without proper farming. The olive trees just outside the gate have been scorched by a recent fire – firefighters also need permission to enter.

Nearly two decades after causing controversy around the world by building a barrier during the Palestinian insurgency, it has become a permanent feature of the landscape – even when Israel encourages its citizens to settle on both sides. Is.

Every morning thousands of Palestinians navigate their checkpoints as they line up in cramped terminals to enter Israel for jobs in construction and agriculture. Farmers in Kaffin and dozens of other villages require permits to access their private property.

Israel says the barrier helped prevent a wave of suicide bombings and other attacks by Palestinians that ripped through the country during the 2000-2005 uprising and are still needed to prevent deadly violence.

Seventy-five percent of the still-unfinished barrier lies inside the occupied West Bank, which cuts off about 10% of its territory. Palestinians see this as an illegal land grab, and in 2004 the International Court of Justice stated that the obstruction was “contrary to international law”.

In Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Bethlehem, the barrier is a massive concrete wall several meters (yards) high with barbed wire and cameras. In rural areas it consists mainly of barbed wire fences and closed military roads.

Along Israel’s main north-south highway, it is hidden by earthworks and landscaping, so that motorists have nothing more than a passing glance at the reality of military rule.

Palestinians in Kaffin say the wall has cut down some 4,500 dunams (1,100 acres) of their farmland, all inside the West Bank.

Ibrahim Ammar says he used to grow a variety of crops, including watermelon and corn, but is now limited to olives and almonds as they require less attention. Even during the annual olive harvest, which began last month, he can only enter his land three days a week and apply for a permit to bring family members along to help. Will have to do

“My father, my grandfather, they were completely dependent on the land,” he said. “I can no longer feed myself and my children.”

He drives a taxi to supplement his income. Other villagers work inside Israel and its West Bank settlements. At least one resident, frustrated by restrictions, grows vegetables on the roof of his house.

“Three days is not enough to serve the land,” said Taisir Hershey, who was the mayor of the village when the barrier was built. “The ground is getting worse and worse.”

The United Nations estimates that around 150 Palestinian communities are in a similar situation, and 11,000 Palestinians live in so-called seam zones inside the West Bank, but west of the barrier, only need an Israeli permit to live in their homes.

Hamoked, an Israeli rights group that helps Palestinians secure permits, says the situation for farmers is deteriorating. It says data obtained from the military through a Freedom of Information request shows 73% of applications for permits were denied last year, compared to 29% in 2014. Less than 3% are denied on security grounds, it said.

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In 2014, Israel stopped granting permits to relatives unless they were listed as agricultural workers on large plots. In 2017, the military began dividing large holdings among members of extended families and ruled that anything smaller than 330 square meters (3,500 sq ft) was agriculturally unsustainable. Owners of so-called “small plots” are denied permits.

“There is no security justification,” said Jessica Montel, director of HamoKed, which is challenging the regulation before Israel’s Supreme Court. “They’ve decided that you have a plot of land that they think is too small for farming.”

She said other rules are based on a “detailed calculation” of how many hands are needed for different crops. “It’s a crazy table. They say if you’re growing cucumbers you can get X number of helpers per dunum.

Asked about the sanctions, the army said its forces aim to “ensure a smooth fabric of life for all sides”. A statement said the Army “sees great importance in coordinating the olive harvest, and acts in accordance with the guidelines and situational assessment.”

Israel has always said that the barrier was not intended to delineate a permanent border, and some supporters said at the time that by reducing violence it would aid in the peace process.

“The fence was built only for security needs,” said Netjah Mashia, a retired Israeli colonel who oversaw the construction of the barrier until 2008. “We understood when building it that it might be a boundary in the distant future … but that was not the goal of this fence.”

Actually, the barrier only looks like a heavily guarded border.

Israel and Palestine live on either side, and Israel is actively building settlements. and settlement infrastructure before the obstacle. There have been no concrete peace talks in more than a decade, and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is opposing the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and other territories seized by Israel in the 1967 war.

In Bethlehem, the massive concrete wall is covered with political graffiti and often satirical artwork. One refers to an episode of Larry David’s HBO comedy “Curve Your Enthusiasm” in which Jewish men take advantage of a Palestinian restaurant to hide their affairs from their wives. Another pays tribute to George Floyd, who died last year under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.

It became an eclectic tourist attraction in the 2000s after world-renowned graffiti artist Banksy painted the wall in secret. In 2017, he opened the “Walled-Off Hotel”, A monument to Foggy Resistance-themed art.

Abu Yamil, owner of a nearby souvenir shop, who declined to give his full name, sells Banksy prints and postcards among other trinkets.

Wax, 70, is nostalgic about the situation decades ago, when Palestinians could travel freely.

“It was a profession, but we lived together,” he said. “I drove my car to Tel Aviv.”

Like many Palestinians, he suspects that the unfinished barrier serves a security purpose – workers without permits have always managed to break in.

“This wall will always be here, because they don’t want peace,” he said. “Israel wants all the land.”

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