On the Hebron Road is a checkpoint, a couple hundred meters from the actual gap in the Separation Barrier. Through this interstitial runs a barbed wire-lined road, flanked by an IDF installation and a cargo screening facility that might become active should the Israelis ever ease the restrictions on movement in the West Bank. 2005:06:06 06:28:41
A while back the BBC posted a gallery of photographs highlighting attempts ranging from graffiti to comissioned murals to annotate The Wall. This one in particular struck me, in an "I've stood right there" kind of way.
Recall that shortly before leaving Israel I walked the eight-ish kilometers down the Hebron Road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. In most places the Green Line itself is demarcated hardly if at all; technically the main highway from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem crosses it twice without visible indication. Likewise on the Hebron Road there is no way of telling when Israel proper ends and the West Bank begins. The first few kilometers of the walk are dominated by Jewish suburbs of Jerusalem, and are lands that every Israeli assumes will be incorporated into West Jerusalem in any final peace treaty. It is the Separation Barrier, as it is properly known, that indicates the transition to unequivically Palestinian lands. I had first seen it some months before, from a distance. But on this final excursion I touched it and crossed it.
The Barrier cuts right through the outer neighborhoods and fields of Bethlehem, and my guide was more than happy to drive me along the road paralleling it on the Palestinian side, stopping to point out where his family's fields, which he hasn't been allowed to visit in years, would be. It is often compared to the Berlin Wall, but let's be serious. Berlin had nothing on this thing. (Click for a larger version.) 2005:06:06 06:43:38
Seen wandering between the Wall and the checkpoint, I still wonder where this donkey belonged, and whether its owner was even allowed to follow it here to retrieve it. 2005:06:06 06:29:35
Graffiti that has been stenciled on the gate at the opening in the Barrier. It's hard to make out, but I'm pretty sure the dark blob next to Jabba is supposed to be Sharon. If you look closely at the photos of this gate in the BBC gallery, this stenciling is there, too. 2005:06:06 09:53:29
Let's have no illusions here: I deplore the barrier. It is Palestinian lands, not Israeli, that are expropriated for its construction, and Palestinians who are cut off from jobs, markets, fields, and relatives; thus it smells like collective economic punishment. Palestinians, not Israelis, are harassed, searched, arbitrarily denied passage, and occasionally shot at the checkpoints; so it looks like their human rights are being denied. It forms a de facto border well inside territority that nominally belongs to the future Palestinian state, and since the Palestinians have minimal power to negotiate the route, it must inevitably complicate any final settlement between the two sides. Not that either side is well-served by wedding itself to the Green Line, but it is a useful spatiopolitical fulcrum that ought not be unilaterally or casually tossed aside. Israelis would do well to keep in mind that their own roadmaps are the only maps in the world that do not demarcate the Green Line as something like an international border.
However, the Middle East would be a simpler place than it is were it possible to routinely paint issues in black and white. Reasonable people disagree over the Separation Fence as well. While the terrorist attacks against Israelis are tragic, they are at most sporadic, so there is surely a limit to the hardship that the Palestinians can be made to endure as prevention. Similarly the barrier is a problem, but especially in light of the Israeli Supreme Court's interventions to correct the worst faults, it cannot be said that no atrocity would warrant its emplacement. Justice depends on identifying and adhering to a fair balance -- one that I do not think the Fence as it is presently conceived can easily satisfy.
Incidentally, her failure to recognize this reality is just one of the many reasons why I'm not inclined to support Senator Clinton's probable bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. It's emblematic of her larger failure to confront, or even seriously consider, difficult positions.
Not everywhere is the Barrier a ten meter concrete wall. Along much of its planned route, it is still just a road, a no-mans-land, and an electrified barbed wire fence. From a Bethlehem hillside one can see how the town is hemmed in by less visible barriers of this kind. Across the Fence, Jewish settlements are spreading like wildfire. 2005:06:06 07:43:16