Ariel Sharon has outdone his own narcissism once again. According to the BBC, the Israeli government has begun the construction of a 217-mile wall around the West Bank in order to segregate the three million occupied Christian and Muslim Palestinians from Israel. Notwithstanding the 64 United Nations resolutions currently being violated by Israel nor the scores of human rights reports condemning Sharon and the Israeli Defense Forces of human rights atrocities; Sharon's current fascist enterprise will rekindle the horrific realities that were thought long forgotten with the destruction of Checkpoint Charlie.
Sharon's barrier will be a combination of fences, walls, ditches, patrol roads and electronic surveillance devices. The first 68 miles (110 kilometers) of the $200 million project is scheduled to be completed within a year. The audacity and disregard for international humanitarian law by Sharon and his right-wing Likud cronies is paying homage to the despotic legacy left by F.W. de Klerk and his South African apartheid regime.
Bantustans in twentieth-century South African history were territories that were set aside under apartheid for black South Africans and slated for eventual independence. Ten bantustans (later generally referred to as homelands), covering 14% of the country's land, were created from the former "native reserves." Four were eventually proclaimed independent, but no foreign government recognized them as independent nations. Further, citizens of these independent homelands lost the limited rights they had as South Africans. Under the South African constitution that was approved in 1993 and ended white rule, South African citizenship was restored to homeland residents, and the homelands were abolished.
Today, Israel haughtily claims to be the only "true" democracy in the Middle East. Does true democracy entail the continued military occupation of three million Palestinian inhabitants? Are the ideals of pluralism upheld when a government erects a multi-million dollar wall to segregate its lawful populace? When the United Nations continuously "condemns" or "deplores" your actions in its resolutions or when every major human rights organ has cited you for egregious human rights violations, you are not a democracy, rather, you are a categorical disgrace to the word "democracy".
Sharon's "Great Wall" will also have a disparate impact on Israeli Jews living outside of Jerusalem. After the 1967 War, many Israelis were relocated to settlements which are located in Palestinian territories. To build a wall isolating Palestinian territories from greater Israel would isolate the Jewish settlers in many of the 120 settlements which already exist. Not only will the wall economically suffocate the Palestinians, Jewish settlers worry that this is "political" move aims at creating a de facto border with the future and much deserved state of Palestine.
There are so many egregious and inherent flaws with this recent construction that a simplistic commentary could not even begin to scratch the surface. Although Nelson Mandela has called for an end to the Palestinian "apartheid", Sharon's current endeavor seeks to resurrect the dreadful heritage of South Africa and may potentially trump the infamous legacy that crumbled a mere thirteen years ago in Berlin.
Arsalan Tariq Iftikhar is the Midwest Communications Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest nonprofit Muslim advocacy group. He attends Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.