Tuesday, April 18, 2006


The Economist reports on the ongoing effort by Israel to disconnect Jerusalem from Palestine, using settlements and the wall to surround and isolate Palestinian neighorhoods in the city's Arab East section.
Jerusalem is still essentially two cities—not just in population and economic ties, but also in municipal policy. In a recent book (“Discrimination in the Heart of the Holy City”, International Peace and Co-operation Centre, Jerusalem, 2006), Meir Margalit, an Israeli peace activist and former city councillor, has detailed the differences. Arab Jerusalemites, now about 33% of the city's residents, get just 12% of its welfare budget, even though their poverty rate is more than double that of Jewish residents. They get 15% of the education budget, 8% of engineering services, just 1.2% of the culture and art, and so on. Overall, their share of the services' budget is under 12%, meaning a four-to-one difference in spending per person between Jews and Palestinians. In countless other things, from the number of garbage containers on the streets to the employment rates at city hall, there is a massive disparity in favour of the city's Jews.

This is important:
In the easternmost parts of the city, where the barrier cuts between the Mount of Olives (inside) and Abu Dis (outside), running right through residential neighbourhoods, a strange sight presents itself. The great concrete wall leaks people. In the morning, they squeeze through gaps between the blocks and existing buildings, helping each other to negotiate piles of rubble and loops of barbed wire. In the evening they are sucked back in. For thousands, this is the daily commute.

Most of them are blue ID holders who prefer some discomfort to a long detour to the nearest official crossing point. One way or the other, some 60,000 people are thought to cross each day in each direction. While the wall is still incomplete, the soldiers often tolerate their infractions.

I observed exactly the same thing when I visited Abu Dis in 2003, long lines of people climbing through gaps in the concrete barrier, the elderly having to be lifted over, all under the eyes of an Israeli soldier who stood smoking a cigarette some hundred yards off. Such scenes, of course, give the lie to Israel's claim that the wall is for "security," as any one of the hundreds who that soldier watched go through the wall could have been carrying explosives. Rather, the wall exists as part of the Israeli effort, in the words of former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon, to make the Palestinians "understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people." It's not a security operation, it's a psychological operation. Like the occupation itself, the wall is primarily designed to bring about the political and economic death of Palestine, and to facilitate the annexation of more Palestinian land into Israel.

Those who still insist on crediting the wall with any significant reduction in terrorism can take it up with Shin Bet.

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