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Israel's new 'apartheid road' is about more than just segregation

Israel claims the new road, which separates Israelis and Palestinians by an eight-meter wall, alleviates traffic for settlers while helping Palestinians travel around the West Bank. Human rights activists say it will help create Israeli-only enclaves free of any Palestinian presence. 

Route 4370, known as the 'apartheid road,' just east of Jerusalem, West Bank. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Route 4370, known as the ‘apartheid road,’ just east of Jerusalem, West Bank. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israel unveiled a new segregated highway in the occupied West Bank last week, with a giant eight-meter concrete wall separating Palestinian and Israeli drivers on either side. Labeled the apartheid road by critics, Route 4370’s official reasoning is to alleviate traffic for Israeli settlers commuting to Jerusalem, as well as creating a new way for Palestinians to travel between the northern and southern West Bank.

Yet despite the stated reasoning, anti-occupation and human rights advocates argue that the segregated highway is another way to create Israeli-only areas — free of any Palestinian presence — in Palestine. And it is a sign that Israel, and Israelis, no longer view segregation as something to be ashamed of.

“While in the past there was a major effort to conceal segregation from the Israeli public, today it is now perceived as legitimate,” said Efrat Cohen-Bar, a planner and architect with Israeli NGO Bimkom. “In a country where a new discriminatory law is proposed every morning, one short segregated road no longer excites anyone.”

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called the highway “an example of the ability to create coexistence between Israelis and Palestinian while protecting against existing security challenges.”

For Cohen-Bar, the highway cannot be removed from the entire system of segregated roads in the West Bank, which often forces Palestinians to use underpasses so as not to disturb the settler traffic above them. “Highway 4370 should be seen in a broader context as a continuation of [Israel’s] separation policy and the creation of Israeli-only enclaves.”

In the eyes of Daniel Seidemann, an attorney and activist who runs the Israeli NGO Terrestrial Jerusalem, and who has spent the last 20 years monitoring the city’s changing landscape, Route 4370 has a geopolitical dimension as well. The highway, he says, is part of Israel’s long-term strategy of “creating territorial contiguity between Jerusalem and the settlements that surround it,” particularly the highly-contested E1 area, the 12 sq. kilometer area located between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim.

Palestinian women walk on the Palestinian side of Route 4370, known as the 'apartheid road,' just east of Jerusalem, West Bank. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian women walk on the Palestinian side of Route 4370, known as the ‘apartheid road,’ just east of Jerusalem, West Bank. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

For decades, Israel has hoped to build up the area with settlements, connecting the settlement to Jerusalem and effectively bifurcating the West Bank.

Moreover, says Seidemann, the road is just the first step in Israel’s plan to entirely cut off Palestinians from using Route 1, parts of which serve both Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. All of it, he believes, is meant to undermine the chances of establishing a Palestinian state and to advance the incremental annexation of large swathes of the West Bank.

“Netanyahu is engaged in a strategic thrust to determine unilaterally a de-facto border between Israel and so-called Palestine,” says Seidemann. “The road is being opened now because the prime minister’s policies are finally coming together. The end-game is the annexation of Area C of the West Bank with minimal Palestinian presence. This is what we’re seeing happening in E1.”

Route 4370 is not the first segregated highway in the occupied Palestinian territories for the exclusive use of Israelis. During the Second Intifada, Israel shut down Route 443, a second highway linking Jerusalem to the Tel Aviv area, to Palestinian traffic following several cases of fatal gunfire at Israeli vehicles. In June 2007, residents of the six villages near Route 443 petitioned the Israeli High Court of Justice to re-open the road to Palestinians. Two-and-a-half years later, the court ruled that Palestinians must be allowed to use the West Bank road.

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“The High Court ruled that Israel had to stop segregating Route 443, at least on paper,” Seidemann continues. “This case is different. It’s not ad-hoc policy, but rather well thought out long in advance. It is about building separate, parallel infrastructures for Israelis and Palestinians; this kind of thing has never been done before.”

“Route 4370 is intended to create a domino effect,” says Ahmad SubLaban, a field researcher for Jerusalem-based human rights group Ir Amim. The highway is part of a puzzle that will come together to eventually connect Jerusalem to Ma’ale Adumim, Gush Etzion, the Ramallah-area settlements, and the settlement of Givat Ze’ev. Right now, it is an incomplete puzzle.”

For now, Israeli citizens who use the road will have an easier time traveling from settlements in the Ramallah area to Jerusalem’s Jewish neighborhoods, especially during rush hour. Those driving on the Palestinian side will be barred from entering Jerusalem, yet the new road will also effectively shorten their journey from the Ramallah area to the southern part of the West Bank.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Bruce Gould

      https://forward.com/opinion/417603/im-a-settler-who-opposes-the-security-barrier-and-the-new-apartheid-road/?attribution=home-hero-item-text-2

      (from Forward – clear your browser history if you have trouble accessing)

      I’m A Settler Who Opposes The Security Barrier – And The New ‘Apartheid Road’
      “Israel must defend herself,” the “experts” inevitably say. “We have no choice. We must separate ourselves from the threat of violence.” I can tell you that as a settler who lives side by side with my Palestinian neighbors, this narrative is manipulative and false….

      Reply to Comment
      • UnimpressedRealist

        Then why dont settlers like him tear down the walls, take on the IDF’s annexations and build homes for Palestinians right beside theirs?

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Well, isn’t that nice. And it serves well enough to debunk the separation road I guess. But this is a manipulative self-serving piece by a settler that leaves out pretty much everything that matters, pretends everybody’s happy down there on Occupation Farm, engages in such Orwellian bullshit terms as “my Palestinian neighbors,” and goes on about how he don’t need no walls yet if that’s so then why does he arrogate to himself the need for the walls of permanent “security control” of the Jordan Valley and “security forces the freedom to operate in the West Bank when the need arises”? He doesn’t need walls because his IDF smacks the hell out of the Palestinians every day and night in the West Bank and denies them every privilege he enjoys. This Forward article is dishonest from top to bottom, and only inadvertently gets honest in the last sentence:
        “The barrier should come down not because it separates Arabs and Jews, but because it separates we Jews who live among Arabs from the rest of Israel.”

        It partakes of the same Orwellian dishonesty as the above-quoted Gilad Erdan, with his Orwellian bullshit term: “coexistence.”

        Reply to Comment
        • Bruce Gould

          I agree – especially the last line. The article is written from a colonialists perspective – it’s all ours. But I thought it served one purpose – to show that all the walls and barriers aren’t about security.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Agreed. And it is the best kind of evidence too—straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak, and by someone who reveals the whole game.

            Reply to Comment
    2. David

      Israel didn’t have to build two roads did it? It could have just built one on the Israeli side and called it a day. It should probably just do that in the future, then it won’t be called “segregation” but just building their infrastructure.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      @Wilens: I also don’t believe that at this point in the fanatical “settlement enterprise” there will ever be a separate Palestinian state in the West Bank. The settlers have won, and Netanyahu let them. The point of no return has very likely been reached. It will be one state of all its inhabitants, functional or dysfunctional. The right wing Benny Morris is not sanguine about this (but maybe you have a more irenic and comforting vision and are prepared to roll up your sleeves and make it happen):

      https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-israel-will-decline-and-jews-will-be-persecuted-those-who-can-will-flee-1.6848498

      One such vision is what +972 Magazine offers. Would you please suck this up?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ben

      Regarding Jeffrey Wilens’ statement (broken here into two conceptual parts):

      1. “under a constitutional republic (such as in the USA), Israel can be Jewish (dominated), democratic (but not a direct democracy) and in control of Judea and Samaria.”

      2. “Some Arabs will happily join the state and be loyal Zionists. Those who do not, will have to leave (or be killed)… that is the way these types of nationalistic/religious disputes are settled… Jews… will pacify Judea and Samaria, accept a limited number of loyal Arabs…and deport or kill the rest…rip the bandaid off all at once…”

      Make no mistake what Wilens is saying.

      1. Though Wilens tries to pass off the “constitutional republic” he’s peddling as being a true democracy “such as in the USA,” it is nothing of the sort. It is in fact Feiglinism. It is a Feiglinist “popular democracy” that is absolutely antithetical to American democracy:
      A ‘truly’ Jewish democracy: On the ideology of Likud’s Moshe Feiglin
      https://972mag.com/a-truly-jewish-democracy-on-the-ideology-of-likuds-moshe-feiglin/62170/

      The precepts of which would not survive one day of challenge in the Supreme Court of the United States. As a self-advertised practicing lawyer in California, Wilens has to know this, and so what he is selling here I think he peddles in bad faith. What he is trying to pass off here as American is, in letter and in spirit, a completely un-American, anti-American viewpoint.

      2. It’s hard to see how anyone could mistake what the second part of Wilens’ statement entails. Wilens, consistent with the first part of his statement, and consistent with previous statements by Moshe Feiglin, shows himself to be a shameless enthusiast for lebensraum-seizing, ethnic cleansing and outright mass murder. Like Feiglin, Wilens does not mince words. But unlike Feiglin, Wilens very dishonestly invokes American principles to justify his odious agenda.

      On the face of it, Jeffrey Wilens is no American Constitutionalist, he is a frank Feiglinist Jewish Supremacist. A proponent of Judeofasicsm by any other name. And that ain’t any thing “such as in the USA” by a long shot.

      The American Founders understood human nature very well. They knew very well that men like Trump and Trump-followers like Wilens would try to subvert the American Republic in this direction. The Founders’ genius was to devise a system of government that would, by the checks and balances vested in three co-equal branches of government and a Supreme Court exercising judicial review that at least since Marbury vs. Madison has defended the US Constitution against just the kind of Israeli nation-state law-like assault on it that people like Wilens would like to make, constantly thwart these base tendencies.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Elizabeth Jeanneret

      Jeffrey Wilens: shortly there will be only one solution to the problem opinions like your have created: a federation of Israel, Jordan and Palestine, analogous to the Swiss confederation, and no doubt constructed for similar reasons: need to face up to and deter a dangerous enemy (in the Swiss case, the Holy Roman Empire – get the analogy?)

      Reply to Comment