A mock wall has been set up on the Mezzanine of the Hall Building by the Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), in the hope of raising consciousness about Israel’s security barrier currently under construction.
“It’s part of a international campaign of spreading awareness about the occupation and the wall,” said Fiona Becker, SPHR executive. “The wall is not separating the West Bank from Israel, but separating settlements within the West Bank from the Palestinians.”
Israel has already begun building a barrier, which will approach 600 kilometers in length when finished. It is made up of obstacles such as electronic fence, concrete walls, and ditches. Israeli authorities say the wall is intended to protect Jewish settlements from Palestinian attacks and that it is not a political border.
According to a report by the United Nations (UN) Commission on Human Rights, the final barrier would put nearly 15 per cent of the West Bank land on the Israeli side. This land is of the most fertile in the area and it is home to over 274,000 Palestinians.
The report, which Israeli officials have found to be biased, also states that only 11 per cent of the wall is being built along the Green Line, the armistice line mapped out at the end of Israel’s 1948-49 war with its Arab neighbours. Much of the barrier loops into Palestinian land in order to protect Jewish settlements.
At Concordia, a big black mock wall separated the audience from cardboard figures of distraught Palestinians that had been victims of Israeli military attacks. A young woman dressed in army gear played the part of the Israeli soldier. SPHR was also handing out information about Palestine, showing pictures and a map of the projected wall.
“This [mock] wall is not in any way close enough to what’s really going on,” said Samer Elatrash, SPHR member. “It doesn’t show how it put entire villages at mercy of border police.”
According to the UN report, the wall would surround 12 Palestinian communities, forcing residents to travel through gates controlled by Israeli security forces. To date, tens of thousands of Palestinians have been cut off from their families, farms, schools and markets. The planned barrier is expected to disrupt the lives of roughly 675,000 Palestinians, states the report. Israeli officials questioned the accuracy of the report.
Last month, the United States vetoed a UN resolution disapproving Israel’s building of the wall, while the United Kingdom, Germany, Bulgaria and Cameroon abstained.
On Sunday, Pope John Paul II criticized the barrier, saying that the Holy Land needs bridges, not walls.
SPHR’s simulated barrier was decorated with statements ranging from “Free Palestine,” to “Israel Apartheid State,” and “Zionism=Racism.”
About a dozen students had come on the Mezzanine to express their disagreement with the staged event and had comments with equating Zionism to Racism.
“The way this exhibit is being conducted is very provocative to Jewish students and Israelis,” said Josa Alley, co-president of Hillel, who specified she was protesting as a student.
“They equated Zionism to racism, yet failed to give a definition of Zionism,” she said.
Elatrash said that political Zionism, as it is practiced by the Israeli State, is a form of Nationalism that gives land rights only to Jews. “If you don’t want to call it racism, the word has no meaning,” he said.
Alley was holding a poster with pictures of Israelis killed by suicide bombers. “The point is to remind people that the construction of the wall is a reaction to suicide bombers,” she said.
Becker believes that “caging people in is not going to end suicide bombings.” She said the withdrawal of the Israeli army and giving Palestinians human rights would end the bloodshed. “If you allow people to live, they will no longer need to fight,” said Becker.
Alley believes that SPHR’s event “develops hatred on campus and doesn’t promote peace.” Some students, including Alley, were wearing T-shirts with: “Peace on campus starts here! End the Encitement,” written across them. In response, SPHR added to the wall: “Ending the encitement starts with ending the Israeli Occupation.”
Becker said that the main goal behind the staged wall was to inform Concordia students.
Nicolas Jonard, an engineering student, said he found the event very helpful. “Everyday we hear news about Israel/Palestine, but we only know that there were so many deaths. This provides an incentive to learn more [about the matter].”