Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

'The Wall' Revisited
HIRAYAMA Kentaro / Former NHK Commentator

October 17, 2003
The Israeli government has been building its so-called 'separation fence' to contain the Palestinian residential areas within the territories it occupies on the West Bank of the River Jordan. And this has caused indignation on the Palestinian side and 'concern' on the part of the U.S. government. Let me share some of the impressions I gathered upon observing the situation close at hand during my recent visit there. The pretext for building this 'defensive' fence is to prevent Palestinian terrorist elements from infiltrating into Israeli territory. But in reality the plan is designed in a way that - in addition to its rightful territory - many of the Jewish settlements that have been built deep within the West Bank are also included on the Israeli side of the wall. And for this reason it is seen as Israel's attempt to compound its plundering of future 'Palestinian territory' into a fait accompli.

To begin with, should we be calling this a 'wall' or a 'fence'? U.S. President George Bush, after meeting Palestine's then Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas on his first visit to Washington, commented during a press conference saying "The wall is a problem." But a few days later, in a press conference following his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, he softened the tone of his expression somewhat, saying only that he will continue discussions with the Israelis so that the construction of the fence would cause the least possible inconvenience to the daily lives of the Palestinians. The "wall" had changed to "fence," too. Coming after American news magazines had carried photographs of the 8-meter high concrete walls the Palestinians call "prison walls," his comments had me wondering as I visited Qalqilya, a small town on the West Bank where the controversial wall stands.

Stretching two kilometers East-West and North-South, Qalqilya has a population of 45,000, and its western border doubles as the borderline, or the so-called green line, between Israel's pre-67 war territory and the area it occupies on the West Bank. The concrete wall in question stands high on the western side of the town for a reason that is immediately apparent. Only a few meters away on the western side of the wall, Israel's national road No.6 runs North-South on a parallel course with the green line. The wall was most probably intended to prevent snipers from taking shots at cars driving down the No.6 from atop the roofs of three or four-storied buildings within Qalqilya. Located on high ground, the town used to offer glimpses of the Mediterranean Sea that lay ten kilometers or so beyond the green line, but now the wall blocks the view. "Before, we could see the world: now, all we see is the wall," complained a resident.

The western wall bends eastward from its northern and southern ends and changes into a doubled metal 'fence.' These fences continue to the eastern border of the town, which is also sealed off by a similar fence. A single road passing through the town's eastern border provides the only means of access, and any incoming or outgoing person or car undergoes strict inspections at checkpoints set up by the Israeli Army. The taxi I rode from Jerusalem was obliged to wait outside the checkpoint, which I passed on foot, and once on the other side I was a hotly contested customer for several local taxi drivers waiting there. The drivers complained that over the past few months since the 'wall' and 'fence' were completed, they have been unable to drive outside to other villages on the West Bank.

In the past, many cities in Europe, the Middle East and China endeavored to keep their enemies out by building walls around their cities. But a wall built to protect those on the outside from the potential threat posed by those on the inside – that is best described as a prison wall. Qalqilya was a town that derived its livelihood by shipping vegetables, fruits, saplings for gardening and garden ornaments to cities on the coast of Israel, but its economic livelihood is slowing withering away within the 'wall.'

After driving several hundred meters down the old route that runs from Jerusalem towards Jericho and the Dead Sea, you reach the twin villages of Izzariyya and Abu Dis on the outskirts. Izzariyya is home to a cave that is purported to be the grave of Lazarus - known by the parable of his resurrection by Jesus Christ, while Abu Dis offers a view of the golden domed roofs of the 'Omar Mosque,' or the Dome of the Rock, a sacred site for Islam and a symbol of Jerusalem. And on one of such hilly vantage points stands a stone building once expected to serve as the future parliamentary building of the Palestinian nation, abandoned and unoccupied for years since its completion. This summer, an old road that Jesus himself is said to have trod was sealed off by a concrete wall about two meters high. While the aim once again is to prevent terrorism, the road lies within the same living area as the villagers of Ras Al-Amud on the Jerusalem side, and as you watch, old women carrying shopping baskets make their way through the gaps in the wall in a troublesome ordeal. Taxis carrying occupied territory number plates aren’t allowed to drive the streets of downtown Jerusalem, and await customers outside the wall as before, but the gasoline stand they used before is now on the Jerusalem side of the wall.

It was with a heavy heart that I discussed the issue with Akiva Eldar, a well-known columnist of Israel's leading Haaretz newspaper whom I had the opportunity to meet. "The fence has proved fairly useful in preventing infiltration of terrorist elements. And if terrorist attacks become less frequent, peace advocates on the Israeli side may regain their strength, and in the long run this may be good for peace." While his comments were representative of Israeli popular opinion, I found solace in his following words: "Be it a wall or a fence, any one-sided fortification intended for defense should be constructed at least on your own soil."

The writer is a former NHK commentator.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

平山 健太郎 / 元NHK解説委員

2003年 10月 17日
イスラエル政府が、ヨルダン川西岸占領地のパレスチナ人居住地域を封じ込めるため建設しているいわゆる「分離壁(separation fence)」が、パレスチナ側の反発とアメリカ政府の「懸念」を招いていることについてはこのコラムで先に触れているが、このほどその実態を現地で見てきた印象の二、三を採りあげたい。パレスチナ側テロ分子のイスラエル領内への潜入を防止するというのが、その名目だが、イスラエル本来の領土ばかりでなく、「西岸」の奥深くにまで造成されているユダヤ人入植地の多くをも、この「防衛」フェンスの「イスラエル側」に取り込む計画である点が、将来の「パレスチナ領土」の、イスラエル側による収奪の既成事実作りと見られている。

まず「壁」(wall)か「フェンス」かという呼称である。ブッシュ大統領は、ワシントンを初めて公式訪問したパレスチナのアバス首相(当時)との会談後、「この壁は問題だ(The wall is a problem)」と記者会見で発言したが、数日後訪米したシャロン・イスラエル首相との会談後の記者会見では、「フェンスの建造がパレスチナ人の生活に与える不便さを極力抑えるようイスラエル側と議論を続ける」という表現にトーンダウンしてしまった。「壁」が「フェンス」に変わってもいる。パレスチナ側が「刑務所の壁」と呼ぶ高さ8メートルのコンクリート壁の写真が、アメリカのニュース雑誌にも紹介された後のブッシュ発言だけに、けげんな思いを抱きながら、問題のコンクリート壁のある「西岸」の小都市カルキリヤを訪ねてみた。






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