Saturday, January 13, 2007

FEATURE: Worried about Camels, but not people, By Mohammed Mar'i

The Camel Rights in Israel
By Mohammed Mar'i
(Distributed by Arab American Media Services. Permission granted to republish.)

(Ramallah, Occupied Palestine)-- Pressured by Israeli scientists and Israel Nature and National Parks Authority (INNPPA) warning regarding the serious harm the fence could cause the desert's unique environment and landscape, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz decided to freeze construction of the separation wall in the Judean Desert, in order to examine alternate routes for the fence from Metzudat Yehuda (Beit Yatir) to Nahal Tavor.

According to their warning, this sector of the separation wall can be replaced with electronic devices, such as advanced radar systems, cameras and other sensors to secure the area to prevent the entrance of Bedouin and Palestinians, who are causing great harm to nature and wildlife by hunting ibex and deer and destroying desert vegetation for heating purposes. "This fence cuts off several key routes that animals travel along," wrote Dr. Yossi Lashem, former general-secretary of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, in a letter to IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz Tuesday. Lashem said that if animals could not move freely, it would destroy food access for birds of prey.

Lieutenant Colonel Erez Kom from the Defense Ministry's Construction Department told the Knesset environmental lobby Tuesday that the Israel Defense Forces had planned a route that did not run through the nature reserve, Haaretz quoted him. In order to ensure the flow of water in the streams and passages for wildlife, Brigadier General Eran Ophir, who heads the separation fence project for the "IDF" said, "For large wildlife, we will establish four large passages that will be like agricultural gates that are always open".

Khalil Tafakji, the Director of the Arab Studies Society and an expert on Israeli settlement in the West Bank, said that the alternative for the separation wall in the area will be a road from Al Khan al Ahmer near Jerusalem south to Ber Sheva' in the Negev. According to Tafakji, this road will be an implementation to the Israeli military law for roads No. 50, approved by the Israeli government in 1983. This road will separate Hebron area, South of West Bank from the Dead Sea. Besides, Tafakji said that the (INNPPA) will not oppose the construction of the road since it will not block the movement of animals in the area.

It is amazing that Peretz concerned with sand, eco systems and animals, worried about preserving the view! How about preserving the dignity and freedom of hundreds and thousands of ordinary Palestinians impacted by this disgusting wall?

Israel erected the Separation Wall east of 1967 borders to isolate Palestinians from Israelis for security considerations, which are mainly defense against Palestinian "terror" and preventing harm to Israeli citizens. Israel caged Palestinians in ghettos or Bantustans violating international law, UN Resolutions and the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Tafakji said that Israel annexed about 90.000 dunams from the West Bank land by erecting the Wall. Most of the annexed dunams are fertile agricultural land and source of life for Palestinian farmers. It is also the source of water in the West Bank.

Behind the separation fence are thousands of personal tragedies. Who cares about farmers like who in one day lost access to his lands, which he and his fathers had worked for generations. Who cares about shepherds who were forced to sell his sheep because the fence blocked access to pasture? Who is upset that the principal of a high school like Mohammed Shahin of Ras a-Tireh, was forced to use donkeys to bring textbooks from Qalqilya since all the roads were blocked by the fence. Who cares about a doctor from Tulkarm who drives five hours every morning from his house to his job in Qalqilya, a distance of 15 kilometers, because he is forced to! This kind of occupation perhaps doesn't kill. Not right away, anyway. But it does destroy the soul.

Around 30,000 Palestinians are liable to completely lose their livelihood because their lands are on the "Israeli" side of the fence. This is the most fertile part of the West Bank with almost 40% of the agricultural land of the West Bank. In the Jenin, Tulkarm and Qalqilya districts around a quarter of the residents work in farming, more than twice the percentage in the rest of the West Bank. Around two thirds of the water sources in the West Bank are also in this area. 28 wells will be west of the fence, and it is unclear what will become of them. In short, a blow to agriculture in Jenin, Tulkarm and Qalqilya is a blow to all the Palestinians in the West Bank.

The village of Jayyous, in Qalqilya area numbers around 3,000 people. Before the ongoing Intifada, many of the men worked in Israel. Now, this is all over, and many have gone back to farming. More than half of the breadwinners in the village work the land. Or more correctly, used to. The route of the separation fence flanks the last houses of the village and 9,000 dunam of farm land, almost all of the village's lands, will remain west of the fence, in the side close to Israel.

A short walk from the outer homes of the village, not more than 200 meters, leads suddenly to the edge of a cliff. The view here is marvelous, the air fresh. Below one's feet is the coastal plain, from the Israeli city of Kfar Saba to the sea. You look a bit more and suddenly realize that this cliff, more than 100 meters high, is the work of fence builders.

The hill was cut in the middle, and the route of the fence is paved beneath it. On the eastern side, the Palestinian side, there is barbed wire, then a deep ditch, then a dirt road, then the fence itself, eight meters high, and then another dirt road, then an asphalt road, and then more barbed wire. The Israelis uprooted mountains, leveled hills and poured billions here in order to build the Wall "until the permanent borders are decided."

A look at the map of Separation Wall leads to a simple conclusion - the separation fence being built at this time basically overlaps Ex-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's map for a Palestinian state. A bit more than 40% of the West Bank split and sliced into pieces. The northern West Bank is cut off from the central and southern parts of it. The road map talked about viable Palestinian state. It's hard to see how Palestinians can live within such borders.

(Mohammed Mar'i is a journalist based in Ramallah, Occupied Palestine . He can be reached at