Sunday, November 14, 2010


Two events of global significance happened on 12th August 1961. The Berlin Wall was built, erected overnight, dividing the city. And I was born. Well, OK, maybe the latter is not such an event of global significance, but it was pretty important to me!

There are maps posted up around the flat, here in Palestine, of the Wall being erected around the West Bank. These posters are compiled by the United Nations Offices for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). They trace the 'green line', official border agreed upon at some meeting, the date and title of which escape me for the moment, and they show the actual wall, traced using satellite imagery. Israel is planning to build over 700km of 8m-high concrete wall between Israel and the West Bank. These maps are dated 2007, so no doubt the wall is nearly complete now. Within this wall, there are literally 100s of checkpoints, barriers, gates, piles of mud and fences. The Palestinians need all sorts of permits and passes in order to cross certain checkpoints, with others being out-of-bounds altogether.

There are by-passes and fly-overs, which facilitate the movement of Israelis from A to B, on which the Palestinian population is not allowed to travel. All of this, printed in black and white on the United Nations map, as just so many facts on a piece of paper. Imagine, however, the reality on the ground and the effect these restrictions would have on your life, your mental health.

It is the clearest example I have ever been confronted with of collective punishment, and it is in violation of the Geneva Conventions. For me this issue is not about religion, history, ancient homelands, security or terrorism. It is about wrong and right, pure and simple. It is about gut reactions and instinct, it is about understanding what happens when you cage/wall/lock someone in who has not been found guilty of anything except a certain ethnicity and making them endure this humiliation year after year. It is about not treating people as equals, but about segregation, racism and apartheid.

Doesn't it all sound a bit similar to WWII and some camps? What's next: tattoos?

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