FAQ: Stop The Wall

A detailed look at the wall, why it should be stopped, and what the ISM is doing to stop it.

QUESTION: So what’s this wall then?

The Wall

The wall is a fortified barrier that cuts through the occupied territories of Palestine on the West Bank of the River Jordan. Israel has illegally occupied the West Bank since 1967, and illegally established hundreds of fortified civilian settlements on Arab land. Many settlements are in fact large towns with their own schools, housing, synagogues, farms, factories and associated infrastructure. The wall “protects” these illegal towns, which means most of it is well outside the official border of Israel, often called “the green line,” which was set up by agreement between Israel and Jordan in 1949. This border was undisputed until 1967, when Israel occupied the entire West Bank.

QUESTION: So it isn’t a border defence line?

No, the wall doesn’t run along the green line for more than a short distance. Instead it runs well inside Palestinian land.

QUESTION: What does it look like?

Razor Wire Fence

In some places, e.g. Qalqilya, it is a high wall made of reinforced concrete slabs, similar to parts of the famous Berlin Wall (1961-1990) of the Cold War. In other places it is a series of wire fences made from coils of razor wire and a 3m (9.8 ft) high main fence. In addition to the wall itself, there are gun emplacements, observation posts, sniper nests, checkpoints and other military installations built along it.

QUESTION: How long is it, and how high and wide?

Map Of The Wall

The wall is currently incomplete, but if future plans are implemented it will be about 730Km (457 miles) long. Some estimates say it will be up to 1000km (625 miles) long.

The concrete sections that are mainly in towns form a wall 8m (26 ft) high while the main wire fence used in more open country is 3m (9.8ft) high.

By comparison the Berlin Wall was a mere 155Km (96 miles) long with an average height of 3.6m (11ft 8).

The width of the wall also varies from approximately 70 to 100m (227 to 325ft).

But the true width is deceptive, since Israel has insisted on clearing vast areas of buildings, trees, shrubs, and anything else in front of the wall that might obstruct the field of fire for the guns behind it. If your home is too close to the wall, which in practice can mean even hundreds of meters away from it’s outer edge, it will be demolished and flattened. Likewise if your olive grove or plantation is too close to the wall, it will be uprooted and levelled.

The width of the wire fence part of the wall is large because it consists of at least one line of coiled razor wire, an anti-vehicle ditch, the main 3m fence with electronic sensors, and a new military road that runs just inside the main fence. In some places there is a sand trail so that anyone who approaches the wall will leave a footprints, and in other places there is an additional soft road for tanks and other tracked vehicles.

All this means its a lot wider than the word “fence” or “wall” implies.

(A more detailed map can be found here:

QUESTION: Sounds expensive, how much is all this costing?

It ain’t cheap. An initial report in the Washington Post back in 2002 said a “mere” $740,000,000. Since then the length and scale of the wall have been increased, so most estimates range from somewhere between $1,500,000,000 ($1.5 billion) to $3,400,000,000 ($3.4 billion) in constructing the wall. Palestinians whose homes and farms are demolished for the wall will not get a single dollar in compensation. The ongoing costs of manning and maintaining the wall are unknown.

QUESTION: How on earth is a small country like Israel going to afford that?

The USA will provide the cash. One third of the total US foreign aid budget, as well as numerous interest free loans, credits, and grants means American dollars pour into Israel year after year, without any conditions on how the money is spent. For example, in 2003 the USA gave Israel 2.3 billion in military and economic aid, in addition to 200 million for anti-terrorism assistance in it’s foreign aid bill. Then it added 9 million more in loan guarantees. In December 2003 Ariel Sharon asked for an additional 4 billion to defray the costs of fighting the Palestinians, and 10 billion in loan guarantees to offset economic recession, payable in late 2004.

QUESTION: So why build it?

The Israelis claim it’s a defensive measure that prevents suicide bombers and other terrorists from attacking Israel. In fact it’s just another land-grab, enclosing yet more land that belongs to the Palestinian people.

QUESTION: So what does it do?

The wall has four main consequences:

  1. The area of land available for a future Palestinian state becomes much smaller. Some estimates say a horrifying 43% smaller. The viability of any future Palestinian state is seriously compromised by the wall.
  2. Palestinian villages close to the wall are separated from their land–the wall literally cuts off farmers from their crops and greenhouses. Even worse, some villages are cut off from their main source of water. In the Eastern Mediterranean, irrigation is essential for most agriculture.
  3. Some Palestinians now find themselves on the Israeli side of the wall. They are cut off from friends, family and colleagues and makes them effectively foreigners in their own land.
  4. The wall encloses the Eastern side of Jerusalem. About 200,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem, already surrounded by a ring of illegal settlements to the East. The wall will create yet another further barrier to the East, and 15,000 Palestinians are already trapped in a thin sliver of land between the municipality of Jerusalem and the wall.

But the main consequences are just the most serious ones. Almost everyone living in the West Bank will be affected by the wall. This could range from short journeys taking hours. A lack of medical care because hospitals will be cut off from patients. The creation of thousands of more homeless people. More damage to the Palestinian economy, which is currently struggling to provide more than a subsistence lifestyle to most people. The list goes on.

QUESTION: But isn’t the wall just a temporary measure?

The Israelis say its temporary. But the wall’s elaborate design and construction from durable materials suggest it is permanent. Remember that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank back in 1967 was supposed to be temporary too.

QUESTION: Why do protestors often call it an “Apartheid Wall”?

Apartheid is the name given to a system of institutionalised racial segregation and discrimination in which one racial group dominates another by systematically oppressing them. Apartheid is recognised by international treaties as a crime against humanity. Several acts used for purposes of control and oppression are identified in the 1973 International Convention on Apartheid including the creation of ghettos, land confiscation, denial of freedom of movement, and any means preventing the development of the oppressed group. The wall scores highly on all counts.

QUESTION: But what about the gates?

Gates have been built in the wall, but already agreements to open these gates at regular intervals have been broken or simply ignored. Even when the gates are opened, the guards often insist on checking everyone one at a time, which means delays that can take hours. Its clear that Israeli policy is to obstruct movement through the wall as much as possible.

QUESTION: What do you mean by “ghettos”?

We mean ghettos! For example the Palestinian town of Qalqilya has a population of 42,000. It is now completely surrounded by nearly 9 miles of walls and fences. There are only three entrances in total, one for people and material, two for agriculture only. Less than 20 permits have been issued for farmers to leave the town to work on their land outside the wall. In addition 32 villages are now cut-off from Qalqilya which the villagers use for heath care and education. If Qalgilya doesn’t qualify as a ghetto, what does?

QUESTION: Even so, the wall prevents suicide bombers from entering Israel doesn’t it?

No way! It’s only 25% complete at the moment (Summer 2004).

QUESTION: But hasn’t the number of suicide attacks has gone down since Israel started building the wall?

The apparent reduction has got nothing to do with the wall. The attacks have diminished for two main reasons:

A series of unofficial agreements between the Israeli government and the Palestinian terrorist groups.

A Palestinian realization that every suicide bombing gives Israel a gift-wrapped propaganda weapon which damages the Palestinian cause and helps the Israeli one.

Instead the Palestinian people are desperately hoping for a political solution. The current one is called the “Road Map” which has the support of the International community, and (allegedly) both the United States and Israel.

QUESTION: But hasn’t the IDF also prevented some attacks?

Given the fact that the IDF is currently the fourth largest armed force in the world, with well trained and highly sophisticated intelligence, surveillance, and counter-terrorist units, it would be astonishing if they hadn’t. But military power is a double-edged sword. The building of the wall, and the daily oppression of so many Palestinians has resulted in a grim determination to endure. No barrier in history has ever proved 100% effective, and without a political settlement the Wall will be no exception. Someone, somewhere will always find a way to get through.

QUESTION: Even so, isn’t the wall worth a try?

No. Everyone except for a tiny minority of Israeli and Palestinian extremists realise that eventually there will be a political solution to Israeli Palestinian conflict. By building the wall, Israel makes a political solution harder to achieve. Palestinians become more enraged, extremist terrorists get more recruits, and a Palestinian State becomes harder to set up and run on a viable basis. So ironically by building the wall Israel will actually prolong the conflict, there will be thousands more deaths and suffering and cruelty inflicted on both sides.

Even if by some miracle the wall did succeed, does Israel have the right to sentence an entire people to life imprisonment for ever? Only a lunatic could image a lasting peace in such circumstances and accept Israel as a civilised Western democracy.

QUESTION: OK, so what is the ISM doing to prevent the wall?

Action At The Fence

Our volunteers, along with peaceful Palestinian and Israeli protest groups are attempting to prevent the construction of the wall. As always, we use non-violent methods of direct action against the wall. No human will be harmed in any way by any ISM member. Generally we try to obstruct any wall construction activities that are going on.

QUESTION: Where can I learn more?

Hopefully this FAQ is a good primer. But you can try these Internet sites that provide much more information:

QUESTION: That lot looks way too heavy for me, isn’t there something simple and easy to follow?

Then try this comic strip:

You can print it and give it to anyone you like!