This is a slow-moving annexation that is accompanied by slippery rhetoric out of the Israeli government. The creation of the so-called Separation Wall, but what most of the world condemns as the Apartheid Wall, is all part of the annexation process.
The Wall is one of the ugliest, most offensive pieces of work you will see. It was NOT created along the so-called Green Line (the pre-1967 border of Israel) but along lines that protect some of the key territories that the Israeli government seeks to formally annex. It also is used to divide Palestinian territories such that farmers are separated from their land.
When you stand near the wall, however, you do not think much about the larger political issues at stake. Rather, it feels like you are inside a prison. You look up and down the expanse of the Wall at the guard towers and, frankly, you do not know what will happen next. The environmental damage created through the building of the Wall is a sight in and of itself. Piles of dirt, rubbish, concrete, weeds, etc., on the Palestinian side of the Wall reminded me of construction debris that some contractor ‘forgot’ to remove from a project. This damage makes the land in the immediate vicinity of the Wall useless and, for all intents and purposes, dead.
The sense of being imprisoned was more stark when we witnessed thousands of Palestinian workers pass through the Qalqeelya border crossing to go to Israel for work. We arrived at the border crossing around 3:30am and workers (men and women) were already crossing the border, though in small numbers. As dawn approached this trickle of workers turned into a flood.
The workers proceeded down a covered walkway and then went to a turnstile, reminiscent of one you might find in a subway system. But this was not a turnstile that one can jump over, but fully metal where only one person at a time can pass, assuming that the light over the turnstile is green. There is an assembly point on the other side where the workers then gather and seek transportation to their jobs. They have to arrange their own transportation, either through their employers or on their own, because public Israeli transportation is denied them. They cannot drive into Israel and go to work because that is forbidden. The process is so demanding that many Palestinian workers remain at their worksites for days rather than go back and forth in this process. And, while this is going on, it is all under the watchful eye of the Israeli guard tower, shouting commands to the Palestinians in Hebrew.
The violence of the Occupation is what you feel more than any other sensation. Not the violence that you hear about on mainstream television when they discuss a terrorist attack or a military action, but rather the silent violence that includes traffic signs in big Hebrew letters, while the Arabic wording has been crossed out by fanatical settlers. Or it may be the violence of the apartheid Wall, supposedly constructed to stop Palestinian terrorist and military attacks, yet no one can seem to explain if that were the case, why the Wall was not built on the Green Line rather than over and through Palestinian territories.
There were moments when I forgot where I was. My own anger boiled to the surface and I came close to yelling at the Israeli security personnel or making signs at them with my fingers, only to stop myself and realize that I was not an angry African American in the USA (which carries its own set of risks), but a North African-looking man in Occupied Palestine who could easily get shot – or cause my colleagues to get shot – with the assurance that my wife would get a letter of apology from the Israeli government for the incident, which they would certainly alleged to have been the result of my unprovoked actions.
This is what Palestinians experience every day…and then some.
So, yes, this is a violent occupation, and no semantics will get around that simple fact.