During my two-month stay in Bethlehem (in a program called Palestine Summer Encounter, put on by Middleeastfellowship.org and Holylandtrust.org) one of our evening lectures was by the editor and radio anchor of the English version of Palestine News Network, Kristen Ess. She was an impressive, low-keyed speaker, concerned both for the truth and with exploiting the effects of words on consciousness. She emphasized the need of being sure of one’s facts, faithful to the meanings of words, well-acquainted with one’s subject and properly humble. She even spoke of an embarrassment she once felt for not knowing something she should have.
She was speaking abstractly about predictable reactions to words and phrases like ‘terrorism,’ ‘defense,’ ‘gunmen vs. soldiers,’ ‘in retaliation,’ and so on. It was clear that she too had an agenda, to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, and that she meant to use this side of journalism to achieve it. But she wanted the emotional effects supported by solid work.
After a few minutes of general discussion along these lines she set us the task of saying what we, if we were journalists, would call that physical barrier Israel has set up, mostly on Palestinian land. She asked us to remember that we would use the term over and over in writing about the subject from day to day. I suggested ‘The Apartheid Wall;’ other people had other suggestions. Her choice was simply, ‘The Wall.’
As soon as she said it I could see she was right. There is probably only room for one ugly wall in world consciousness at a time, and The Berlin Wall is down. To call this one, ‘The Wall,’ will promote its infamy more effectively than any string of pejorative adjectives ever could.
It will not be long before everyone knows that ‘The Wall’ means that wall the International Court of Justice has deemed illegal because it separates Palestinians from their land, divides their towns, disrupts their health care, transportation and agriculture, and constitutes one of the greatest affronts to human rights and common sense in recent memory.
Some weeks after that lecture we had a tour of East Jerusalem with another full time opponent of The Occupation, Angela Godfrey Goldstein. She is a member of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, and about twice as old as the journalist mentioned above. To hear her talk, you’d say she was also about twice as steamed. She has a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of local geography and events, and her energy and speaking ability are equally formidable.
As we drove around she made clear that construction was as much an instrument of conquest as destruction. The illegal settlements, she said, were planned by military people and positioned strategically to disrupt Palestinian territory, not to mention making life almost unbearable in certain places.
Around noon we ended up on the ‘Israeli’ side of The Wall as it courses through the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis. (Properly speaking, there is no Israeli side to The Wall here: both sides of it are Palestinian territory, but we were on the Jerusalem side.) Abu Dis is a Palestinian community, and of course there are Palestinians living on both sides of The Wall, a fact that gives the lie to any claim for its being a security measure.
On this side of The Wall, at this time, a number of Palestinian men were being detained. Angela said if we waited and watched for a while the Israelis might let them go: they didn’t like internationals looking at such scenes. We stood around and talked to the soldiers and passers-by, and learned that the men had been there since about 5 AM. Some of our group bought bottles of water and sneaked them to the detainees. Sure enough, they were all released within about twenty minutes.
I had seen this part of The Wall a few times from the other side and knew we were close to a famous hole in it. The hole has been allowed by the Israelis because even they can see, in some measure, the impossibility of what they are doing.
In the spirit of being faithful to the meanings of words, one might ask whether ‘impossibility’ is too strong a word to have used here. The Israelis have certainly built a lot of Wall and are continuing to build more. But imagine a wall in the middle of your own town. Your brother or school or barber shop might be on the other side from you, even your hospital. Perhaps your work would be on the other side. There are almost too many reasons to list for The Wall not to be there, reasons the International Court of Justice probably considered in declaring it illegal.
Now, suppose you were the maker of the wall. Even you might see that you had created more problems on ‘your side’ than you could bear to look at or live with. What would you do? why, leave a hole in it! By and by, you might begin to wonder about the wisdom of having a wall in the first place.
The Wall can and must be made a symbol of The Occupation. As such, it should be attacked from both sides and pulled down. And every event should be a media event.
Last night on BBC news they showed another hole in The Wall, this one in Gaza. People were climbing through. There are already many Israelis and Internationals who see the truth and impossibilities in this matter quite clearly. Let us hope the impetus for justice swells to a tide that no wall can resist, least of all, one with a holes in it.
Peter R. Harley lives in Newfoundland. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH
We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).
Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.
As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.
We are pleased to clarify the position.
August 17, 2005