Bad Fences Make Bad Neighbors – Focus on Azzun Atma
March 01, 2004
“You don’t simply bundle people onto trucks and drive them away…I prefer to advocate a positive policy, to create, in effect, a condition that in a positive way will induce people to leave.” – Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister of Israel1
Israel wants Palestinian land but it doesn’t want the Palestinian people. Consequently, the Wall is part of a strategy to annex large parts of Occupied Palestinian Territory while caging in large Palestinian population centers. Once complete, the indigenous Palestinian population will be restricted to reservations constituting less than 13% of historic Palestine while illegal Israeli settlers will be able to freely travel throughout Occupied Palestinian Territory.
If the Wall were truly about security, the Wall would have been built on Israel’s 1967 pre-occupation border (the “Green Line”). However, the Wall is not being built on the Green Line, but rather well within Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The Case of Azzun Atma – Encircling the Village
Situated within three kilometers of the Green Line, the village of Azzun Atma has a population of 1,500 Palestinians with half of the population under the age of 18. The village, and its neighboring village, Beit Amin, share two schools and a mosque.
In 1982, Israel constructed the illegal colony of Sha’are Tiqwa between the two villages. The effect was to isolate the two villages from one another and disrupt territorial contiguity between the villages. The colony is located within meters of the village.
The village yields the highest produce per dunum2 of land in the Occupied West Bank, and, as a result, the village is largely dependent upon its agricultural industry. Prior to September 2000, ten trucks of produce left the village daily: nine went to cities within Occupied Palestinian Territory and one truck exported produce to Israel. Today, the main roads to the village have been completely blocked off, thereby preventing the shipment of produce.
On March 13, 2003, Israel issued military orders for the construction of the Wall around Azzun Atma.
Effects of the Wall on Azzun Atma
Settlers living in the neighboring illegal Israeli colony of Sha’are Tiqva will have complete freedom of movement to and from Israel, while the Palestinians will be militarily caged into their village, unable to travel throughout Occupied Palestinian Territory or even visit neighboring villages.
25 homeowners have been forced to stop building their homes in order to create the Wall.
Part of the village’s high school (constructed in 1964) will be destroyed.
33 of the 36 schoolteachers will be denied the ability to freely enter the village, thereby impacting the education of the village’s schoolchildren.
Nine homes, housing 49 Palestinians, will be outside the Wall and will be completely isolated from the remainder of the village, thereby separating families and denying the children the ability to attend school.
Azzun Atma was declared a “closed military zone” on October 2, 2003. Residents of Azzun Atma must now apply for permits to live in their homes and farmer from neighboring villages of Beit Amin and Sanirriya now require permits to enter the area. Permits must be renewed and there is no guarantee that the permits will be granted or honored by the Israeli Army. These regulations are only in place for Palestinians: according to the military order, permits are not required for Israeli citizens, permanent residents or anyone who is eligible for Israeli citizenship (i.e. anyone who is Jewish).
A “gate” with an Israeli Army watchtower has been installed at the entrance to the town, regulating the entry and exit of any Palestinian. Trucks carrying bread, poultry and other supplies are not permitted to enter through the gate so all supplies enter the village via the “back-to-back” system. This means that goods must be off-loaded then on-loaded onto another truck on the other side of the gate. Israeli goods delivered to the neighboring colony (Sha’are Tiqwa) are not subject to the “back-to-back” system.
1. David Bernstein, Forcible Removal of Arabs Gaining Support in Israel, The Times (London), August 24, 1988, at 7.