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Can bad fences make good neighbours?:

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  • ummyakoub
    Can bad fences make good neighbours?: Israel s separation wall is being used to annex territory By Neve Gordon in Jerusalem The Guardian - 29 May 2003 Although
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 5, 2003
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      Can bad fences make good neighbours?:
      Israel's separation wall is being used to annex territory

      By Neve Gordon in Jerusalem

      The Guardian - 29 May 2003

      Although Mazmuriah is located less than 20 minutes' drive from my
      Jerusalem apartment, all roads connecting the small village to the
      city have been blocked off.

      Using roundabout roads that wind across the hilly terrain of the
      southern Jerusalem municipal border, we took more than an hour to
      reach the village. The Palestinian residents invited us. They wanted
      to tell Israeli peace activists about their imminent expulsion,
      about their fear of being forced to move from their ancestral land.
      They wanted to tell us about the bad fence. But first some
      background. After the 1967 war, Israel annexed some 70sq km of land
      to the municipal boundaries of West Jerusalem, imposing Israeli law
      on this area. These annexed territories included not only the part
      of Jerusalem that had been under Jordanian rule but also an
      additional 64sq km, most of which had belonged to 28 villages in the
      West Bank.

      Unlike most of the inhabitants of the annexed villages, who were
      subsequently registered by the Israeli civil administration as
      Israeli residents (as opposed to citizens), the inhabitants of
      Mazmuriah were given West Bank identity cards.

      This created a juridical situation straight out of Kafka. The
      Mazmuriah residents and their houses belong to different legal and
      administrative systems: the houses and land are part of the
      Jerusalem municipal system, while the inhabitants are residents of
      the West Bank and therefore subjected to Israeli military rule.

      Using its juridical control of the land, in 1992 Israel classified
      the area in which the village is located as "green land" - land that
      cannot be built on and is basically a nature reserve. The idea was
      to strangle the local population, prohibiting them from constructing
      any new houses.

      Simultaneously the Jerusalem municipality also refused to provide
      basic services to the village such as extending water and sewage
      lines. Later, after the eruption of the second intifada, all roads
      between the village and Jerusalem were closed off, thus forcing the
      residents to become dependent on the West Bank for their livelihood
      and their children's education.

      What appeared to be a "legal anomaly" slowly became the grim reality
      of everyday life. Although they live on land annexed by Israel, for
      all practical purposes the Palestinian residents themselves do not
      belong to Jerusalem; they are West Bankers. The only "defect" in
      this grand plan is that they still reside in the annexed area. It is
      this so-called defect that Israel now intends to fix.

      Accompanied by border policemen, a coordinator for the Israeli
      housing ministry, defence ministry, and Jerusalem municipality
      recently showed the residents a map of where the separation fence
      will pass. The fence, the residents learned, would surround the
      village on its southern side and thus separate it from the West
      Bank. Even if the residents are allowed to stay, their water
      supplies will be cut off, they will not be able to reach work and
      their children will be unable to go to school. To make things clear,
      however, the Israeli official notified the Palestinian residents
      that, because of the village's proximity to the planned separation
      fence, they would have to move.

      Israel's goal, it appears, is to expropriate the land "uninhabited".
      It is highly unlikely, however, that the villagers will actually be
      forced out of their homes. A more intricate strategy will be
      employed.

      Creating a physical barrier between the village and the West Bank
      and not allowing the inhabitants any contact with either the
      Palestinian Authority or the Jerusalem Municipality will undermine
      their existence. Ultimately they will have to leave the village of
      "their own accord".

      This scheme of expelling a whole population from their land is in
      blatant violation of basic rights as well as all the agreements that
      Israel has signed, not least the principles laid out in the "road
      map". In Israel we call this policy "transfer".

      While the end of this story has yet to be told, the first 145km of
      the separation fence will be completed in two months' time,
      violating the rights of more than 210,000 Palestinians residing in
      67 villages, towns and cities, according to the Israeli human rights
      group B'tselem.

      The crux of the matter is that the fence is not being erected on the
      1967 borders, but is being used as a mechanism to expropriate
      Palestinian land and create facts on the ground that will affect any
      future arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians. Already in
      this early stage, 13 communities - home to 11,700 people - have
      become enclaves or bantustans imprisoned between the fence and
      Israel. Thirty-six communities, in which 72,200 Palestinians reside,
      will be separated from their farmlands that lie west of the fence.

      Yehezkel Lein from B'tselem concludes: "In the past, Israel used
      'imperative military needs' to establish settlements on expropriated
      Palestinian land and argued that the action was temporary. The
      settlements have for some time been facts on the ground and Israel
      now demands that most of them be annexed to Israel. As in the case
      of the settlements, it is reasonable to assume that the separation
      fence will also be used to support Israel's future claim to annex
      territories."

      Good fences, the American poet Robert Frost once wrote, make good
      neighbours. The question the Israeli government must ask itself is,
      "What do bad fences make?"

      Neve Gordon teaches politics and human rights at Ben-Gurion
      University



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