Sharon's Chinese Wall

On June 15 Israeli bulldozers began to dig trenches for the building of a fence that will separate Israel from the West Bank. One of our Israeli correspondents comments on the plans to build a huge fence separating Israel from the Palestinian territories.

On June 15, 2002 the great plan of the Israeli "left" liberals moved a step closer to becoming a reality. Israeli bulldozers began to dig trenches for the building of a fence that will separate Israel from the West Bank. In the next 10 months we will see the most grandiose engineering-political structure that the world has not seen since the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1990. The first section of the fence will be about 110 km long and it will include sophisticated technology to detect anyone coming close to it. Hundreds of soldiers and policemen will be deployed to secure the fence day and night.

The Israeli Labour leaders and their friends see this project as a great political achievement. To them the "Separation Fence" is the Oslo peace plan, only two years late - the miracle solution for all Middle East problems. Foreign ministers Shimon Peres (Labour) and opposition leader Iosi Sarid (MEREZ party) have declared that if the Israelis separate themselves physically from the Palestinians everything is going to be just fine. "We will be on this side of the fence, they will be on that side and all problems will be over." The Labour press and the Labour ministers see the fact that building work on the fence has begun as a great victory over the Sharon-Peres government:

However, Sharon doesn't look too disappointed. The "separation" (you can use other word "Apartheid") doesn't change anything in the status of the Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories. But there is more to it than this. As part of the programme for the "development" of the old settlements hundreds of new apartment blocks were built on the West Bank. Dozens of new settlements were established during the past 10 yeas, even when the Labour government was in power. These settlements were declared "illegal" by the government, but that did not stop them from receiving electricity, water and army protection against Arab attacks. Furthermore, another sizeable piece of Palestinian land has been annexed by Israel for the building of this fence. West Jerusalem will find itself on the Israeli side of the fence. Many Palestinian cities, such as long suffering Jenin, will be blockaded by this monument of political barbarism.

As if this were not enough, after Sharon's operation "Defence Shield" this spring, Israel got the OK from the US administration to invade the Palestinian territories any time Sharon wishes to do so. Every day we see IDF tanks on the streets of West Bank towns and villages. In fact these territories are once more under de facto occupation, and all Sharon needs now is to get formal recognition of this fact from Bush and the other imperialist powers. (The latest developments, especially Bush's speech, show that Sharon already has this de facto US support.) Now the building of this fence will transform the West Bank into a huge concentration camp, where the only law enforcer will be the Israeli tanks. For journalists, solidarity groups and human rights activists it will be much more difficult to intervene in the situation and see what is happening.

Many Israelis want to believe that this fence will save them from suicide attacks. But the latest attacks show that Palestinian suicide bombers over time will find the way to hit Israeli targets. There is a Russian proverb that says: "If there is a wall there must be a hole." Today many Palestinian organisations have sympathisers among the Israeli Arabs. Cars, weapons and explosives are stored in Arab villages on the other side of the fence and it would not be a big problem to use them. Also, the Palestinians have a lot of experience in breaking through Israeli defence lines on the borders between Israel and Gaza and Israel and Lebanon.

We must also remember that the Israeli economy desperately needs Palestinian workers. Even now Israeli employers take the risk of going on their own to Palestinian territories to recruit workers.

There is another question that is worrying many Israelis: how much is the building of this fence going to cost the Israeli people? In the present Israeli government's budget there is no money for children, for the unemployed, for pensioners, for Arab Israelis. The press are predicting an Argentine scenario for the Israeli economy, and yet the government is prepared to go ahead with this project.

It is not necessary to be a prophet to predict that Sharon's fence will meet a similar fate to that of the Oslo agreements. Today the Palestinian and the Israeli peoples face the same fate and only together, by building the unity of the Arab and Jewish workers, can they solve their problems.