Work on Israel’s controversial separation wall is back underway in Beit Jala, a Palestinian village south of Jerusalem. But it’s not only the region’s Palestinians rising up against the wall. In a surprising twist, Israeli settlers are relying on ecological arguments to oppose the ongoing construction work. But according to our Observer, their chief motivation is to strengthen their presence in the West Bank.
Their opposition to the wall’s construction isn’t anything new. Most settlers oppose it because it marks a clear boundary on territory that they want to see as part of the Israeli state. They’re offering new reasons to explain their opposition to the wall, but their approach on the whole isn’t any different from that of other Israeli settlers. They all participate in the same system of occupation.
I’ve been following this issue closely. In doing so, I noticed that they put forward these environmental arguments to protect certain areas, but also to justify land-grabbing. Like the Palestinians, Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority – despite being led by settlers – was opposed to the construction of the wall in Batir on the grounds of protecting the environment and the site [Editor’s note: Batir and Beit Jala have similar landscapes]. Afterwards, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site.But this very same authority – which Yaron and Benjamin are very close to, given the nature of their professional work – backed the wall’s construction near the village of Walaja, located right next to both Batir and Beit Jala. They decided to create a national park on confiscated Palestinian territory. Then, they built a big road that cuts right through the national park! If they really cared about the environment, they’d let the farmers cultivate their lands.
The Israeli government sees the wall as a way of controlling the Occupied Territories. Some settlers would like to control these territories without a wall. Different strategies, but same goal.