Border walls are nothing new. But whereas some have come tumbling down in recent years, one is rising in Israel—and, as with most things there, is a source of conflict.
Jerusalem Report editor Kershner travels the 375-mile length of the barrier separating the Palestinians of the West Bank from their Israeli neighbors, reporting on what she finds along the way, little of it cause for hope. The barrier, mostly of wire fence but also of concrete and steel, divides land and people. Palestinians regard it as “a new blight on the landscape,” proof of apartheid and their unwelcome status in the new Israel. Israeli Arabs tend to favor the fence, “believing it to provide the clearest definition yet of their permanent status as citizens of the state.” And, by Kershner’s account, Israelis of left and right see the need for the barrier as a deterrent to terrorism, and particularly suicide bombers, although thus far it has not proved very effective. There are other reasons for it; says one thoughtful kibbutzim, “We need a fence . . . to put limits on the occupation in the Jewish mind.” The need for such a wall is debatable, Kershner suggests, but building it has been a priority for the government of Ariel Sharon, who ordered that the fence not follow the Green Line marking Israel’s 1967 border, as he had promised; instead, it zigzags in and out of Palestinian territory, even cutting off some Palestinian villages while protecting Israeli settler communities on the West Bank. One such instance, Kershner writes, “became a showcase of Israeli irrationality at home and abroad” when the barrier—built at a cost of about $3 million per mile—was pulled down and relocated on the Green Line. Other portions still mark not that line, however, but what Kershner calls the “seam zone” between Israelis and Palestinians.
“Fences have so far not made for good neighbors,” Kershner concludes. A revealing report.