"I've got 4,000 innocent people here living in what amounts to an open air prison - with no one allowed to enter or leave. Now they are being told that their houses are going to be demolished. They come to me, asking for help. But what can I possibly do?" asks Ghasan Nayif Kaba'a, shaking his head in frustration.
Kaba'a is the head of the village council of Barta'a ash Sharqiya, a medium-sized village in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The village is situated near Jenin. It is also, unfortunately, situated near the "Green Line" - the border separating Israel from the West Bank.
Being so close to the Green Line has not always been a drawback. Barta'a ash Sharqiya's proximity to Israel, which allows for frequent visits to local businesses by Palestinian Israeli customers and easy transportation of goods into Israel, has caused a boom for the village in recent times - particularly after the repeated Israeli army invasions and destruction in larger neighbouring towns like Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarem and Qalqilya.
"When the current intifada began in September 2000, many transferred their businesses to Barta'a because of it's proximity to the Green Line. Our village quickly grew and became a vibrant center for economic activity," says Kaba'a, proudly.
Kaba'a's pride quickly turned to dismay, however, as the village became aware of Israel's plans to build a new "Apartheid" wall - an eight-meter-high concrete wall surrounded by trenches and electrified fencing -- to physically separate Israel from its Palestinian neighbours.and that it would be only three km away from Barta'a.
To their increasing horror, the villagers soon realized that they were actually going to find themselves situated on the "wrong" side of the wall.
"Our village is now completely surrounded, with the only entrance blocked by an Israeli tank," says Kaba'a.
How did this happen? How did 4,000 Palestinians - all with West Bank identity cards -- find themselves isolated within Israel, completely separated from friends and relatives in neighbouring villages, unable to enter Israel or enter the West Bank - stuck in a virtual no-man's land?
Well, the fact is, Israel's Apartheid wall doesn't simply follow the Green Line. It actually swerves well within Palestinian land - West Bank territory - gobbling up some of its most fertile lands and destroying vital agriculture and personal property.
In the first phase, at least 15 villages, like Barta'a, will be trapped between the wall and the Green Line. Another minimum of 15 villages will have most of their lands confiscated, with villagers finding their homes on the east side of the wall while their farm land is on the west side - completely inaccessible to them.
To date, over 100,000 dunums have been confiscated for the entire wall. If the Apartheid wall is completed - and all indications are that it will be - it will cover at least 350 km and roughly encircle the West Bank. Israel will have confiscated close to 10% of the West Bank.
But that's not all. In addition to the confiscation of land, anything deemed to be an "obstacle" to the construction of the wall - including homes, shops, and businesses - will be demolished by the Israelis - with no compensation offered.
Back in Barta'a, many residents are expecting, with increasing anxiety, the demolition of their property. Israeli authorities have ordered the demolition of eight houses, three factories and 128 businesses. According to Barta'a's local council, hundreds will find themselves unemployed when Israel carries out these demolitions.
The reason given by Israel for the demolition orders is "lack of building permission". But Kaba'a and his community are left in no doubt as to the real motivation.
"The Israelis are trying to destroy Barta'a's economy because it became a success," said Kaba'a, bitterly. "They don't want to see any economic renewal in this area - not if it benefits Palestinians."
In nearby Nazlat `Isa, a village with a population of 2,500 that also finds itself situated close to the Green Line, demolition orders have been given for six houses and 150 businesses. Israeli says the houses were, again, "built without permission". Palestinians say that they received permission from the local council -- a claim confirmed by the council itself. Coincidentally, although the village is near Tulkarem, it is also slated for annexation on the wrong side of the wall.
Nazlat `Isa's residents have been given one week before the demolition is to begin. Appeals have been lodged at the high court, and residents are awaiting the result -- with little hope.
According to Ziad Salem, head of the Nazlat Isa's local council, "Israel
wants to destroy our economy and this area because we have managed to be
successful in spite of their brutal occupation. But this, this demolition
it will be like a massacre of our homes and our economy."
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