Trying to Hide the Dark Backyard

As sophisticated as the fence might be and as high as it might go, it will not manage to hide anything. Beyond it, the occupation will continue in all its fury, and Israel's chance of becoming a just society will recede ever further and further away.

How many Israelis have actually seen the separation fence? How many have given any thought to its significance? Every foreign visitor interested in what is happening in the region makes visiting the fence a priority and world media constantly point their cameras at it - half a dozen foreign documentaries have already been shot along it. But most Israelis have never seen it.

This ambitious strategic project that is going to make fundamental changes to the land, the landscape and relations between the peoples, is passing through us with an amazing combination of utter indifference and astonishing ignorance. Since the start of the settlement enterprise, which also took place with eyes deliberately closed in national blindness, there has not been a venture that with such speed created a new reality without any real discussion of its significance. Even environmental activists haven't piped up about how it is ripping up the landscape.

Just like the settlements, the project was started by the Labor Party while the Likud gave it the proper momentum, and just like the settlements, it will be a tragedy to be suffered for generations to come. Another year or in five, and the truth about the damage it caused will become evident, and then, just as with the settlements, it will be too late. After the settlements fulfilled their destructive purposes and capabilities, the separation fence is the next fateful obstacle Israel is putting up on the path to reconciliation with the Palestinians.

When its construction is completed, the two-state solution will be even further removed and practically impossible. The settlements and the fence are complementary and supplementary, together they form a victorious proposition - that with them in place it will never be possible to reach an equitable peace.

There's no doubt the people want a fence. The polls show that most Israelis are convinced that separation from the Palestinian people is a magic formula for eliminating terror and that the fence is the guarantee of it. Together with other mendacious myths, Ehud Barak is also largely responsible for that, by turning the separation concept into a vision. But Barak's mantra of "us here and them there" quickly turned into "them there and us here and also over there."

Palestinians are corralled into ghettos beyond the fence and Israelis remain on both sides. The result being carved into the hills and dales of the land separate not only Israelis and Palestinians, but also Palestinians from Palestinians. The vision of separation espoused by Barak, Haim Ramon and Benjamin Ben-Eliezer has turned into a vision of apartheid.

The first outrageous aspect of this is the harm down to the tens of thousands of Palestinian families after they went through all the tribulations of the occupation - closures, land grabs, house demolitions, humiliations, checkpoints and the settlers in their midst. Now they are being torn form their fields, work places and schools, from their families and the centers of their life, living behind a fence.

"Good fences make good neighbors?" No they don't, not when the fence goes through the neighbor's backyard, over his land, and displaces the neighbors from their own land. That makes for bad neighbors. Some 75,000 Palestinians who find themselves in fenced-in enclaves, some 100,000 residents of the northern Jerusalem neighborhoods cut off from the city and the thousands of farmers already displaced from their land, are the next reservoir of hatred and despair and the new infrastructure of terror.

Israel wanted a security fence as a response to terror? It could have been so simple. It should have put it up on the Green Line, without any deviations. Israel wants separation from the Palestinians? It's so simple - it should evacuate the settlements.

Indeed, the fence does not signal good tidings for the future of relations between the nations. Instead of seeking to establish two open civil societies, living side by side in cooperation, as is desirable and possible, a wall is going up. However, even if it is sad to think that Israel converted its expressed desire for peace and conciliation into separation, if the fence had gone up on the Green Line it would have been impossible to complain about a nation trying to defend itself, and despite the serious problems that fence would have created, it would have been possible to live with it. But the fence is being built in a large part of Palestinian territory. On that route, nobody can accept the argument that the fence is apolitical. Like other occupation measures - especially the settlements and checkpoints - the fence is being justified by security rationales that only provide cover for their real purpose. That is, smashing the last chance for an agreed upon arrangement between the sides.

The fence therefore means the precise opposite of its declared purpose. It is a fence for the perpetuation of conflict. It won't separate the peoples, but perpetuate the pathological connection between the two peoples, the connection between the occupier and the occupied, blocking any chance for the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.

The fence's construction is heading into its last stretch, from the "Jerusalem envelope" to the "Hebron envelope" and the route in the north, and horrifyingly, "the eastern fence." Soon Israel will find itself behind walls, trying to hide from the horrific reality of its own dark backyard, where it conducts a brutal, ruthless regime of occupation.

As sophisticated as the fence might be and as high as it might go, it will not manage to hide anything. Beyond it, the occupation will continue in all its fury, and Israel's chance of becoming a just society will recede ever further and further away - until it disappears.