Which reality is real?

Posted on 16 August 2010

According to Ha’aretz, the walls around Gilo are falling. It reports the walls went up in 2002, but in fact it was before that. British photographer JD Perkins ran a story on the painted walls in 2001. The murals on these massive concrete blocks obliterate any Palestinian presence from view and shows a pretty, Arab-free landscape.

Jerusalem municipality requested that the walls be demolished. The fall of these walls is because, if you believe the army, there is no longer sniper fire from Beit Jala. There hasn’t been sniper fire from Beit Jala since 2003.

It’s important to understand a little of the local geography. Gilo is not in Jerusalem, despite what Jerusalem municipality claims. It is on the Palestinian side of the 1947 armistice line, commonly known as the Green Line. Gilo is built on land that was originally owned by various families from Beit Jala, before it was expropriated by Israel.

Much closer to Beit Jala, and Bethlehem, the latest of Israel’s walls snakes its way through Palestinian territory, separating Palestinians from their land and each other. And it seems very likely that in bringing down the walls of Gilo, Jerusalem’s municipal boundary will continue to expand, as will the settlement of Gilo.

Ehud Barak lauded the “settlement freeze” as an unprecedented move towards peace. Abbas this week has said that unless the settlement freeze is extended, there will be no direct talks.

I don’t know what reality either Barak or Abbas are living in but there has been no settlement freeze. I visited Wadi Fukin and watched the bulldozers tearing the earth behind the village’s school buildings. The trucks trundled all day long, moving the earth away and bringing in the cement, increasing Beitar Illit and taking over the valley.

I drove from Bethlehem to Hebron and back again. And wherever there was a settlement, there also seemed to be the tell-tale prefabs and caravans of the arrogant settlers located nearby. They create the outposts that turn into settlements.

The pattern of expansion, far from being frozen has gathered pace. Israel is very skilled at creating facts on the ground which, when the time comes, are impossible to deny or remove. So, the longer the politicians wrangle, the more of Palestine disappears, most likely for good.

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