By Queen Rania of Jordan, Huffington Post – 9 Nov 2009
The fall of the Berlin Wall: what a testament to the power of peaceful revolution. Even as a high school student in Kuwait, it was impossible not to be swept up in the emotion, as I watched people clamber to freedom, family and friends for the first time.
And yet, for me, and for so many other people in the Middle East, and around the world, the anniversary is bittersweet. It is a reminder, as if one was necessary, of another divisive wall that we are desperate to tear down and consign to the annals of history: the ugly expanse of concrete and barbed wire that runs through the West Bank, most notably splicing Jerusalem and mutating its cherished and sacred history.
As the people of Germany celebrate a wall coming down, the people of Palestine are overwrought by a wall going up.
According to the Israeli government, their “Separation Barrier” is meant to divide Israel from Palestine, and protect Israelis from attacks. But to ‘protect’ illegal Israeli settlements, the wall snakes deep into Palestinian land, cleaving families from friends, homes from schools and universities, and workers from their land and their jobs. Innocent Palestinians, suffocated. A nation, imprisoned.
According to B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, the wall cuts off half a million Palestinians from the rest of the West Bank. Communities are being forcibly torn apart. Not 20 years ago, but today.
It has been five years since the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel should cease construction, dismantle the wall, and pay reparations to affected Palestinians. But the “Separation Barrier” is now 400 km, double its length at the time of the court ruling. Israel continues to ignore this legal ruling and construct the barrier which, they claim, is only two-thirds complete.
I know this wall is only the symptom of a greater division – the figurative wall of hate, fear, and mistrust that divides the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. But that does not justify – legally or morally – what is happening in Palestine. It is an affront to human freedom, an assault on human dignity, a scar on our collective well-being. Until the barriers, blockades, and barbed wire are history, Palestine’s history will be irreconcilable.
Today, we celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall; next year, we will celebrate the end of Apartheid in South Africa. These two events taught us that when barriers are removed – whether physical barriers, legal barriers, or the walls people build in their hearts – the ground is laid for progress, peace, and development for both sides. The people of my region yearn as well for justice and reconciliation.
What better way to honour these anniversaries than to tear down another wall?