The words from the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore came to my mind when I first saw Israel’s illegal wall in the West Bank in 2006. They signify a vision of what a just peace can (and should) be, for Palestinians, and, as well, for Israelis.
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake. July 9th is the 10th anniversary of the International Court of Justice’s ruling that the Separation Wall built by Israel is illegal especially because it does not follow the 1967 Green Line but snakes in and out deep into the West Bank. The Wall as constructed is really not – and has never been –about security. It is entirely about ghettoizing the West Bank into non-contiguous bits and parcels while annexing at least half the West Bank and crucial resources like the Jordan River and Western Aquifer and ensuring the permanence of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In short it is a resource (land, territory, and water) grab. The Wall in the West Bank and the blockade of the Gaza Strip have essentially turned the occupied Palestinian territories into the world’s largest open air prison with its residents living under the control of Israel and its military, despite the nominal governance structures set up under the Oslo Accords and the creation of the Palestinian Authority. And, for all practical purposes the Wall and its impact on the ground have essentially eliminated the concept of a two state solution. But the Wall is more than illegal. It is also immoral. And that was symbolized powerfully for the whole world to see this past May when Pope Francis spontaneously got down from his vehicle near Bethlehem, walked to the Wall surrounded by Palestinian children, and prayed against it. One can only imagine given what we know of him that he was praying for it to be torn down as what it means and what it actually is, is injustice and inequality.