Israeli wall called obstacle to peace

The Israeli Cabinet approved and released last week a map of the wall it calls a “security barrier.” The wall will confiscate just over 50 percent of Palestinian land on the West Bank by surrounding virtually all of the existing illegal Israeli settlements there. Ariel Sharon hinted that the wall may be extended even further into the Jordan River valley.

The United Nations General Assembly convened an emergency session passing a resolution condemning the wall and demanding that “Israel stop and reverse construction of the wall being built in the West Bank.” It said the wall would “make a two state solution physically impossible to implement and cause further humanitarian hardship for the Palestinian people.”

Construction of the wall began in June 2002. Sixteen villages have now been “annexed” to Israel, 50 villages have lost ancestral farmland, and 36 ground water wells have been seized. Communities have been split in half, separating owners from their shops, workers from factories, children from schools and the sick from clinics. Last week, 20 Palestinian school children were locked out of their village and had to wait four hours for the Israeli army to unlock the wall’s gate that allows re-entry to the divided village.

The Sharon government also announced infrastructure improvement for the illegal settlements on the West Bank and continues the targeted assassinations and bombing by U.S.-made fighter jets in the Gaza Strip.

Josh Rubner of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation told the World, “The wall is an obstacle to peace. If the wall is completed the estimates are that half of the West Bank will be inaccessible to Palestinians.”

An International Day of Action of Solidarity with the Palestinians vs. the Wall is set for Nov. 9. Rub-ner said, “The Israeli public relations has done a pretty good job convincing [U.S.] people that this wall has been built on Israeli territory. If we raise awareness with educational outreach, vigils, and teach-ins, more Americans will understand the devastating consequences that this wall has on the Palestinian people and the prospects for a two state resolution to the conflict.”

U.S. public opinion polls continue to show majority support for a two state solution, as well as an awareness that U.S. foreign policy is biased in favor of Israel, even though there is support for an “even handed” role in the conflict.

The Israeli-Palestinian crisis continues to be one of the more contentious issues in U.S. politics, including in the 2004 election campaign. The Bush administration has silently stood by as the Israeli government escalated the instability of the region with a “preemptive” air strike into Syria, as well as heavy bombing into Gaza as a response to suicide bombings. When asked at a press conference about the U.S. vote against the UN resolution condemning the wall, Bush said, “The fence is an opportunity to make it difficult for a Palestinian state to emerge.” He also said the Israeli settlements as well as the wall would interfere with the process.

The Bush administration’s silence on the Sharon government violence is at a time when the Republican Party is looking for re-election votes. They are recruiting support from the Orthodox Jewish community, which has been involved in mobilizing and financing new settlers to immigrate from the U.S.

Polls show that the Arab American support for Bush and the GOP has plummeted and shifting to the Democrats due to the post-9/11 civil liberties attacks on the Arab and Muslim communities.

In a Dearborn, Mich., forum this week, Democratic presidential candidates all spoke out against the Bush post-9/11 Patriot Act crisis. The atmosphere changed from enthusiastic to polite quietness when questions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wall were given noncommittal answers. James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, which hosted the forum, said, “They have to think about what both sides [Arab and Jewish voters] think now and that’s making a big difference in the political discourse.”

The author can be reached at jleblanc@pww.org