“I never imagined the day would come that I would be witness to a wall passing through the depths of my land. In all of the occupation’s forms, I never imagined I would helplessly watch as my land was destroyed.” – Abdel Nasser Quzmar, Palestinian Farmer1
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 Zayta – “Correcting” the Border
Located near the Green Line, the town of Zayta has a population of approximately 3,000 Palestinians.
The town of Zayta originally extended into what is now Israel. In 1948, most of the town’s agricultural lands were seized by Israel. The Israeli town of Maggal and parts of Hadera are now situated on Zayta’s land.
Following Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank in 1967, 68 homes, a school and a medical clinic were destroyed in Zayta by the Israeli Army. Many of the town’s residents fled and they have never been allowed to return.
The residents of Zayta earn their living primarily from selling agricultural produce. Zayta exports 80% of its produce to the rest of the Occupied West Bank. Two-thirds of the residents relied upon food distributions from the Red Cross, a significant increase since 2000. The Red Cross has since stopped its food distribution program.
Effects of the Wall on Zayta
According to Israeli military orders, the construction of the wall is meant to “correct the border”2 (i.e. alter the Green Line). The result is the confiscation of Palestinian land, while ridding the land of its Palestinian owners.
The Israeli Army has built a militarily-fortified barrier that has separated the northern and southern agricultural sections of the town from the town center. Of the 875 dunums3 of land that are isolated west of the Wall, 443 dunums of agricultural land have been confiscated by Israel, in what the Israeli Army terms a “border correction.” More than 500 of Zayta’s residents have lost their land and means of livelihood.
As part of the strategy to encage densely populated Palestinian areas by creating “depth-barriers” (smaller, fenced-in Palestinian areas that are immediately adjacent to the larger Palestinian canton area), the Israeli Army issued military orders on May 15, 20034 stating that they would “put their hands on” an additional 300 dunums of Zayta’s prime agricultural farmland in order to erect a new portion of the security wall, closer to the Green Line. Some Zayta villagers are separated from their land by one portion of the Wall and their land is sandwiched between the first and second portion of the Wall. If the second portion, closer to the Green Line, had been erected instead of the first, then the villagers would still have access to their agricultural lands. On February 22, 2004, Israel began dismantling the first portion of the Wall.
The villages of Nazlat Issa and Baqa Sharqiya, with approximately 7,500 people total, are trapped between these two Walls, though on February 22, 2004, Israel began dismantling the first portion of the Wall. Nazlat Issa has been particularly hard-hit by Israel’s destruction policy. In January 2003, 62 shops and business stalls in Nazlat Issa’s central market were demolished. On August 21, 2003, an additional 115 shops/business stalls were demolished as well as seven homes. In addition, seven homes were demolished. On August 24, 2003, Israel issued confiscation orders for 16 dunums of land situated in the heart of Nazlat Issa’s central market.5 The order was issued “pursuant to the current special security conditions in the area that require the defense of Israeli settlements [colonies]. . .”. The nearest Israeli colony is Hermesh, approximately 4 kilometers away.
On June 23, 2003, 75 year old Mohammad Taher Hussein, the father of 5 boys and 5 girls was denied entry to Tulkarem from the Nazlat Issa checkpoint. He had a heart problem and needed medical attention in Tulkarem. He waited for 2 hours at the roadblock in Nazlat Issa but the Palestinian Red Crescent Ambulance was not allowed to pass. He was taken to the Nazlat Issa clinic and pronounced dead that same day.
On February 22, 2004, the Israeli Army began dismantling the first Wall (the Wall built deeper into Palestinian territory). It is expected that only the Wall that runs closer to the Green line will remain. Six houses from Nazlat Issa, home to 62 Palestinians (including 18 schoolchildren) will remain isolated on the western side of the Wall. The schoolchildren must pass through a military gate daily in order to attend school in Nazlat Issa. Additionally 524 dunums of Nazlat Issa agricultural land and several hundred dunums of land from Zayta and Qaffin remain isolated on the western side of the Wall.
More than 6,000 of Zayta’s olive trees have been uprooted to build the Wall.
Homes situated within 35 meters of the Wall (what Israel terms a “buffer zone”) are at risk of demolition.
1. The Palestinian Environment NGOs Network (Pengon), Stop the Wall in Palestine 111 (2003).