#11: Israel’s Boundaries- Response to openDemocracy Israel Article

Original Article: http://www.opendemocracy.net/ecology-politicsverticality/article_801.jsp

A Palestinian boy stands outside a wall guarded by an Israeli soldier at the West Bank border

A Palestinian boy stands outside a wall guarded by an Israeli soldier at the West Bank border

It does not come as a surprise that Israel is full of boundaries. Currently, Israel is building walls and fences to separate their territory from Palestinian territory on the West Bank. The barrier, called the Separation Barrier, is made to separate Israelis from Palestinians and to protect them from supposed Palestinian violence, isolating the Palestinians to their particular territory. When completed, it will run about 440 miles long and reach about 200 feet wide in some areas. But walls aren’t the only physical boundaries separating Israelis and Palestinians. There are many barriers that are visible, but less obvious than these walls. These barriers, such as olive and pine trees, roads, and settlement and building design, are explored in Weizman’s article, in which he describes the spatial organization of Israel. Of course, there are many non-physical, non-visible borders between Israelis and Palestinians, but I will only be addressing and expanding upon the visible but unusual borders.

Olive Bushes and Pine Trees

Olive trees marking Palestinian territory in Ramla, a city founded by Palestinians, but overtaken by Israel during the war in 1947.

Olive trees marking Palestinian territory in Ramla, a city founded by Palestinians, but overtaken by Israel during the war in 1947.

One of the more unusual boundaries in Israel/Palestine is their use of trees. Olive trees designate Palestinian territory while pine trees designate Israeli territory. The groups have been planting the trees as a way of claiming open territory. Sometimes, the groups will purposefully destroy the trees of the other group so they can plant their trees there. This has resulted in a sort of “tree warfare.” To build the Separation Barrier in the West Bank, Israel uprooted thousands of olive trees. Olive trees have always had significance in Palestinian culture.  It serves as a sign of endurance, Palestinian nationality, holiness, and harvest, as some people still make money harvesting olive trees. When Palestinians began planting olive trees on open grounds, Israelis began to plant faster-growing pine trees in return. Since these trees grow faster, Israelis can stake their claim on the territory sooner. As olive trees became a symbol of Palestine, pine trees became a symbol of Zionism. The resulting conflict over the trees reflects the conflict between the two groups.

 

Roads

On most Israeli roads, Palestinians are not welcome to drive. Israel works under a segregated “separate, but unequal” road system, where Palestinians are not allowed on nicer Israeli roads, but Israelis could drive on the more-run down, checkpoint-regulated Palestinian roads (though they would never want to). This system of roads was designed so that Israelis could travel faster from their suburban settlements to their urban jobs without ever seeing or coming into contact with a Palestinian. Israel claims that it protects the Israeli settlers from the dangerous Palestinian criminals. Sometimes the roads must cross, resulting in tunnels and bridges. The Palestinian roads usually run below the Israeli roads, making them seem inferior. There are many checkpoints on these roads in order for the Israelis to “ensure safety,” often slowing down travel. This is coupled with the condition of the Palestinian roads, which are usually run-down or dirt (Israeli roads are wide, new, and nicely paved). The highly-designed separation and distinction of roads between Israelis and Palestinians shows the efforts and extent to which Israelis are willing to enforce a country-wide segregation.

Settlement and Building Design

Nilli, a red-roofed Israeli settlement atop a hill. Note the use of pine trees

Nilli, a red-roofed Israeli settlement atop a hill. Note the use of pine trees

In Israel, there is clear distinctions between Israeli and Palestinian settlements. These Israeli settlements are built to encourage Jewish people to live in Israel, but many of them are actually built upon Palestinian territory. The Israelis have been building on top of hills, which are considered sacred, let alone that they are above the Palestinians, making them seem superior. These hills also give them the ability to look out over the Palestinians for protection, and the cities are organized so they can all have a “view.” Many of these Israeli settlements are exclusive, but they often lack hard borders such as fences or walls. Their appearance serves as a distinction enough. The Israeli homes are all uniform, large and pristine-looking (many have red roofs and green lawns), but the Palestinian homes are smaller and vary in appearance. These distinctive “looks” set the two communities apart. Israeli settlements are often bright and well-lit, while Palestinian settlements at the foot of the hill are dark. This makes gives the Israeli settlements an appearance of grandeur. Everything an Israeli could need is built within the settlement so that they do not have to venture out into Palestinian territory, ensuring that the two groups are kept separate.

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