SPJP constructs model of West Bank wall on campus

photo by Simona Dwass '19
photo by Simona Dwass '19
photo by Simona Dwass ’19



Swarthmore Students for Peace and Justice (SPJP) recently constructed a model wall near the Kohlberg tunnel in an attempt to start a discussion and send a message about human rights violations in Palestine.

In 2002, Israel built a wall that separated the Palestinian West Bank from Israel proper. At the time, the wall was explained as an attempt to increase security in Israel, but was mostly constructed on Palestinian territory. The wall has been controversial due to the restrictions it imposes on the mobility of Palestinians in the region.

“There are limits to how far you can go for security,” commented SPJP member Timmy Hirschel-Burns ’17.

The group originally planned to repeat a similar project from three years ago, which was meant to represent a mock checkpoint and members of SPJP would act as soldiers at the checkpoint. The wall was going to be built along Parrish, but the group was limited by administrative concerns and resources.

“We had to rethink our project in terms of space and manpower but still getting the same message across,” explained SPJP member Joelle Hageboutros ’16. They used the same materials, but instead constructed a mock wall with graffiti messages that could potentially be on the real wall.

The mock wall was meant to raise awareness about the situation in Palestine and how Palestinian communities are impacted.

“We had an outline of wall construction and how it was deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice and how construction still continues to this day,” said Hageboutros.

The project challenged viewers by asking them to think about the idea of having checkpoints on campus.

“We chose to put a message, have you ever gone through a checkpoint on your way to class? Trying to get people to put themselves in other people’s shoes,” Hageboutros commented.

As might be expected, this mock wall was not met with full support among the community. Some students did not agree with the message, but still supported the act and respected the right to free speech on campus.

“The initial reaction was to ask those who had put up the demonstration to remove it, but we pretty quickly decided that this was not an appropriate course of action,” remarked Swarthmore Students for Israel member Jessica Seigel ’16, “They have every right to speak their minds and have a presence on this campus, just as we do.”

Seigel did not speak for the group as a whole, but noted that even within the group many members had different opinions about the wall.

I think the diversity of thought even within those who support Israel shows how difficult and contentious the issue of this wall remains,” Seigel commented.

Because the project was met with opposition, there was a desire by some members of the Swarthmore Students for Israel to engage in a dialogue and have their voices heard as well.

“Some people in the group hoped that we could try and start a dialogue regarding how such a demonstration could make some individuals feel unsafe” said Seigel.

Students from around campus had different reactions to the piece. Connor Keane ‘19 noted that the project effectively communicated the intended message and helped to facilitate thoughts on the issue.

I think that they succeeded in expressing their message. By making me aware of new dimensions of these issues in a fairly objective manner, the walls caused me to question the ‘standard narratives’ of these conflicts and want to inform myself further, which is perhaps the most important consequence such signs can have,” he said.

Hopefully the wall continues to spark informed discussion about the issue and serves to help students better understand the situation itself.


  1. Gosh, one would hope for better editorial prowess from Swarthmore. The lies and half-truths found throughout this editorial are ridiculous.

    1. Almost all of the American aid comes back to the US to create jobs.
    The wall is referred to as a “fence,” or “barrier,” because 95% of it is a fence.
    The only instance I know of, where the fence separated Palestinians from their land was Bil’in. The Israeli Supreme Court ordered the fence re-routed and that was resolved.
    As Palestinian shahids massacred dozens of Israeli men, women and children in the early 2000s—at times almost daily, in discos, pizzerias, hotels, and on buses—the Israeli public cried out for a solution.
    The famed Israeli intelligence and military were rendered useless; despite all their efforts, they could not stop the carnage. People would shudder as they got on a bus, not knowing whether they would make it alive to the end of their ride. Daily life became a nightmare.
    The right-wing Sharon government, which did not want to put any barrier between “Judea and Samaria” and the rest of Israel, was finally forced to erect the separation fence and the onerous checkpoints.
    The bombings stopped cold.
    The attempts at murdering Israelis—“amaliyats,” which received the blessings of the vast majority of Palestinians—have never ceased. There are dozens of attempts every single month and the only things that stop them are the barrier, the checkpoints, and the intelligence-driven arrests.
    The barrier placed 80% of settlers and 3% of the West Bank land on the Israeli side—land that under all negotiations and agreements was to fall under the Israeli state anyway. But for pro-Palestinian propagandists, this has been enough to call it an “apartheid wall,” a “land grab,” etc.
    If you were an Israeli, would you rather be labeled a “racist” and stay alive, or would you rather have a good reputation but have your life turned into a living hell until one day you yourself get blown up into shreds?

  2. “Along much of the frontier separating Israel from the West Bank, there are either no barriers of any kind, or easily avoidable ones. In response to dozens of suicide bombings, and daily terrorist attacks against its civilians, Israel decided to construct a security fence near the “Green Line” to prevent Palestinian terrorists from infiltrating into Israel.

    Israel did not want to build a fence, and resisted doing so for more than 35 years. If anyone is to blame for the construction, it is Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the other Palestinian terrorists. Now a large majority of Israelis support the construction of the security fence; in fact, both Jews and Arabs living along the Green Line favor the barrier to prevent penetration by thieves and vandals as well as terrorists. The fence has also caused a revolution in the daily life of some Israeli Arab towns because it has brought quiet, which has allowed a significant upsurge in economic activity.

    The security fence does create some inconvenience to Palestinians, but it also saves lives. The deaths of Israelis caused by terror are permanent and irreversible whereas the hardships faced by the Palestinians are temporary and reversible.

    It is not unreasonable or unusual to build a fence for security purposes. Many other nations have fences to protect their borders (the United States is building one now to keep out illegal Mexican immigrants), and Israel already has fences along the frontiers with Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, so building a barrier to separate Israel from the Palestinian Authority is not revolutionary.

    A security fence already exists around the Gaza Strip and, to date, not one suicide bomber from that area has infiltrated Israel, while approximately 250 came from the West Bank in the last 33 months. Approximately 75 percent of the suicide bombers who attacked targets inside Israel came from across the border where the first phase of the fence was built…”

  3. To the builder of the Swarthmore wall:
    Should the USA demolish the wall on the Mexican border?
    Should Russia demolish its border controls on it Turkish border?
    Should all countries demolish all border fences and border walls?
    Why single out Israel for building a wall on its border to keep out terrorists trying to kill its citizens.

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