The upper-class fence
By: Gadi Algazi
Translated from Hebrew by Daniel Breslau
Link to original Hebrew article
The green line doesn’t affect the market, says the headline in the economic supplement of Ha`aretz (14/6/2005). The article is about the settlement of Har Adar, basically a journalistic report mixed with public relations and a subtle invitation to invest (a rise in prices of 15% to 20% over the last year promises the subtitle). Har Adar, part of which is within Israel and part across the green line, writes Arik Mirovsky, is in sixth place in terms of the socio-economic strength of its population. What a delicate way to describe one of the most affluent communities in Israel . They are not rich, but strong.
The first to move to Har Adar, the article continues, followed the pattern of “a friend brings a friend.” This too is a polite way to describe the mingling of elites: in the beginning, in 1986, “people from the Israeli security and television community” settled there, bringing their friends. Today the place is populated by mostly business people, taking advantage of its location, only about 40 minutes from Tel Aviv, its relative isolation, and the large lots. Relative isolation? What are they talking about? The place overlooks Highway 1 [the main Tel Aviv to Jerusalem highway]. This is not real periphery, cut off from the centers of social, educational, and economic power. Isolation is a code word for something else. Maybe it refers to a socially bounded place, effectively removed from contact with undesirables.
The settlement is situated, adds the writer, above the villages of Abu Gosh, Biddu, and Beit Surik, and the kibbutzim Ma’ale Hachamisha and Kiryat Anavim. Amazing: the Arabs are nearby, but the settlement is well-isolated. Among them are good Arabs (Abu Gosh) and bad Arabs (the Palestinian residents of Beit Surik and Biddu), and for all that, and despite the proximity to the West Bank, the green line does not affect the market: buyers keep buying houses, and the value of the villas goes up, even though a good part of the town lies in territory that has been annexed. These are the upper class settlers, without orange flags.
Har Adar actually belongs to a long series of towns that were established and expanded in the 80s and 90s along the green line, next to it, or right on top of it Kochav Yair and Tsur Yigal are other examples. They were not established there by chance: they were part of Ariel Sharon’s plan to dissolve the green line, sometimes in his capacity as agriculture minister, sometimes as minister of housing, sometimes as defense minister but always the minister and patron of settlements and occupation. The same holds true today. These were the new frontier settlements of the 80s and 90s years of privatization and “peace process.” They are not development towns or moshavim on the border, on the frontier, to which Ben Gurion sent the new immigrants, and particularly the Middle-Eastern Jews, in the fifties. This is Zionism deluxe, with a red tile roof and a perfect lawn. They were all meant to dissolve the green line, to feel like it wasn’t there, and to support the ideological settlement movement with the help of an upper middle class colonization project: to build a political alliance between the hard right, the settlers, and the soft social right, the ashamed.
There is no doubt that this political project has succeeded. Whoever lives on the green line wants a little more: more scenery, more security, a little annexation. Whoever lives just within the? West Bank starts to feel that the green line is no longer relevant (I should also mention those that were the exception to the rule, and showed some sympathy for the suffering of their neighbors the people of Nirit and Mevasseret Tzion who joined the protest against the fence). And when they have to dig up the orchard of a poor Palestinian widow, for security reasons, that is next to a villa in Kochav Yair belonging to his Excellency, Defense Minister Mofaz, no one asks: what is he doing there anyway?
Those upper-class settlements suffered during the years of intifada, development was halted, but with its end they are thriving again. There is a simple answer to the question why potential buyers do not ask about the “green line” in Har Adar. It is because the separation fence has been build right next to it on lands confiscated from Beit Surik and Biddu. A small, creeping annexation. In those two villages, which are now “well-isolated? from Har Adar, determined demonstrations against the fence have been held for months. Without weapons. Without shooting. Demonstrations of young and old, women and children. Demonstrations of neighbors, who will be separated by the fence from their lands and their sources of livelihood. Demonstrations that were suppressed with tear gas, sound grenades, rubber-coated bullets, and live fire. Last February three demonstrators were killed. Now they can be forgotten.
Now that the fence is in place, the value of real estate has risen in all of the upper middle class settlements. Just like I saw with my own eyes in the Tzufin settlements, a few kilometers east of Kochav Yair: with the construction of the fence, the orchards of Loquat and Avocado and Oranges of the residents of Jayous are drying up, and their owners can no longer get to them regularly to tend their trees. See:http://taayush.tripod.com/new/20041231-jayyus.html Now that the Arabs are on the other side, the settlement is expanding 11-fold. The landscape is quickly turning into real estate. Brokers` offices are selling the houses in the Tzufin settlement as New Kochav Yair, “the next Tzur Yigal.” The place is clean or almost clean of Arabs. It`s OK to buy.
All along the separation fence the revival of the settlements continues. Sharon is well aware of what he is doing: he is shifting gears. He is in conflict with the extremists among the settlers, who refuse to understand that in order to secure the mountain, you sometimes must give up a hill; that it is better to let the Palestinians manage the misery in Gaza on their own. For now, thousands of housing units continue to be built in the settlements. Thus the rapid construction between the fence and the green line: in Tzufin and Alfei Menashe and Beitar and Ma’ale Adumim and other places, but not in the heart of the occupied territories. That is left to the hard-core settlers for now.
Just as important, this construction is part of a renewed political alliance between Sharon and the upper middle class (and the entry of Labor into the government proves that Sharon is really a good grandpa who takes care of everyone, and not an evil wolf). It is an alliance with an upper middle class that seeks quiet; that seeks quiet places without Arabs, without the poor; that surrounds its villas with concrete walls above which are hung signs warning that the place is under the surveillance of a private security firm; that surrounds its communities with decorative concrete walls think of the earthen walls that separate Caesarea from Jissr A-Zarka; that thoroughly encloses itself with social walls, as the remains of the welfare state are dismantled and the finance ministry is busy with evacuating the remains of the limited social mobility of the past. Let us not forget that the fence is part of a whole system of fencing and differentiating, processes of separation and privatization.
True, the fence was built after a wave of attacks on Israeli civilians during the bloody days of the second intifada . It was built by exploiting the black days of violent suppression of the intifada in the territories, the choking of Palestinian civilian protest, of suicide bombers. But Sharon `s project was far-reaching from the start, a project of systematic annexation and cutting the West Bank into fenced reservations for the natives. But most importantly, the fence was built on fear, through deliberate exploitation of real fears, and real suffering.
You can build on fears. Especially barbed-wire fences. You can also make a nice profit from it. The main question is how we, and are children after us, will live behind those fences.