Section: Opinion

Palestinians are refugees in their own land

The wall on display near Middle Path is a sad but necessary reminder of the injustices that exist in the world — injustices that we all must condemn and seek to stop. The wall symbolizes the Israeli West Bank separation wall, sometimes referred to as a racial segregation or apartheid wall, being built along the Green Line and in the West Bank. “This apartheid wall,” a Palestinian colleague once told me, “has made us refugees in our own land!”

The wall is illegal and immoral.

The International Court of Justice declared the Israeli wall goes against international law. A staggering 85 percent of the separation wall is, or is planned to be, built inside Palestinian territories not along the Green Line, the border between Israel and the Palestinian West Bank that is recognized by the international community. This further land grab accounts for nearly 10 percent of the West Bank. In fact, at one point, the wall cuts 11 miles deep into the Palestinian territories, isolating nearly 25,000 Palestinians from the bulk of the West Bank. The illegally grabbed land includes prime agricultural land and strategic water reserves.

Today, there are some 250 settlements and outposts built on Palestinian land. More than 600,000 Israeli settlers live in these colonies, according to figures from Israel’s population registry. The wall annexes Palestinian land on which the majority of Israel’s settlements have been built. The separation wall ensures that 80 of the most sizeable and significant settlements will be on the Israeli side of the wall. The international community, specifically the United Nations, considers these settlements illegal. However, since 1967, successive Israeli governments have encouraged building colonies on Palestinian land.

But there is more than just the land grab. The wall isolates the West Bank’s major cities from Jerusalem, which is the Palestinian cultural, spiritual and economic capital. The wall increases Israel’s restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement in the West Bank, already limited and controlled by a system of checkpoints and road restrictions. It has become daily practice for many Palestinians to go through prolonged checks and searches at checkpoints and experience humiliating treatment by Israeli soldiers. The checkpoints also separate some Palestinian landowners from their livelihood. For example, farmers who live on one side of the wall but have land on the other side have to apply for special permits to access to their land through designated gates — they can only do so during specific hours, and some permits only allow weekly or seasonal access to land.

The illegal wall separates families, fragments communities and disrupts education. It makes humiliating the most casual practices like visiting family, attending a place of worship or going to school. It collectively punishes civilians. I thank the students who put the symbolic wall on Middle Path for reminding us of the injustices imposed by the wall of separation, which does seem to make Palestinians refugees in their own land.

Qussay Al-Attabi is an assistant professor of Arabic. Contact him at

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