Not in the News: The Other Blackout
by Mina Hamilton
August 26, 2003
Millions of Americans were inconvenienced on August 14 and 15. We suffered tired feet, anxious 8-hour waits in stalled subways and awful traffic jams. Many were without water. Meat and ice cream thawed in our freezers and we resorted to candlelight. Some businesses suffered major financial losses and, alas, there were a few deaths.
What about the other blackout?
What about the Wall? Where is the Wall?
How come the establishment media is not plastered with photos of these towering structures of concrete marching across the West Bank?
How come I cannot read in the US press about the Wall's destructive tornado-like path sweeping through Palestine's 100-year-old olive tree orchards, crushing greenhouses, burying wells and separating villages from their agricultural land?
In the town of Jayyous alone the town was cut off by the immense concrete wall from an estimated 80% of its 18,000 olive trees and an estimated 50,000 citrus trees. (1)
Where are the maps showing a land grab that is redrawing the boundaries between Israel and Palestine? How come nowhere are there diagrams detailing the wretched conglomeration of concrete sniper towers, electrified fencing, razor wire, video cameras, floodlights, access roads, deep trenches and buffer zones?
The Apartheid Wall or the Berlin Wall as it is known to Palestinians is a phenomenon about which "informed" Americans are only dimly aware. How can this be? This humongous structure is on the scale of the wall built in the 15th century by the Ming Dynasty in China.
How can we not know about a wall whose huge slabs of concrete blot out the sun and dwarf the original Berlin Wall? That barrier was a mere 11.8 feet high, this one is twice as high, a staggering 25 feet high. That barrier was a paltry 96 miles, the first section of this one, if completed, will be 225 miles long.
Hey, that's the distance between Washington DC and New York City!
How hard it is to grasp what these numbers mean. Until you see the wall - or a picture of the wall -- it's stunning scope is unimaginable.
Without an image in your mind you could be fooled by Areal Sharon who usually calls this structure a "fence" or "a separation barrier." As a recent article on the electronicintifada makes clear, if you can't see or imagine the wall, you may not mind that the Washington Post usually uses the same misleading terminology as Sharon: "fence." As does CNN, AP and George W. Bush when he's talking to Sharon.
Fence sounds innocuous like those hip-high strands of wire that in Montana keep cattle from wondering off. A fence is something you can see through. It has a temporary quality. Fences can be taken down. Also the wires can be parted so you can step through. Most fences you can clamber over.
Not so the wall. The original Berlin wall was a measly, pathetic thing compared to the Apartheid Wall. China's Great Wall is also a paltry item in comparison, after all that wall did not have electronic fences, lights and video cameras. Even the Iron Curtain looks flimsy compared to this; the "curtain"over much of its length had flimsy wooden guard towers and wooden post and barbed wire fences.
This new wall is gobbling up land at a fierce rate; 85% of the walls imprint is on land owned by Palestinians. (2) As of August 2003 tens of thousands of acres of Palestinian land had been eaten up by this "fence," plus its buffer zones and support roads. (3)
The Wall is separating towns from their wells, farmers from their crops and greenhouses. It is destroying massive amounts of Palestine's agricultural land; as of April 2003, 100,000 agricultural trees had been uprooted for the wall. (4) It is wrecking water pipes and irrigation works.
The wall is cutting Palestinian towns in two and strangling others. One example: Qalqilya, sometimes spelled Qalkilya. Qalqilya is now encircled by the wall on three sides. This town has become a gloomy, dark prison, surrounded by towering slabs of dark grey concrete.
Fifty-five percent of Qalkilya's rich agricultural land has been confiscated for the structure. Why is this land so rich and so attractive to confiscate? The town sits on top of the largest aquifer in the West Bank. (5)
This town formerly exported fruits and vegetables to Israel and the Gulf. A wealthy town by Palestinian standards, its citizens used to make $1000 a month; since the construction of the wall that has cut citizens off from their agricultural lands, income is now averaging $60.00 a month. (6)
Known as the Terror Wall by right-wing Israelis, Palestinian commentators scoff at the alleged reason of the wall being "security." No, they say, it's about a land-and-water grab with Israel unilaterally, without international approval, permanently establishing new boundaries for the Palestinian state.
According to Jamal Juma, a NGO with Environmental Groups in Palestine, the Apartheid Wall is expected to be the largest land grab by Israel since 1967. He also notes that the wall intrudes as far as 4 miles into the West Bank. Currently over 100 bulldozers are at work on the wall. (7)
No wonder the media doesn't want us to see maps. Then we could determine where the Wall is going. Then we could see how the wall is not going - as Israel claims -- along the Green Line, the supposed boundary between Palestine and Israel, but is invading huge chunks of the West Bank and handing them on a platter to Israel.
What if Russia made a decision to re-build the Berlin Wall and simultaneously invaded sizeable pieces of West Germany? Diplomats would rage. The UN would consult and photos galore would adorn the front pages of our newspapers.
What if the government of India decided to build a wall between India and Kashmir? What if that wall involved invading thousands of acres of Kashmir's most fertile agricultural land? Maps and photos would immediately proliferate like rabbits across the US media.
No, I don't like this blackout at all. Unlike the one earlier this summer, this one stifles me. It stops up my eyes and denies vital information to my brain. This one tries to control my thoughts. This one attempts to keep me ignorant and thereby buy my consent.
This blackout almost succeeds in obscuring the horrible reality: I'm complicit. I am not a tax resister, therefore, I am an accessory to this crime.
Unless we're tax resisters, we, US taxpayers, are all accessories to this particular form of death and destruction. After all who's paying for the Apartheid Wall? Who's paying for the Wall that's costing 1.6 million dollars per mile?
Yes, it's you and me, courtesy of our checks to the IRS. The US government annually contributes about 3 billion dollars in direct aid and another 3 billion dollars in indirect aid to Israel, but with both figures the money goes into a general fund. Unlike with aid to other countries, there's no accounting for the specific purposes for which these billions are spent in Israel. Our money is rolling out razor wire, pouring cement, bulldozing olive trees, and demolishing houses!
Who does not hate the death of innocent children, women and men? Who does not despise terrorists, whether they be Palestinians, Israelis, or Americans, whether they be men or women, Islamic fanatics or Christian Fundamentalists, whether they be dark-skinned or light-skinned, whether they be Pakistani, British, Afghani, Taliban, Russian, Indonesian or all the other virulent versions currently manifesting around the globe?
But do we want our hard-earned bucks going to pay for this monstrous, unspeakable Wall that is daily creating more misery, desperation, suffering, hate and more terrorists?
Count me out.
* There are photos and maps of the Apartheid Wall at www.electronicintifada.net. These photos accompany the article by Nigel Party called "Is it a Fence? Is it a Wall? No, it's a Separation Barrier," August 1, 2003.
Mina Hamilton is a writer based in New York City. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) Chris McGreal, "The 1 Million Pound-A-Mile Wall That Divides A Town From It's Land Of Plenty," the Guardian, November 26, 2002.
(2)Catherine Cook, "Israel's Wall: Not Really About Security," Duluth-News Tribune, August 5, 2003.
(3) Nicole Gaonette, "Israel's New Barrier Cuts Old Ties," Christian Science Monitor, August 14, 2003.
(4) Catherine Cook, Op.Cit.
(5) Isabelle Humphries, "Building a Wall, Sealing an Occupation," Middle East Report, September 29, 2002,available at www.merip.org/mero/mero.
(6) Michael Jensen, Letter from Qalqiliya, Middle East International, December 26, 2002.
(7)Jamal Juma, "The Wall in Palestine: Security as a Pretext for Dispossession," ZNET.org, August 18, 2003.