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Notes from a walled barbed wire state

Carterton writer Andrew Wright shares some observations from his visit to Israel and Palestine – and insights about the decades-long conflict within.

In February 2020, I spent two weeks in the occupied West Bank and two weeks in Israel. People sometimes ask me how things were when I was there. What did I see and experience? What did I make of the situation?

The trip gave me a good opportunity to observe everyday living conditions for myself. I was shocked by what I saw. I witnessed, on a daily basis, from Israel, a regime of violence, humiliation and persecution of the Palestinian people.

It saddened me to see that Israel has become an apartheid state with “separation walls”: An increasing number of walled off Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which – unlike the Palestinian cities – have unlimited water and electricity, a high standard of housing, and good access to services, such as health care. There are designated roads to the settlements with 24/7 protection from the Israeli armed forces, and checkpoints everywhere.

I visited Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre, in Jerusalem on two occasions and took a photo of the Hall of Names. Yad Vashem uses these words to describe the hall: “No cemeteries, no headstones, no traces were left to mark the loss of the six million Holocaust victims. The Hall of Names at Yad Vashem is the Jewish people’s memorial to each Jew murdered in the Holocaust – a place where they are commemorated for generations to come.” The Israeli government claims that, “the Jewish people have maintained ties to their historic homeland for more than 3,700 years, with a national language and a distinct civilisation.”

I also visited the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, where I took a photo of a mural that shows the names of some of the 400 villages that were ethnically cleansed by Zionist forces in 1948. At the time, over 700,000 Palestinians were swept into refugee camps. These Palestinians, now several million of them, claim they have a right to return. This claim is backed by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194.

It is my view that these two photos explain the crux of the problem. I don’t pretend to have a solution but Israel seems intent on self-destruction. I have no doubt that Israel, like East Germany and South Africa, will collapse under the weight of having corrupt politicians running a walled-off and barbed wire state. It will not work.

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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