Caritas report on Israel's 'Apartheid Wall'

 Twice as high as the Berlin wall, and already three times as long, the Israeli government is building a separation wall, which quickly received the nick name the "Apartheid wall", around the West Bank. The planned wall, which costs US $1 million per kilometre, will ultimately run the entire 360 km around the West Bank. It is one of the measures the Israeli government is taking supposedly to stop Palestinians from entering Israel and blowing themselves up, something which has cost hundreds of Israeli lives already. For Palestinians, however, life behind the wall grows increasingly miserable and desperate. The first part of the wall, beginning south of Qalqiliya and winding up towards Jenin, has already been constructed. This stretch of concrete wall wraps around the northwest edge of the West Bank, and completely encircles Qalqiliya, isolating the town from the rest of the West Bank. Furthermore, the wall only loosely follows the 1967 borders, and along vast stretches it veers many kilometres into the West Bank confirming initial fears that the wall is not only another excuse for expropriating Palestinian land but will also create a new de facto border. The construction of the wall has added to the ongoing nightmare of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and has bought complete devastation to the 41,600 residents of Qalqiliya. Due to the closures, 6,000 residents have lost their jobs in Israel. Unemployment in Qalqiliya stands at 67% while the average family lives on US $60 a month. Now the wall has confiscated and isolated 3,000 dunams (750 acres) of agricultural land and 19 ground water wells, which accounts for 30% of the city's water supply, have been annexed. Mr Omar Samha, Director General of the Ministry of Local Government in Qalqiliya, spoke to Caritas Jerusalem about the psychological and economic impact of the wall on the residents of the city. He said: "The people of Qalqiliya are living a real disaster. The local economy depends on agriculture but due to the closures and the land confiscation, fifty percent of farmers have been forced to give up." Before the Intifada, Samha explained, farmers in Qalqiliya would send their produce throughout the northern West Bank, especially to Nablus. Also, due to the city's proximity to the Green Line, Israeli Arabs would travel to Qalqiliya to buy fruit and vegetables. However, during the last 30 months, since the Intifada began, Israeli citizens are not allowed into Palestinian areas of the West Bank so the shops have significantly fewer customers and it has been difficult to transport the vegetables through the city's one road out of Qalqiliya. "Sometimes the lorries have to wait for up to four hours to cross the checkpoint. After 4 hours in the summer sun, the produce is ruined. They are strangling our economy and impoverishing our community, " Samda said. The long-term implications are devastating. Samha explained that the memory of 1948 and 1967 plays an important role in collective Palestinian consciousness. "In 1948 we lost 50,000 dunams of land. Since then people have been cultivating the land on the east side of the 1967 border. Throughout the last 30 years more land has been confiscated for the settlements. Now a further 90% of the land has been stolen to build our prison walls. There is a real feeling of utter hopelessness at the situation." Samha fears that people are under growing pressure to leave; forced out of their homes in desperation, "People have nothing left," he said. "People are faced with poverty and there is no way out. If this continues many people will leave and go elsewhere to earn a living and provide for their families." As history repeats itself, and more Palestinians are turned into refugees, it seems like the wall is achieving what many Palestinians fear is Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's hidden agenda: the expulsion of Palestinians from the land.

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