Palestinians do not mourn the passing of war criminal Peres, even if Mahmoud Abbas does

I write on the eve of the burial of a war criminal. Shimon Peres, former Israeli Prime Minister and President died on the 28th of September at the age of 93. I mourn the fact that he never faced justice to answer for his crimes against Palestinian and Lebanese innocent civilians. I also mourn the truly nauseating specter of the leader of the Palestinians, President Mahmoud Abbas joining other world leaders at his funeral, if granted permission to do so. Palestinians met this move with disbelief. His decision shows how out of touch he is with the people he was elected to represent but who have since been denied the opportunity to consider whether he should continue to do so.



Had Abbas seen peace come to historic Palestine, with Israelis recognizing Palestinians as equal human beings deserving of the realization of freedom and independence, then I might understand. However, that simply is not the situation on the ground and I do not need to describe it to those who follow the conflict as they know that peace is simply not on the horizon due to Israel’s lack of desire for it. It is comfortable with the status quo and in the absence of any sanctions by the International Community, the weakness of the Palestinian leadership which has left the Palestinian people have no credible strategy for ending the conflict.

Almost 69 years since the Nakba and the creation of Israel and 49 years since the occupation of the remainder of historic Palestine, Peres meets his maker knowing he played his part in the theft of Palestine and the destruction of the future of the Palestinian people. Israel’s creation has been a catastrophe for the Palestinians and Peres was one of the architects. Palestinians cannot forgive him for that because they still live with consequences. Over five million live as refugees in surrounding countries; others live under occupation in the West Bank, under siege in Gaza and as second class citizens in Israel.

Make no mistake about it; Peres’s commitment was to Israel and the Zionist dream not to peace. If he was committed to peace there would have been no need for Oslo, simply a implementation of UN resolutions that would have ended the occupation and allowed the refugees to return. Instead, he fathered the settlement project which planted over 600,000 Israelis in colonies for Jews and only Jews.  I will always recall seeing him interviewed and denying that there was an occupation. “Who did we occupy it from?” he asked.

He was one of the most skilled communicators of the Israeli narrative and did his best to justify Israeli crimes, including those he sanctioned including that of Qana in Lebanon. He died never acknowledging his crimes or showing remorse for the Nakba.


For the Palestinian leadership to call him a man of peace is at odds with his legacy and how Palestinians perceive him. His supposed switch from settlement architect to man of peace resulted in the Oslo accords which have been catastrophic for the Palestinians. He, together with Rabin, Abbas and Arafat signed the Oslo Accords at the White House but that was no prelude to peace, it was a deal to allow Israel to colonize and steel. His Nobel Prize was awarded prematurely. We still do not have a peace treaty between Israelis and Palestinians.

Israel has shelved Oslo except when it needs to use it to justify its crimes, particularly in the Oslo designated area C. It regularly withholds Palestinian taxes  as punishment for what it considers Palestinian violence or peaceful diplomatic moves.

I won’t be shedding a tear when Peres laid to rest. The Palestinians have laid tens of their loved ones to rest because of his crimes. If there is a God that he is answerable to then he may finally face justice.

Israel’s attack on democracy for non-Jews form the river to the sea

First published by the Middle East Monitor on 26/9/2016

Member of the Knesset Haneen Zoabi

If Israel is not lauding its army, the Israeli Defence Force, as the self-proclaimed “most moral army in the world”, it is claiming to be the “only democracy in the Middle East”. The IDF’s oppressive treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and its regular attacks on Gaza, the most recent of which resulted in the murder of over 2,000 Palestinians, destroy the first claim.

An analysis of the second claim finds it is another false claim, unless of course its claim is changed to “the only democracy for Jews in the Middle East”. The contrast between the democratic rights of Jewish citizens of Israel on either side of the Green Line and Palestinians on either side of the same line could not be starker.

In the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem, Palestinians cannot vote in Israeli elections, while Jewish Israelis living illegally on Palestinian lands can. A number of Israeli politicians including Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman live in illegal settlements. Israel’s recently installed Consul General in New York, Dani Dayan, was leader of the settlement movement. It is worth noting that Brazil refused to accept his appointment as Israeli ambassador, while the US had no qualms about his appointment in New York.

In East Jerusalem, Palestinians are in political limbo, barred from voting in Israeli elections but also barred from voting in Palestinian elections. As a matter of fact, one of the legal challenges to the planned municipal elections slated for 8 October was the exclusion of East Jerusalem Palestinians due to an Israeli decision. The Palestinian Supreme Court decided to postpone the elections and has postponed a decision to 3 October.

In other areas of the West Bank, Palestinians are entitled to vote in presidential, legislative council and municipal elections. The last presidential elections, which brought Mahmoud Abbas to power, were held in 2005 and the last parliamentary elections were held in 2006. Hamas won that election eventually resulting in Israel and the international community boycotting the Hamas government. Presidential elections are long overdue and the Palestinian Parliament has not operated effectively since the Fatah-Hamas split.

Palestinian MPs who have tried to carry out the duties for which they were elected have not been able to do so without Israeli interference, including their freedom to move in the West Bank and certainly to represent their constituents in Jerusalem. Israel has also broken international norms attached to parliamentarians by arresting a number, mainly affiliated to Hamas, including the Speaker of Parliament Aziz Dwaik. It most recently arrested and held PFLP Legislative Council member Khalida Jarrar. She was released in June after serving 14 months of a 15 month prison sentence. This attack on Palestinian democracy brings into question Israel’s democratic credentials.

On the face of it, democracy applies to all Israeli citizens in equal measure. At least, that is what Israeli leaders and supporters of Israel claim. They tell us regularly that Palestinian (Arab) citizens not only vote in elections but a number of Israeli Members of the Knesset (MKs) or Parliament are Palestinian. There are currently 17 Palestinian citizens of Israel serving in the 20th Knesset. Ahmad Tibi, leader of Arab Movement for Change, serves as one of 10 deputy speakers of the Knesset, representing the Arab MK block.

If you scratch the surface you begin to see the discrimination and intimidation that Palestinian MKs suffer, especially if they speak up for the people they represent and make any attempts to expose Israel’s discriminatory policies against its 1.8 million Palestinian citizens. Whether this is in terms of education, health, housing, or civil rights including marriage and unification with Palestinians from the West Bank, they incur the wrath of Jewish members of the Knesset. Their opposition to 60 discriminatory laws and to the plan to ethnically cleanse the Bedouins from their villages, many of which Israel does not recognise, is seen as an indication of their disloyalty rather than legitimate representation of their constituents. Balad MK Haneen Zoabi, the first Muslim woman to be elected to the Knesset on an Arab list, has faced a particularly nasty campaign especially since her participation in the Gaza Flotilla, which Israel attacked on international waters resulting in the death of 10 humanitarian passengers. She was arrested and briefly held. Zoabi called the Israeli action “criminal”.

Zoabi’s party, the National Democratic Assembly (Balad), has been a specific target of Israel since 2003. In 2007, its then leader Azmi Bishara was charged with supporting terrorism, treason and various other charges. He denied the charges and decided not to return to face these charges, remaining in exile since.

The party’s Chairman and former General-Secretary, Awad Abdel Fattah, is currently in custody following his arrest at home at 3am on 18 September. At one point, up to 40 members of Balad were in custody and, while most have now been released, a small number, including Awad continue to be detained. His detention was extended again yesterday. In a statement, Balad said: “From the little Israeli police have since revealed, it seems the Balad-Al Tajamo members were arrested for suspected money laundering on behalf of the party and for other fraud-related charges. The Israeli court has extended the remand of most of those arrested for a second time – leaving them in jail now for over a week – while some have been released to house arrest under strictly-limiting conditions. The details of the allegations remain secret and are still being withheld from both the public and from the arrestees themselves”. Balad went on to “vehemently reject the charges against the Balad-Al Tajamo activists, and condemn the manner in which the night time arrests were conducted.”

Balad claims that “these arrests reek of political persecution of the very worst kind, and come close in the wake of Israel’s unilateral move to outlaw the country’s Islamic Movement-Northern Branch. It is also directly linked to recent racist legislation approved by Israeli lawmakers, such as the Expulsion Law, designed to target the Palestinian Arab community from within.” MK Basel Ghattas penned an article in Arabic rejecting the claims and confirming his belief that Israel wants to destroy the party. The Israeli police is accused (in Arabic) of setting up special units to specifically target Balad members

I spoke to Abdel Fattah’s wife, Fathiyya Hussein, who confirmed to me that the family has faced intimidation by the Israeli authorities for some time. She herself and her two sons were arrested in 2014 and detained, even though one of her sons was a minor. She was held for three days but her eldest son Muhannad was held and beaten resulting in broken ribs before being released to house detention for eight months. He received a suspended sentence and a fine. Muhannad was accused of an illegal protest against the Prower plan. She also confirmed that the intimidation has touched other members of the party including its three MKs. When I asked why her husband was particularly targeted she said “because of his position as chairman and chief signatory on any transactions.”

It is rare to hear of such intimidation of other political parties in Israel and certainly none of either established or newly formed mainly Jewish Israeli parties. The exceptional attack on Balad sends an unambiguous signal to Israel’s Palestinian citizens. While they are allowed to enjoy some aspects of the norms of a democratic process, they must remember, like their occupied Palestinian counterparts on the other side of the Green Line, it is Israeli Jews that enjoy a five star democracy wherever they reside between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean.

While Netanyahu lectures, Abbas pleads – but who is listening?

First published by the Middle East Eye on 26/9/2016

The 2016 annual pilgrimage of world leaders to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York was dominated by the Syria crisis.

While many speakers ramble on to a half empty hall, others try to get important messages across to the assembly of world nations.

Those speaking on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have tended to attract particular attention as the world holds its breath to see if there is any chink of hope that this decades-old conflict could soon be resolved.

US President Barack Obama, making his final address, kicked matters off, telling Palestinians to “reject incitement and recognise the legitimacy of Israel”. He also told Israelis that peace won’t come until “Israel recognises it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land”.

However, the irony of one of his other statements was lost even on him when he said, with reference to Donald Trump, “A nation ringed by walls would only imprison itself,” referring to Trump’s plan to build a wall on the border with Mexico. Israel, of course, is doing just that.

One state?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech was more a plea to the world community that Palestinians had gone more than the extra mile for peace. “As you all are aware, we have accepted the primacy and judgment of international law and resolutions of international legitimacy, and made a historic and immense sacrifice, when the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, accepted to establish the State of Palestine on the 4 June 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. What more can be asked of us?”

Abbas described Israeli violations that are indicative of its real intentions not to reach a just peace with the Palestinians. He said that Israel “must cease all of its settlement colonisation activities and aggressions against our cities, villages and refugee camps. It must cease its policies of collective punishment and its demolition of Palestinian homes. It must cease its extrajudicial executions and cease the arrest of our people, and must release the thousands of our prisoners and detainees. It must cease its aggression and provocations against the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque. For all of these policies and practices prevent an environment in which peace can be realised in our region.” 

He asked how can anyone seeking peace perpetrate such actions. Its actions he claimed undermine realization of the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders. He then asked “Does Israel want one state”? That question was probably the most telling in his speech as the PA has not been known to even contemplate a one-state solution. Is Abbas therefore preparing the ground for a shift in policy as he sees the two-state solution disappearing before his eyes?

Plea to Britain

The other headline-making statement of his speech was the request that as we approach the 100th anniversary of the “notorious” Balfour Declaration, Britain should “draw the necessary lessons and to bear its historic, legal, political, material and moral responsibilities for the consequences of this declaration, including an apology to the Palestinian people for the catastrophes, miseries and injustices that it created, and to act to rectify this historic catastrophe and remedy its consequences, including by recognition of the State of Palestine.”

While Palestinians would welcome such an apology, they would place a strategy for realising their rights above this. The speech lacked an articulation of the strategy the PA has for achieving this and left Palestinians disappointed and frustrated. The reaction to his speech was flat in comparison to the almost euphoric reception to his speech in 2012 when he asked the Assembly to endorse the PLO’s request for Palestine to be recognised as a non-member observer state, which was subsequently accepted with an overwhelming majority.

Netanyahu’s speech

The Israeli Prime Minister as usual treated the United Nations with complete disdain. The organisation which Israel claims gave it its legitimacy is seen by Netanyahu as an anti-Israel organisation. He stated that “the UN, begun as a moral force, has become a moral farce”. He slammed the UN Human Rights Council as a “joke” claiming that “each year it condemns Israel more than all the countries of the world combined”. He even described UNESCO as “part of the circus”. In April, UNESCO passed a resolution on Jerusalem which infuriated Israel by describing “so-called” Jewish sites and putting the “Western Wall Plaza” in quotation marks.

Netanyahu likened this to “denying the connection between the Great Wall of China and China”. However, his message was that Israel is far from isolated, enjoying relations with 160 countries and most importantly, he claimed that “for the first time in my lifetime, many other states in the region recognise that Israel is not their enemy. They recognise that Israel is their ally. Our common enemies are Iran and ISIS. Our common goals are security, prosperity and peace. I believe that in the years ahead we will work together to achieve these goals, work together openly.”

He did admit however, albeit indirectly, that it is the US that has his and Israel’s back at the UN and hardly anyone else. “The United Nations denounces Israel; the United States supports Israel.” He went on to ridicule Abbas’s speech and in particular his request for an apology from Britain for the Balfour Declaration. “He’s preparing a lawsuit against Britain for that declaration from 1917. That’s almost 100 years ago – talk about being stuck in the past.” Interesting that he should claim Palestinians are stuck in the past going back just a century when the Zionist movement’s claim to Palestine goes back thousands of years. 

Invitation to Abbas

Netanyahu did not resort to any physical prop this time unlike those he used in the past, particularly his claim Iran was close to producing a nuclear bomb. However, his virtual prop was an offer to PA President Abbas. “Wouldn’t it be better if instead of speaking past each other we were speaking to one another? President Abbas, instead of railing against Israel at the United Nations in New York, I invite you to speak to the Israeli people at the Knesset in Jerusalem. And I would gladly come to speak to the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah,” he asked.

It was left to Jordan’s King Abdullah to summarise where things stood, implicitly laying blame for the stalemate at Israel’s door: “No injustice has spread more bitter fruit than the denial of a Palestinian state. I say: Peace is a conscious decision. Israel has to embrace peace or eventually be engulfed in a sea of hatred in a region of turmoil.”

What both Netanyahu and Abbas must have realised was the clear descent of the Middle East conflict from its usual prominence as an issue to almost a side issue. That may be comforting for Israel as it seeks to deflect the world’s attention to continue its colonisation of Palestine, but it is worrying for Palestinians.

The most unfortunate message that could be sent to Palestinians is that their plight is only visible to the world when they resort to violence as their peaceful, non-violent strategy seems to have tragically failed.

Israel too should realise that despite Netanyahu’s words, Israel is isolated among ordinary people, if not among governments. Netanyahu should also reflect that he too is isolated; after all, he needs 20 security guards to accompany him to the toilet in New York.

مقابلة عن فوز جيريمي كوربين بزعامة حزب العمال البريطاني


جزء من مداخلتي على قناة الغد العربي عن فوز النائب البريطاني جيريمي كوربين بزعامة حزب العمال البريطاني وللمرة الثانية خلال عام واحد

Netanyahu turns to ‘ethnic cleansing’ and sophistry to justify Israel’s criminal acts

First published by the Middle East Monitor on 23/9/2016

Having failed to convince most of the world to accept its colonisation of Palestine, Israel has been busy redefining the long standing meaning of words and phrases in the hope that their new definition becomes the accepted norm. Words and phrases such as terror, anti-Semitism, security, existential threat and, most recently, ethnic cleansing have been through the Israeli mill and there seems to be no end in sight of this desecration of the English language. Thankfully, the Israeli tactic is transparent and reasonable people can see through it clearly.


As far as the term “terror” is concerned, it is reported that the Oxford Dictionary first defined it as “government by intimidation”. Established definitions of this include, “extreme fear”, “the use of extreme fear to intimidate people” and “a person or thing that causes extreme fear”. A more explicit definition related to the reporting of violent incidents in recent years is “the unofficial or unauthorised use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.”

Israel regularly uses this to define attacks by Palestinians not only on Israeli civilians but on Israeli soldiers or security personnel in the occupied territories. However, security personnel are armed instruments of the Israeli state, operating on the land of another people, be it in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza or the Golan Heights. They are enforcing an illegal occupation and, in the process, are oppressing, abducting and killing both adults and children. As such, Israel has been redefining the term “terror” to incite world opinion against Palestinians and to justify its harsh treatment of them, including extrajudicial killing. It uses “terror” conveniently to justify its illegal acts, as a part of the so-called “global war on terror”.

Israel has also been stretching the meaning of the term. Current Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman labelled attempts by the Palestinian leadership to get upgraded membership of the United Nations as “political terror”. Then Deputy Foreign Minister Dani Danon dubbed the same peaceful moves as “diplomatic terror”. In both cases they equated entirely peaceful and legitimate political steps with physical harm to individuals through violence.

More recently, Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked labelled another peaceful initiative, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as “the new face of terrorism” at a Jewish National Fund (JNF) conference in New York. This is both outrageous and bizarre when you consider that BDS does not call for any violent act to be carried out against anyone. Shaked’s colleague, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, called moves by the EU to boycott organisations and companies located in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories as “economic terror”. Again, it was an attempt to equate non-violent political activism with violence.


Israel regularly stretches the meaning of the word democracy by claiming that it is the only democratic state in the Middle East, when its Jewish citizens enjoy a five-star democracy — even when residing in illegal settlements — while its Palestinian citizens enjoy perhaps a two-star version. Some five million Palestinians in the occupied territories enjoy no democracy at all, as “democratic” Israel controls every aspect of their lives with its military occupation.


This is one of the terms that Israel stretches to mean anything it likes in order to justify its actions designed to entrench the occupation. It has convinced its main backers that far from rights driving a resolution to the conflict with the Palestinians, it is Israel’s security that trumps Palestinian rights, including human rights. It claims that the Apartheid Wall it has been building is a security measure when in fact it is used both to protect illegal settlements and as a land grab mechanism. It confiscates Palestinian land regularly and turns it into “military zones” in the name of security, often only to turn it over to settlers to build more illegal colony-settlements. Israel cuts down olive trees in the West Bank and clears farmland in Gaza in the name of security, destroying the livelihoods of thousands of Palestinians. It also couples the use of “security” with “self-defence” to justify its regular wars on Gaza, when the evidence shows that this results in what has been called a disproportionate number of Palestinian to Israeli casualties.


The well-known pro-Israel group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) defines anti-Semitism as beliefs or behaviour hostile toward Jews just because they are Jewish. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum says that it means “prejudice against or hatred of Jews”. However, the government of Israel and its supporters have been attempting to redefine the term to include reference to the state. Many refer to the “EUMC working definition of antisemitism”. This defunct and discredited definition, which was never adopted by the EU, states that, “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” It goes on to say that “in addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.”

This takes what was a clear and accepted definition in a new direction for political reasons, to shield Israel from being held accountable for its illegal practices and crimes. Criticising Israel, according to such a definition, immediately brings charges of anti-Semitism rather than requiring it to adhere to accepted norms and international law.

Two-state solution

Israel and indeed its supporters claim that they want a two-state solution to the conflict when, in fact, it is a euphemism for a continuation of the occupation and a rejection of equal rights for Jews and non-Jews residing in historic Palestine. Settlements have made a two-state solution impossible to achieve and most prominent Israeli politicians reject it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has uttered the words, suggesting that he approved, but then insisted during the 2015 election campaign that there would not be a Palestinian state on his watch. What a two-state solution really means needs to be demystified.

Ethnic cleansing

The Oxford Dictionary defines ethnic cleansing as “the mass expulsion or killing of members of one ethnic or religious group in an area by those of another”. Palestinians understand this term completely. The creation of Israel in 1948 led to the mass expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians from their historic homeland, and no other ethnic group. Netanyahu recently claimed that removing Jewish settlers from illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as part of an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine amounts to “ethnic cleansing”. UN General SecretaryBan Ki-moon called his remarks “outrageous” and even the head of the ADL, Jonathan Greenblatt, thought that this was crass. “Sorry Bibi,” he told Netanyahu, “the Palestinians are not ‘ethnic cleansing’ Jewish settlers”.


Finally, the word “truth”. When the prime minister of Israel tells you that he is telling you the truth, be very cautious. Not only have Israeli politicians questioned his honesty — as Tzipi Livni did when she asked him, “When was the last time you told the truth to yourself, your ministers, the voting public?” — but even a staunch supporter of Israel and former President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, told President Barack Obama that Netanyahu is a liar.

As he embarked on a trip to address the UN General Assembly in New York this week, the Israeli leader said, “I will then address the United Nations General Assembly. I will present Israel’s case, Israel’s truth, Israel’s justice and also Israel’s heroism – the heroism of our soldiers, our police officers and our citizens, who are waging an uncompromising struggle against brutal terrorism.” With his track record, particularly exaggerating, if not actually lying, about Iran’s readiness to produce a nuclear bomb, everyone should be careful about believing anything that Netanyahu says.

Whether it is terrorism, ethnic cleansing or truth, Israel has been trying to redefine terms that have stood the test of time in order to engage in malicious sophistry. We should always be very wary when Israel claims that a term means something that it has not done in the past. It could just be using it to justify its criminal acts.

Israel’s ‘apartheid wall’ inspires more violence than it deters

This first appeared on the Middle East Eye on 12/9/2016

For more than a decade, Israel has been building a wall which it claims provides security for its citizens.

The wall, which the Israeli cabinet decided to build in 2002 with the declared objective of “regulating the entry of Palestinians from the West Bank into Israel”, has been called many names, depending on which side of the wall you sit: “security barrier”, “West Bank Barrier”, “separation barrier”, “Apartheid wall”, and “racial segregation barrier”.

Only some 15 percent of the wall sits on the Green Line, the internationally recognised border between Palestine and Israel. Palestinians claim that Israel uses the path of the wall to claim more of their land and even to access strategic water aquifers.

When completed, the wall will be some 709 km long (twice as long as the Green Line) and, at its highest, it will reach six to eight metres compared with the Berlin Wall’s 3.6 metres.

On average, the width of the area it confiscates along its path is 60 metres. Since 85 percent of its path is in the West Bank, it has had a severe impact on surrounding Palestinian land and the movement of Palestinians.

Construction on the wall began during the Second Intifada. Israel argues that its construction dramatically reduced the number of suicide bombings, which had become a regular occurrence, from 73 from 2000 to 2003 to 12 from the end of 2003 to 2006.

Holes in the wall

However, since the wall has not been fully constructed, gaps remain, which Palestinians can use to enter Israel, without permit, if they choose to take that risk.

Clearly many do as the Israeli chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot recently claimed. He estimated that “some portions of the security barrier that are fenced, rather than walled, contribute to the illegal entry of an estimated 50,000-60,000 Palestinians into Israel each day”.

Eisenkot reported that the security forces only manage to arrest approximately 4,300 Palestinians without permits annually, and that 44 percent of the “terror” attacks carried out in the recent upsurge in violence were in some way connected to Palestinians who were in Israel illegally. This is in contrast to the estimated 100,000 Palestinians that enter Israel with permits on a daily basis, none of whom were associated with attacks.  

This led Eisenkot to tell the Knesset State Control Committee, “We are making efforts to close the open border areas. There are still 100 kilometres of border without a security wall.” 

If Eisenkot’s estimate of illegal entries by Palestinians is correct, then that would amount to some 18 million illegal entries per year. However, consider that according to the Israeli foreign ministry’s website there have been 157 stabbing attacks (including 76 attempted attacks), 101 shootings, 46 vehicular (ramming) attacks and one vehicle (bus) bombing since September 2015. This amounts to a maximum of 304 attacks at the time of writing.

Cause and effect

While I am saddened by any attack either by a Palestinian or Israeli against civilians, if you factor Eisenkot’s 18 million illegal with the number of recent attacks, the percentage of attacks linked to illegal entrants is nearly zero. This is even fewer if you discount those attacks carried out by Palestinians from Jerusalem who do not need to cross illegally.

Therefore it must be asked: is it the wall that deters violent attacks by Palestinians or is it Israeli actions that incite Palestinians to violence, inspiring them to cross the wall and carry out attacks against Israelis?

This is anecdotally confirmed by testimonies from some Palestinians who posted on social media the reasons why they had gone on to attack Israelis citing the general climate of humiliation and repeated attacks on Al-Aqsa mosque.

The question of whether the wall is providing Israel with the security that officials claim is important because if it is not, then there is less justification for it, particularly considering the impact it has on Palestinian lives.

Palestinians claim Israel uses the routes of the wall to keep control of water resources thus depriving Palestinians of their own water supply, diverting it to illegal settlements. Its negative impact on the environment has also been assessed by Palestinians.

But even beyond this, it is the wall’s impact on the very fabric of Palestinian society that hits you when you visit Palestine and speak to the locals.

Everyday restrictions 

Before its construction, Palestinians moved relatively freely between the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israeli areas inside the Green Line. However, that freedom has now completely disappeared, giving way to a system of checkpoints and permits that has deprived many young Palestinians from even visiting Jerusalem.

On a recent visit to the West Bank, a Palestinian doctor from Ramallah – only 15km from Jerusalem – told me that her son was now 11 years old but had never been to the city.

Even when Israel issues permits to Palestinians, for example to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, it tends to deny permits to young Palestinians and sometimes even to middle-aged Palestinians.

Permits to visit families beyond the wall are even more difficult. This limits the social interactions that you would expect any free people to have. In particular, the opportunities for young people to meet, date and marry if they reside in different areas reduces markedly. And on the occasion when this happens, the question of where they will hold their wedding becomes a logistical nightmare.

If a couple from East Jerusalem wishes to invite their extended family from the West Bank to their wedding, they cannot hold it in East Jerusalem. Instead, they will need to hold it in the West Bank, typically Bethlehem or Ramallah or in areas adjoining the wall, but just inside the West Bank, such as Ezariyya or Abu Dis.

Recently, Israel barred Qassam Barghouti, the son of the well-known and imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, from attending his own wedding in Attira where his now wife lives. He had to hold his wedding in Kubar in the West Bank a few days later.

Once married, the question then of where Palestinians with different types of identity cards can live needs more space than the word limits on this column will allow.

Some readers will remember a famous image of Pope Francis making an impromptu prayer at the wall near Bethlehem during his 2014 visit to occupied Palestine. However, the reality is that the wall, as it exists, is illegal according to the now 12-year-old judgement by the International Court of Justice, which has been ignored by Israel and not pursued with sufficient vigour by the Palestinian leadership.

Israel seems to be surrounding itself by walls, as it embarks on the construction of a wall on the border with the besieged Gaza Strip and another on its southern border with Egypt to stop illegal entry from the Egyptian side. It should stop to think that walls do not bring acceptance or security, only division and resentment.