‘We’re heading for Qaffin,’ said Aisha as she watched the countryside go by. ‘It’s on the way to Tulkaram.’
I remembered the names from news broadcasts. Daoud had told me the farm was in the country between two of the biggest flashpoint areas in the whole territories. I wondered why it had never occurred to me to pinpoint where the farm actually was, how close it was to these places. He also told me the Dajani’s land had been cut by the Israeli security wall, although the whole farm was actually on the Arab side of the 1949 and 1967 lines. The wall did that – it snaked around the old delineations of territory to seize little bits of farmland, grab at water or snatch at green areas.
Olives, page 165
There are places where the ‘security wall’ slashes 10km into the West Bank, redefining the 1967 border to, literally, cut off water-rich and cultivable land. It’s the most breathtaking land-grab in modern history, yet has gone largely unremarked in Western media, a stretch of wall and (mostly) fencing over four hundred miles long. Some ten per cent of the West Bank, as defined by the widely accepted 1967 border, has been sequestered by the barrier.
The construction of the wall itself, with its wide ‘no go’ zone, uprooted tens of thousands of olive trees, many of which were hundreds of years old. And frequently it snakes between villages and the farmland that sustains them, forcing the farmers to queue at gates for access to their own land. It never misses the chance to grab at a well or spring in the water-hungry land.
There’s no more anxious time than the harvest, when the olives are ripe. This is when access to their trees matters more than usual. It’s supposed to be a time of celebration, but for many each year the harvest is a time of bitter humiliation and disappointment, of grasping at whatever opportunity presents itself to access their land and snatch their crops back to the other side of the wall.
British graffiti artist Banksy tells a remarkable story about the barrier. He visited the West Bank to paint a number of pictures on the wall, typically humorous and ironic images. He tells the story of an old man (and I recount it from memory, BTW) who approached him while he was working (risking an unpleasant sojourn in an Israeli jail) and said, ‘You’re making the wall beautiful.’
‘Thank you,’ said Banksy.
‘No,’ said the old man, ‘We hate this wall. We don’t want it beautiful. Go home.’