What’s it like to live and work someplace, own a small family business that’s been handed down for generations, and then have someone prevent you, physically and quite literally, from getting to work in the morning?
It’s a lot like this (for English subtitles, click on the “CC” button that shows up when you hit play):
If I were Palestinian, I might object to how friendly this makes the process look, and the “pineapple” joke—“Required to obtain permit: property deed, inheritance order, birth certificate, death certificate, ID card, marriage license, parental ID, parental OK, European passport, vaccination record, lawyer’s signature, notary stamp, official seal, pineapple”—might cut a little too close to home.
And if I were a supporter of the Security Barrier, I might not like that this little clip doesn’t show “the whole story,” and argue that “at least the wall stopped the suicide bombing” (and as someone who lived through years of suicide bombing, I can certainly appreciate that last).
And yeah. There’s no jaunty video game music playing in the background of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But the simple reality depicted in this video is still the truth: People live and work someplace. They’re maintaining their family farms. A foreign power with which those people are at war comes along and puts up a fence, and then demands a dizzying array of paperwork and fancy bureaucratic footwork so that the people might (might) be able to get to their source of income. While all this is going on, enormous resources are lost. And note that when the video pulls back and shows a wide view, it’s showing another, often entirely unremarked (and in this case, unfortunately untranslated) truth: The wall is built inside the West Bank, not on the Green Line (Israel’s internationally recognized border), meaning that Israel has de facto annexed land away from the Palestinians.
When we say “at least the wall stopped suicide bombing,” we’re saying that we’re okay with this sort of thing happening to countless farmers and families and businesses and villages and towns, all along the 440-mile length of the separation barrier project (a length which, by looping in and out of the West Bank and around various settlements, manages to actually be twice the length of the Green Line itself). We’re saying that when we consider how best to protect individual Israeli lives and the entire Zionist project, it is better to do this, to wage war by construction project proxy, than to find the political will to come up with a diplomatic solution that won’t punish an entire population for the acts of a few.
Which, okay, if that’s how you feel, that’s how you feel.
But let’s at least be honest about it. As bright and breezy as the above is, it reflects a genuine, and genuinely grim, reality, one that’s having shocking, long-term effects on the lives of 2.5-3 million people every day.
Both sides share blame in this conflict, no one’s hands are clean, terrorism is never justified, and just like the Israeli leadership, the Palestinian leadership has missed some good opportunities to make peace.
But only one side has the power to do this.