Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has proceeded with his plan to erect a “separation barrier” in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Sharon argues the barrier is necessary to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from entering Israel and conducting attacks against Israeli civilians. Yet, as Israeli Human Rights organization B’tselem pointed out, “Most of the Palestinians who perpetrated attacks in Israel entered the country through the checkpoints situated along the Green Line, and not through open areas between the checkpoints.” If the barrier could not possibly have anything to do with security, what then is its purpose?
The separation barrier is a 650 kilometer-long amalgam of concrete wall and barbed wire fence that winds and weaves its way throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem, encompassing most of the Jewish settlements in its path. Says B’tselem, “One of the government’s primary considerations in constructing the wall was the inclusion of as many settlements as possible west of the barrier in order to bring about their de-facto annexation into Israel,” adding that building the wall inside the West Bank instead of on the 1967 Green Line (the demarcation line between pre-1967 Israel and the Palestinian territories) avoids “the political problems resulting from recognition of the Green Line as the border of Israel.”
In the West Bank village of Jayyous, the villagers are fearful that the wall signals the Israeli government’s intention to expel Palestinians. “I’m afraid that they’ll say to Palestinians, ‘Leave’- like Lebanon,” said Fayiz Shamsee, a teenager who has lived in Jayyous his whole life. The wall is a short distance down the road from Fayiz’s home, which means that so, too, are Israeli military patrols and privately-contracted security guards. The security guards, although unaffiliated with the Israeli Defense Force, are heavily armed.
“The occupation is always changing what was,” said Mahmoud Kareem, an English teacher in Jayyous. Indeed, Jayyous was at one point one of the most plush and fertile agricultural villages in the West Bank. To accommodate Sharon’s wall, however, this is no longer the case. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, “Although Jayyous lies on the ‘West Bank’ side of the barrier, 4,000 trees were uprooted for the barrier and 125 acres of land leveled.”
The presence of the “security wall” makes every West Bank Palestinian a potential refugee, for upon completion, 60% of the West Bank will be expropriated, including 50% of usable water resources, leaving the population with a pitiful 40% upon which to establish a “state,” which would in fact be nothing more than a discontiguous mess of assorted hamlets. This proves once again that the Israeli ruling class has no real intention of ever permitting the existence of a viable Palestinian state.
Meanwhile, within Israel itself, Israelis are watching Sharon unintentionally prove that no amount of amassable force is capable of eradicating the Palestinian demand for a sovereign state. Indeed, just the opposite has been demonstrated, as the occupation has never been more brutal nor the Palestinian resistance to it more violent. With the threat of suicide terrorism lurking at every bus stop, and the threat of unemployment haunting every workplace, the average Israeli has never had it so bad.
Likewise, the prediction of the Bush administration that any war against Iraq would force the Palestinians into a state of prostrated submission has also proven false. Again, the exact opposite has occurred, as Israel has used the war to expedite construction of the barrier, which has, predictably, been met with increased resistance.
There is no real solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under capitalism. While the support of large sections of Palestinians for the tactic of suicide bombings is understandable given the horrendous oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli state, this is a dead-end strategy which has not brought the achievement of Palestinian national aspirations one step closer. The Palestinian masses need to establish democratic structures and control over the movement, and link their struggle to the social liberation against the forces of imperialism and capitalism. Similarly, the Israeli workers need to mount a struggle against the Israeli ruling class, which is incapable of providing peace and has only dragged its population into further mayhem and misery.
Only in a socialist Palestine alongside a socialist Israel can a resolution to the conflict be found, by ensuring that the land with all its resources will be shared equitably, thus guaranteeing self-determination for both peoples. This would serve as an example to the other states in the region, whose histories have been marked by underdevelopment and neo-colonial domination for over half a century, that another future is not only possible but necessary. Only in a voluntary, socialist confederation of the Middle East can a solution to the tragedy of the Israel-Palestine conflict be found.
Michael Dempsey lived in Palestine as part of the Freedom Summer 2003 Campaign of the International Solidarity Movement.