Revolution #234, May 29, 2011
Mr. Netanyahu: Tear Down That Wall!
It slices and zigzags through 400 miles of the West Bank four times longer than the Berlin Wall. It carves up an area that is home to two-and-a-half-million Palestinians.
It towers as high as 25 feet into the air. It is built of thick gray concrete, topped with prison-style watchtowers, electronic sensors, thermal imaging devices and video cameras, and sniper towers. It cuts off neighbors from neighbors, farmers from their plots, people from schools, hospitals or jobs. It is patrolled by occupying soldiers and monitored by unmanned aerial drones which enforce a 75-foot “no go” zone against the civilian population. It protects highly armed religious fanatic illegal settlers.
It is The Wall—what Palestinians correctly call Israel’s Apartheid Wall, invoking the brutal segregation that was enforced by the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. It protects and enforces the rule of a country built on land stolen from the Palestinians, that serves a unique and terrible role as a hit man and enforcer for oppression—within the Middle East and beyond.
In all the mainstream news coverage of Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to the U.S., the reality of The Wall is being covered over, denied, and lied about.
Living in the Shadow of the Wall
At 5 am on August 21, 2003, 15 bulldozers, accompanied by large numbers of Israeli troops, stormed the Palestinian village of Nazlat and demolished more than 100 shops and five homes to make way for The Wall. They destroyed half the shops in the village market, which had served as a commercial center for the entire region in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (See “Largest demolition in years: Israel destroys entire commercial market in one day,” The Palestinian Environment NGO Network (PENGON) Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign.)
The Wall has been accurately dubbed Israel’s Apartheid Wall because it enforces a vicious two-tier society that defines every aspect of life in Israel-occupied Palestine—from where one can drive and go to school, to whether or not one can get medical care. One account notes, “regular reports of the deaths of gravely ill people in ambulances detained at checkpoints while drivers and paramedics are interrogated, searched, threatened, humiliated and assaulted. Wounded men are taken from ambulances at checkpoints and sent directly to prison. There have been cases where ambulance drivers have been forced to act as a human shield against stone throwers. [Editors’ note: for decades Palestinian protesters have thrown stones at the Israeli military, taking on highly armed Israeli troops who fire live bullets.] On other occasions Israeli soldiers have commandeered ambulances as transport. Ambulances of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society continue to be hit by IDF [Israeli Defense Force] gunfire.” (palestinemonitor.org)
The Wall is an icon, a symbol and concentration of the imprisonment of an entire people whose land has been stolen, and whose every protest is met with prisons and guns. (See center spread of this issue of Revolution.) And in the way that The Wall isolates and cuts off a people, in the way it reinforces the dehumanization and degradation of a people, in the way it is combined with detention and violent repression, it is all too reminiscent of the walled-off ghettos in which the Nazis confined the Jews in Eastern Europe.
The Logic Behind the Wall
Israel is built on the villages, farms, and bones of the Palestinian people, who, within its borders and in exile, have never submitted to having their homeland stolen from them. Because of that, Israel maintains an aggressive, ever-expanding reign of brutality and terror. The Wall is a key element in enforcing all that.
Over 80 percent of the length of The Wall snakes through and surrounds major Palestinian communities. As such, The Wall is being used to expand territory seized by Israel, and to make life untenable for and to drive out the Palestinian population.
Hand in hand with The Wall, Israel has encouraged settlers from outside of and within Israel to carve out and occupy regions in the West Bank. These fortified settler communities, combined with militarized buffer zones, settler-only highways and The Wall have made nearly 40 percent of the West Bank inaccessible to Palestinians, strangling Palestinian agriculture and commerce. (Statistics: Palestine Monitor)
A Shadow Over the Middle East
The existence of the state of Israel casts a terrible shadow over the entire Middle East. Israel has consistently arrogated for itself the “right” to invade, bomb, blockade, carry out assassinations within, and generally terrorize people in countries and territories beyond, its formal borders. Israel has been in a near constant state of war with its “neighbors” since its founding—invading Lebanon, for example, in 1978 to drive out Palestinian resistance forces; again in 1982, when Israel orchestrated the massacre of thousands of Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps; again, from 1982-2000; and again in 2006.
And even beyond that, as is briefly outlined in the center spread of the current issue of Revolution, Israel serves as an attack dog for the interests of U.S. imperialism throughout the whole world—from its backing of the apartheid regime in South Africa to its central role in the genocidal slaughter of almost 200,000 Guatemalan peasants, to its ominous and imposing nuclear arsenal. For this reason, the United States, from the beginning of the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, has sternly lectured the peoples of the region that support for Israel is a non-negotiable criterion for whether or not new regimes will be considered acceptable to the U.S. —sending a message that any new regime had better follow those rules… or else.
Until this past week, at least, the nature and role of Israel was far too lost in the very positive uprisings that have wracked the Middle East and North Africa. But there is no “end run” around the presence of Israel from the perspective of liberating the people of the region or the world. The fact, for example, that the “new” Egyptian regime has continued the shameful betrayal of the Palestinians, and that it attacked, detained, and arrested protesters at the Israeli embassy on May 15, is a measure of how little has yet changed overall in Egypt since the fall of Mubarak.
“Where Are the Millions?”
In a very inspiring development, on May 15 tens of thousands of protesters converged on, and in some cases heroically crossed the borders of Israel from Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza to commemorate the Nakba (the ethnic cleansing on which Israel was founded in 1948) with courageous protest. Israeli troops opened fire on these unarmed protesters, killing at least a dozen on the Lebanon, Gaza, and Syrian borders.
Writing about the confrontation at the Lebanese border, where at least 10 people were killed by Israeli forces, a participant said:
“I grew up in Lebanon during the civil war and the Israeli occupation of the south. During that time a revolutionary song by Julia Butros, ‘Wayn al-Malayeen?’ (Where are the millions?), was continually heard. But as a child I never understood what she meant when she sang ‘Where are the millions? Where are the Arab people?’…. Last Sunday, on the way to the border, the bus driver played that song. In light of the Arab revolutions that are happening at the moment, millions of Arabs have taken to the streets to demand their freedom, to demand their rights and to speak out for the first time (at least since I have been alive). On May 15, the same millions took to the streets, only this time to demand the liberation of Palestine: their freedom, their right.” (“Thousands at the border,” by Moe Ali Nayel, The Electronic Intifada, May 17, 2011)
In the courageous mobilizations on the borders of Israel, one could see a seed of “the millions,” the potential strength of the people of the world. And in those protests, and the unprecedented uprisings throughout the Middle East and North Africa, one can see how yesterday’s “unchallengeable” order can indeed be challenged—even as the final outcome of these struggles and uprisings is yet to be written.
For there to be real change in the region, there must be leadership that is based on, and gives people, a deep understanding of the sources of oppression, and a real solution. An important part of that challenge is to give people a full understanding of the historic and present day role of Israel as an extremely important “prop” and enforcer of U.S. imperialist domination of people throughout the region (and the world). Israel is not somehow separate from the oppression of the masses of people throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Just the opposite is true: The oppression of the Palestinians is central to the whole setup that maintains the peoples of the region (and beyond) in poverty and brutal repression. And one essential criterion for assessing the aims and accomplishments of the uprisings in the region is the degree to which they align with and genuinely come to the aid of the Palestinian people.
Mr. Netanyahu, Tear Down that Wall!
A commentary in Revolution on The Wall that the United States is building on the Mexican border, observed: “There is nothing sacred or permanent, and nothing worth respecting, about the present border between the U.S. and Mexico!”
And the point was made that, “During the Cold War of the 1980s, U.S. President Ronald Reagan went to the Berlin Wall, a symbol of the intense contention (including threat of nuclear war) in that period between the rival blocs of imperialist gangsters headed by the U.S. and the Soviet Union. As a representative of the U.S. rulers, Reagan threw out a challenge to the head of the Soviets: ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.’ A few years later, the U.S. imperialists ended up victorious in that clash between two imperialist superpowers.
“From a diametrically opposite class standpoint and with a completely different historical mission, the revolutionary proletariat declares in the face of the deadly anti-immigrant offensive of Bush and his class: ‘Tear Down That Wall!’”
The Apartheid Wall erected by Israel, and the continuing and intensifying oppression of the Palestinian people that it expresses and stands for, is not “sacred” or permanent either. All that stands on the wrong side of morality, and the wrong side of history. And from the perspective of getting to a world without exploitation and oppression, the people of the world must declare: Mr. Netanyahu, Tear Down That Wall!
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