About a Wall

in Social Analysis
Glenn Bowman University of Kent glb@kent.ac.uk

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In the summer of 2003, I spent several weeks in Beit Sahour, the town in which I’ve carried out fieldwork since the late 1980s, observing—amongst other things—the rapacious hunger with which Israel’s ‘Anti-Terrorist Fence’ (more commonly known as ‘the Wall’) consumed Palestinian lands and infrastructure, biting off roads, wells, housing projects, community centers, and other supports of Palestinian life on the West Bank.1 On the northern border of Beit Sahour the Wall was for the most part a bulldozed strip of between 20 and 40 meters in width, containing two 3-meter barbed-wire-topped fences, a ditch, another fence with electronic movement sensors, two raked sand ‘trace strips,’ and a paved patrol road. It meandered through the countryside in what appeared to be an aimless and extravagant manner (extravagant insofar as it costs on average $2,270,000 per kilometer), until I recognized that it ran right along the edge of the inhabited sectors of Beit Sahour and neighboring Bethlehem and Beit Jala, gathering behind it nearly all of the vineyards, the olive groves, the orchards, and other agricultural lands of the local people (according to the Applied Research Institute—Jerusalem walling in the Bethlehem district has resulted in the alienation of 70 square kilometers of the total 608 square kilometers that make up the district).

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