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On Walls

December 17, 2011

I recently went to Israel to partake in a workshop on the Holocaust and present some of my own work. While I was there I took the time to do some interviews for my project and take in some of the country.

One site I took in was the massive wall that demarcates Jerusalem and the West bank. I took a tour of East Jerusalem with an Israeli group and also saw some of the wall myself when in Bethlehem. While I certainly knew about the wall beforehand, there is really nothing that can prepare you for the experience. In order help understand why the wall went up (yes, I’m well aware of the immediate reasons given by Israeli government), I decided to get some historical background to understand what I was looking at. I started reading Tom Segev‘s book 1967: Israel, the War, and the Year that Transformed the Middle East while I was still in Israel and finished it upon return to Ukraine. I’ll simply let voices from the book and the images speak for themselves, since as you’ll see they’re very much capable of doing so.

“’Restricted areas of residence’ evoked limitations on domicile and movement imposed on Russian Jews under the czars.” Israeli General, Elad Peled, in his 1966 report on the possibility of occupying the West Bank (Segev p. 222-3). He further stated that if Arabs resisted, Israel would take steps toward a “police state.”
After 1967 victory, there were one million Arabs in the West Bank. Former President David Ben-Gurion commented, “We don’t need them on top of the Israeli Arabs.” On Gaza Arabs, “It won’t be easy to get rid of them.” (Segev p. 455)Teddy Kollek, the founder of Jewish Foundation and a politician, on cleansing Muslims from old city in Jerusalem: “They must be expelled. There’s no need for any law. Occupation is the most effective law.”Amos Kenan, a Israeli  journalist and Zionist, wrote in his Latrun report about the bulldozing of Palestinian homes after 1967 and the deportations of Arabs: “None of us could understand how Jews could do this.” In the final part of his report: “The chickens and the doves were buried under the ruins. The fields turned desolate before our very eyes, and children walked down the road sobbing.” He ended by saying that these kids would become terrorists. (Segev p. 492-3)

Bulldozed Palestinian home in East Jerusalem.

Zalman Aran, Zionist and politician: “I’m telling you plainly that we don’t need the West Bank. It will do us more harm than good.” (Segev, p. 605)“Every progressive person will say, ‘Look, this is why we called these people the torch-bearers of imperialism and colonialism. They want to turn the West Bank, which is populated by Arabs, into a colony of the State of Israel.’” Israeli Minister of Justice Shimshon Shapira (Segev p. 605)Israeli military commander (hero of the 1967 war btw) and politician, Moshe Dayan on occupying the Palestinian territories: “The situation between us is like the complex relationship between a Bedouin man and the young girl he has taken against our wishes. But when their children are born, they will see the man as their father and the woman as their mother. The initial act will mean nothing to them. You, the Palestinians, as a nation, do not want us today, but we will change your attitude by imposing our presence upon you.” (Segev p. 575)

I’ll finish with a little Zizek and Banksy graffiti from Bethlehem:

The conclusion is obvious: While paying lip-service to the two-state solution, Israel is busy creating a situation on the ground that renders a two-state solution de facto impossible. The dream that underlies this politics is best rendered by the wall that separates a settler’s town from the Palestinian town on a nearby hill somewhere in the West Bank. The Israeli side of the wall is painted with the image of the countryside beyond the wall–but without the Palestinian town, depicting just nature, with grass and trees. Is this not ethnic cleansing at its purest, imagining the outside beyond the wall as it should be –empty, virginal, waiting to be settled?

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