As part of my ongoing project looking at how separation walls in intractable conflicts such as Northern Ireland, Cyprus and Israel/Palestine, contribute to being both physical and psychological barriers to a positive peace, I’m very happy that the section on the Israel-Palestine Separation Barrier is being exhibited at the Australia National University in Canberra as part of the Human Rights in Palestine Conference 2013. There are some excellent speakers lined up and I’m sure it will create some intense discussions.
If you’d like to see the exhibition it’s running from September 11-12th at the ANU Commons centre and is open to the public.
Physically separating conflicted communities continues to be a policy decision by many governments around the world in an attempt to curb violence. These separation walls become highly politicised and are a physical manifestation of failed policies to overcome the root causes of each of these conflicts.
One of the most controversial of these recent structures is the Separation Barrier between Israel and Palestine. Over ten years of construction, it has created ‘facts on the ground’ that have dramatically impacted Palestinian society and its economy. Israel states the barrier is there for security reasons and was built in response to a spate of suicide bombings in Israel. The Palestinians say it’s a de facto border and land grab.
Approximately 15% of the wall will be built along the internationally recognised Green Line with the remaining 85% built inside the West Bank resulting in some of the most fertile land and water sources becoming almost inaccessible to Palestinian farmers and communities.
The wall separates Israel from Palestine but it also runs directly through many Palestinian communities, dividing families and economically severing once sustainable businesses.
It’s not only the physical wall that has become a barrier to rights of passage. A complicated and bureaucratic permit system also stops thousands of Palestinians daily movements, severely impacting access to farm land that lie on the ‘wrong’ side of the wall or to employment opportunities within Israel.
Whilst these physical barriers arguably may provide short term gains in security, they are ineffective as long term solutions to creating a sustainable positive peace. Whilst resolutions to the conflicts are sought, the most affected by these policies are the people who live in their shadow, their lives are shaped by their presence, creating both deep physical and psychological challenges for residents.
The impact of the wall on a personal level can be seen in this exhibition through personal testimony from Palestinians who suffer the daily indignity of having to pass through the overcrowded check points, lost hours of productivity waiting for gates to open, the high unemployment rates within the West Bank and the frequent demonstrations against the wall.
The exhibition forms part of an ongoing project looking at how separation walls in intractable conflicts such as Northern Ireland, Cyprus and Israel-Palestine, contribute to being both physical and psychological barriers to a positive peace.
However, for some communities these walls provide the desired protection and a reassuring knowledge that they are separated from ‘the other’, whom they have come to fear. It many cases these walls were quickly constructed during times of violence. They may end up being one of the last structures to come down to enable peace.