Did Israeli Apartheid Wall Really Stop Suicide Bombings?

By Ben White

As the Red Cross put it, the wall — and settlements — “are not compatible with Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law.” In other words, you can’t just do what you like in the name of “security.”

“The Fence was erected because of suicide bombings”

The idea of a wall pre-dates the second intifada, the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation that began in September 2000.

It can be traced back to the early 1990s, when former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin called for Israel to “take Gaza out of Tel Aviv,” later arguing that “separation as a philosophy” will require a “clear border.”

“Whoever wants to swallow 1.8 million Arabs,” he said, “will just bring greater support for Hamas.” Prior to the Camp David summit of 2000, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak also vowed to implement “a physical separation” — as his campaign slogan went, “Us here, Them over there.”

A picture shows a side of the Israeli separation wall arround Jerusalem

The theme of demographics-based “separation” — distinct from “security” as such — has appeared in other justifications for the wall. In 2012, Shaul Arieli, negotiator under three Israeli premiers, wrote that “the need” for the wall stemmed from the fact that “tens of thousands of Palestinians” seek work in Israel, with or without permits, thus “slowly lead[ing] to a Palestinian ‘return’ to Israel.”

Arieli claimed this rationale was “of no less importance” than the security justification. In 2010, Jerusalem municipality official Yakir Segev publicly stated that the wall “was built for political and demographic reasons — not just security concerns.”

There is a further clue for the purpose of the wall from those involved in planning it — specifically, Danny Tirza, an Israeli army colonel. Himself a settler, Tirza has admitted that “the main thing” the Israeli government told him in giving him the job “was to include as many Israelis inside the fence and leave as many Palestinians outside.”

Revealingly, in more recent times Tirza was hired by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “to sketch a future border for Israel to present in negotiations.”


The big problem for those claiming that the wall was just built to stop suicide bombings is its route. A reminder: the wall is twice the length of the 1967 ceasefire line (the so-called “Green Line”) that separates the occupied West Bank from present-day Israel.

Eighty five percent of the route runs inside the occupied West Bank. To the west of the wall lies around 10 percent of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), territory that includes eight industrial zones and 82 settlements with a population of more than 400,000 settlers.

The 2004 advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague states that the wall impedes “the exercise by the Palestinian people of its right to self-determination,” its route threatening to create “de facto annexation.”

Despite all of the above, Israeli officials and pro-Israel lobby groups for a while insisted that the wall was a mere temporary security measure, which could be removed or altered at will.

Unsurprisingly, however, the wall has come to be referred to as the route of a future border with a Palestinian “state,” an assumption that informs, for example, how settlement construction is interpreted (i.e. whether building in settlements to the west or east of the wall).

The impact of the wall

While the two main myths propagated by Israel lobbyists are easily debunked, there are plenty of things we do know for certain about the wall.

We know that from the ICJ to the Red Cross, it has been described as illegal. We know of its disastrous impact on Palestinian farmers, villages, cities, families, schoolchildren, students and many others. We know that from Jenin to Bethlehem, through the concrete-split streets of East Jerusalem, the wall has become another element of Israel’s colonization of Palestine, one more link in the apartheid chain.

The propaganda myths about security are intended to hide this reality but, like the wall itself, they are arguments full of holes.

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