The Israeli Wall is not on a border. It is on occupied Palestinian land and Palestinians need Israeli permits to go to work, to church, to a hospital, to school, or to a wedding. See for yourself what a check point looks like early in the morning when thousands of people go to work…
The short video in the link could have been filmed in any of the other Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank. In Bethlehem, for example, the dark, cage-like corridor of Checkpoint 300 starts to fill up at 02h00 with the sleeping bodies of those who await the opening of the gates two hours later. They are mostly Palestinian labourers who risk losing their employer-endorsed permits if they are not on time for work. Sometimes they buy coffee and tea from the vendors to stay warm in the mornings that are ice cold – even in summer. (I love their peppermint or sage infused tea.)
During peak time on work days about 2 500 people need to pass through the turnstile, then queue for clearance at a metal detector and finally for a passport check.
Checkpoint 300 is not between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, but within Palestinian territory.
At any point in this sequence the gates may close. Sometimes this happens because a soldier shaves himself in the face of those waiting to earn their daily bread or need to go to a hospital, but more often it happens with no clear reason and for an undefined period.
Israel started to build (what is commonly known as) the Wall in the West Bank in 2002 and almost 62% of it is now complete. In reality it consists of fences from between three to twelve meters, ditches, razor wire, groomed sand paths, patrol roads, buffer zones, electronic monitors, watch-towers and – of course – checkpoints.
Is this legal?
According to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Israel “has the right, and indeed the duty, to respond in order to protect the life of its citizens the measures taken are bound nonetheless to remain in conformity with applicable international law.”
Yet the ICJ, in its 2004 advisory opinion to the UN, found that the Israeli Wall violates applicable international law. It demanded that Israel cease construction of the Wall, dismantle the sections already completed and “repeal or render ineffective forthwith all legislative and regulatory acts relating thereto”.
But over the years Israel has extended the route of the Wall, despite the ICJ’s viewpoint. Part of Wall’s route is through the Palestinian city Bethlehem and its governorate. Since its building started here, Palestinians have submitted 520 cases to the court in an attempt not to lose property to the Wall, mostly to no avail.
The city’s surrounding hills offer a clear picture of how the Wall twists away from the internationally recognized border, the Green Line, to grab fertile Palestinian-owned agricultural land in and around Bethlehem. On completion the Israeli Wall will be 709 km long, more than twice the length of the internationally recognised border. Moreover, only 15% of the Wall will be constructed on the Green Line (the internationally recognised border) whilst 85% of the Wall will be inside the West Bank itself.
Says Haggai Matar, an Israeli journalist and political activist in +972:
Most countries in the world and the International Court of Justice would agree to Israel’s building a security wall on its recognized border, the Green Line. Yet as long as 85 percent of it is built beyond the Green Line on Palestinian land, as long as it remains transparent to Israelis, as long as it harms (Palestinian) farmers and workers the way it does, and as long as the occupation continues – no solution and no barrier can truly offer Israelis security.
The question, therefore, is not whether or not a wall, any wall, offers security – but rather whether this specific wall with this specific route offers true and lasting security more than other existing alternatives.
The answer to that is almost certainly: No.