This Wall Must Fall

Editor's Note: Shareef Omar, a farmer and community leader, is a member of the Land Defense Committee for the region of Qalqilya. He attended the Feb. 23 hearings at the International Court of Justice in the Hague about Israel's separation barrierin the West Bank.

I'm here to tell the world what I've seen in my village of Jayyous; that the wall is not for security. It is for occupation, and for stealing land and water.

Through the wall, Israel is trying to eliminate our dream of a Palestinian state, by taking control of a large portion of West Bank land and confiscating our water resources. The wall is planned to stretch 430 miles, and will creep from 160 feet to 10 miles into the West Bank. Its construction is destroying hundreds of thousands of our sacred olive and almond trees, and is isolating tens of wells and tens of thousands of acres of land. Unemployment has reached 70 percent in communities affected by the wall. It will isolate Palestinians into ghettos under the threat of Israeli soldiers and settlers. It will cripple the Palestinian economy, leaving younger generations without income, a future or hope. Ultimately it will force many to leave.

Jayyous' farmers have organized dozens of peaceful protests against the wall, supported by international solidarity movements and Israeli peace activists. Our weapons in those activities were only slogans that condemn the occupation and the wall. All of us participated, young and old, men and women. We are determined never to surrender or forget our sacred land.

During one peaceful march to stop the bulldozers in Jayyous, I was negotiating with an Israeli captain. I asked him, "Why don't you build this wall on the 1967 borders?" He answered, "For our security, and to prevent clashes in future."

I asked about its location, 30 meters from Jayyous' homes and nearly four miles from the 1967 border with Israel: "If you build it on the 1967 borders, then it is your choice, and we will share the cost fifty-fifty." He responded only, "Leave that to politicians."

The politicians are building this wall to create an Israeli-imposed apartheid, to prevent Israelis and Palestinians from developing relationships based on mutual respect, and to empty the land of Palestinians by depriving us of our farms, our major source of life.

The Israeli side has tricked many people by saying that farmers will be allowed to reach their land with permits. In fact, many farmers haven't received permits, particularly those who are opposed to the wall. I am one of those denied a permit. All I can do now is to stand on the roof of my house, trying to see my land in the distance. If I try to approach the gate with other farmers, the soldiers refuse to let me pass. It is our right to freely access and work our land whenever we want, without permits.

These are exactly the reasons why this wall must fall.

The Palestinian people, like everyone, love the life that is given to us only once. We hope to know life without occupation.

A decision at the Hague that the wall is illegal won't oblige Israel to act, but it will lead to more international pressure on Israel. Only justice can build a genuine peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Last September I was working in my olive grove near the wall, when I came across uprooted olive trees coming out of the bulldozed ground. These green young branches are soft and beautiful, deeply rooted in the ground and stronger than the wall and bulldozers. These trees refuse to die or to surrender, and send a message to all farmers and people who love the land. "Do not give up, and keep struggling and one day you will touch the sun." We have been here longer than these trees, and we will stay here longer than the stones.

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