A “Wall of Oppression” was put up on Dexter Lawn Wednesday by the Students for Peace and Justice in the Middle East (SPJME) to show the impact of the West Bank wall that is being put on the border of Israel and Palestine territory by the Israeli government.
“This is a replica of the wall to show the people the issues that they don’t see,” said business senior and SPJME president Stella Atiya. “We are involved (as a country) and people need to realize that. We want people to comment on it; we want people talking about it.”
The issue has a long history stemming from violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Construction began in 2002, although the idea had been around for years. As the wall continues to be built, people are still unaware of the huge impact on both countries and SPJME is expressing their side of the issue.
“A lot of people don’t know about it and we are presenting a visual so we can inform people. Our incentive is to educate,” English sophomore and SPJME member Marina Barakatt said.
The main controversy of the wall is its location. The “Green Line” is the internationally recognized border between Israel and Palestine but the wall cuts into Palestinian territory.
“It was created by the Israeli government to stop Palestinians from attacking Israelis. It is surrounding the West Bank and dividing and separating families,” Barakatt said. “Students can’t go to school; people can’t go to work. The Palestinian people are being crushed.”
The actual wall stands 25 feet tall and over 403 miles long, two times as high and four times as long as the Berlin Wall. The finished product will contain concrete walls, trenches, barbed wire, electrified fencing, sniper towers and video cameras. Periodic gates in the wall are militarily stationed and passage is based on the soldiers’ selective allowance.
“The gates are guarded and open only for a few hours a day,” said business junior and SPJME member Heba Mansour. “It’s you and your luck whether you can make it to school or work that day.”
Mansour was raised in Palestine and frequently returns to visit her family that still lives there.
“I grew up there so I understand the oppression,” she said. When visiting she must fly into Jordan and then cross the border into Palestine. The crossing is a 45-minute drive but it takes her nine hours to get through and consists of “harassing, searching and questioning,” Mansour said. “I’ve been strip searched, and spat on for being an Arab.”
Her family owns an apartment complex and two years ago the Israeli government suspected that someone in the complex was not in compliance with them. So they strapped TNT to a dog and sent it into the first story, blowing away the level and demolishing the rest of the building. They also shot and killed two men that had been in the building and forced Mansour’s uncle to drag them into the street as a reminder of the government’s power and enforcement.
“Death is very normal; it’s sick,” Mansour said. “Palestinian people are really numb to it.”
“The wall doesn’t follow the 1967 border. It digs into Palestinian villages, separating families from each other,” she said. “It makes the Palestinians feel like they’re not human beings. They are suffocated in their own land, imprisoned for that matter.”
The Israeli government says the wall is needed because the Palestinian violence toward Israelis needs to be stopped, especially with the number of suicide bombers. There were also other students on Dexter Lawn to support this side, in protest against the protest. With their right to free speech, they passed out fliers to observers to show the other side of the story.
“We just wanted to go out there and show people our point of view,” said Zachary Goldstein, a pro-Israel protester and mechanical engineering junior. The group of students passed out fliers titled “10 Points about Israel’s Security Border” while displaying two posters. One of the posters showed a picture of a bombed-out bus and a couple of body bags on the ground with text that asked, “If this was happening in your country, what would you choose?” Another poster displayed the statement: “Every child has the right to grow up without being killed by terrorists.”
While out on the lawn, university police were called to the scene because the protesters put their signs on supports which was against the law because SPJME as a group had claimed Dexter Lawn for their own demonstration.
When told that the posters must be uprooted, Goldstein responded: “I told them to call the police because I thought it was ridiculous. We picked up the posters and walked around with them because that was more legal.”
Despite the tension between the groups, both were able to disseminate their information.
Statistics placed on the makeshift wall on Dexter Lawn include the dramatic increase of the unemployment rate from 18 percent in 2000 to 78 percent in 2003. It states that 115 Palestinian towns and villages have been cut off from their land and resources because of the wall. Construction has already uprooted over 100,000 olive and citrus trees, demolished 75 acres of greenhouses and 23 miles of irrigation pipes.
“The Security Fence is a result of Israel’s basic commitment to defend its citizens from terrorism emanating from the West Bank,” read the flier passed out by the second group of protesters. “Though still incomplete, it has already improved the ability of the Israeli security forces to prevent the infiltration of terrorists and criminal elements into Israel for the purpose of carrying out terrorist attacks or the smuggling of arms and explosives.”
It also said that the wall “basically” follows the border, except for its deviations “to protect significant populations in existing Israeli communities close to the Green Line.”
Those statistics state that the fence has cut terrorism by more than 90 percent.
“The wall has protected many Israelis and it dropped terrorism pretty much completely,” Goldstein said.
SPJME says that suicide bombing still significantly continues, and innocent people killed by the Israeli government runs even higher.
The demonstration on Dexter Lawn provides a small glimpse into the everyday conflict between Palestine and Israel. Both sides provide arguments and opinions as the wall continues to be built and solutions are attempted. The U.S. as a country has leaned toward the Israeli side after being the only nation to vote against the U.N.’s resolution that said the wall was illegal and must be ceased and reversed.