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Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May 2012, Pages 42-43

Special Report

An Unneighborly Wall

Story and photos by William Parry

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What is it about Jewish Israelis and walls? When selling the idea of Israel's illegal apartheid wall to President George W. Bush, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon quoted a line from Robert Frost's poem "Mending Wall": "Good fences make good neighbors." Neither leader, it seems, understood the poem.

The same year construction on the West Bank wall began, Jewish Israelis started building another wall to separate them from Palestinians—in this case their fellow citizens—on the Mediterranean coast in Israel's northern Sharon region. This one consists of a strip of earth that runs for about one mile and is between four and five yards high.

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To the north of this wall is the Arab town of Jisr al-Zarqa, one of the most impoverished communities in Israel, with severe overcrowding and no space to expand. South of the wall, which is lined with trees and shrubs to help give it a more natural, organic feel—and to raise the horizon a bit more—is one of Israel's most affluent communities, Qasariya.

The barrier was built and financed by the Qasariya Development Company (QDC), which called it an "acoustic embankment." It was built without a legal permit, and without the knowledge or consultation of the council of Jisr al-Zarqa, according to the Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA). The QDC says it was built to protect residents of Qasariya from such noise "hazards" as the call to prayer, loud music, and shooting into the air and fireworks during celebrations, and to reduce the incidence of theft and the negative impact on property prices in Qasariya.

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Qasariya's streets are meticulously maintained. Its sidewalks, street signs, bus shelters, cultural center and plaza, and all public areas are beautifully manicured, with well-watered plants and lawns. A private security firm patrols the streets. Like other nearby Jewish-only communities, the town is directly linked to the Tel Aviv-Haifa coastal highway.

In contrast, just a few hundred yards away, Jisr al-Zarqa is a squalid ghetto, with chronic underinvestment. Its infrastructure—roads, sewage, water connections, etc.—is visibly dilapidated, and raw rather than refined. Residents of Jisr al-Zarqa have no public transportation system and no direct access to the same coastal highway that their Jewish neighbors have. There are no banks there, although there is one post office for this town of 10,500 residents. Surely it was an eyesore for the well-heeled Qasariyans, eying the squalor from their poolsides—until, that is, the wall blocked another bit of uncomfortable reality from their sheltered lives.

As Frost's "Mending Wall" narrator says:

 

Before I built a wall I'd ask to knowWhat I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,

That wants it down.

 

But not in Israel's Jewish communities.

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