The Youth Toward Freedom Initiative in coordination with the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign have launched a three day “Freedom Exhibition” at the American University in Jenin.
The students group has built an impressive exhibit on a mock wall on the university campus. Visitors must pass through reconstructions of the gates of the Apartheid Wall while students acting as occupation forces harass the visitors. The exhibit itself consists of a collection of images demonstrating the damage caused by the Wall in the Jenin district – including different villages around Jenin, uprooted trees, destroyed houses and markets, checkpoints, gates, beatings and humiliation.
One part is dedicated to photographs of Palestinian photographers, while another consists of caricatures and a third presents photos and maps gathered by the Campaign. A documentary entitled “Silence shouting in the face of the Wall” produced by Palestinian filmmakers was also shown.
The governor of Jenin opened the exhibit by cutting through an iron bar and razor wire with large metal bolt-cutters. Following the inaugural ceremony, the students held a conference on “The political future for Palestine after the wall and the current political changes,” which was widely covered by the national media.
In the opening speech, a representative of the Youth Initiative warned all those who had gathered that “this wall is not the first Nakba and it won’t be the last Nakba if we don’t end the Occupation”. He pointed out that the youth of Jenin are using this initiative to send out a strong voice to the rest of the country. They want to emphasize the suffering and sacrifice of the people in Jenin in order to counter the neglect that Palestinian organizations have shown towards the northern district of the West Bank.
Ayman Yousef, Professor in the Faculty of Science and Literature at the American University in Jenin, talked about the profound roots that apartheid walls have within Zionist ideology. He pointed out that they have been discussed in many Zionist works since 1923 and many Zionist intellectuals have demanded these walls “to keep the purity of the Zionist ideology”. According to Yousef, the ultimate aim of these walls is the protection of the Zionist state and society “from mixing with Palestinians that would pollute it”.
After this overview on the ideological foundations of the Apartheid Wall, Raid N’irat, chair of political science at Al-Najah University in Nablus, analyzed recent political developments. He asserted that, “Since 1993, Palestine became a US file, not anymore a Palestinian issue.” This lasted until the Israeli incursions into the West Bank in 2002. Since then, it became an Israeli file and the Occupation “made it clear that they don’t want to have any international interference in the implementation of their vision.” Considering this de facto alienation of the Palestinian cause from its people, he said, any political action and planning should approach the current political situation with very clear conditions that “should preserve the national principles and should offer a clear plan on how to resist the Wall project”.
Finally, Jamal Juma’, coordinator of the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, discussed the concrete implications of the Wall for the Palestinian struggle. “Now we can’t talk about the wall just as a wall. We need to understand it as a political project that aims at getting rid of the Palestinian principles of struggle and changing the Palestinian struggle from a struggle for freedom and identity to a struggle for food and needs.”
He explained that the plan is to divide the West Bank into three main ghettos. Jerusalem will be completely isolated and the remaining ghettos will be totally separated from each other. The only contact points are the fortified checkpoints controlled by the occupation forces.
“This aims to create out of each ghetto an independent entity connected directly with the Israeli economy in order to fragment the Palestinian society and struggle,” he concluded. The challenge is to continue resistance and to reaffirm national unity on principled stances.