The not-so-great Wall of Israel
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
Robert Frost began his poem "The Mending Wall," with the famous line, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall." Yet twice in the poem Frost invokes the saying, "Good fences make good neighbors."
In the poem, a stony New England wall separates two farms. Frost says: "Before I'd built a wall I'd ask to know What I was walling in or walling out. And to whom I was like to give offence."
The State of Israel is building a great wall that will insert a barrier between Israelis and the Palestinians of the West Bank. There is already a fence around the other portion of Palestinian territory, Gaza.
The wall is giving "offence" to Arab Palestinians. Some Palestinians live on the Israeli side of the wall and will be cut off from the rest of the Palestinian area. The wall in effect reduces the territory of the Palestinian Authority and future Palestinian State. It will make it more difficult for Palestinians to work and travel in Israel.
But the purpose of a wall is to put in a barrier. Some Palestinians have been entering the pre-1967 territory of Israel to murder Israelis, including children. Some who profess the faith common in the Middle East have been led to believe that murdering Jewish babies will get them a favored place in heaven. During World War II, in Lithuania, German soldiers went around murdering whatever Jews they could find, including children. Elsewhere, Jews were sent in cattle cars to the death camps.
Even the Soviet KGB did not seek out children to kill, but the Nazi annihilation program infected the Middle East, where this continues. Jews in Europe tried to fight back, as in the Warsaw uprising, but it was doomed. The current killings of Jews by terrorists is just the latest phase of the slaughters, enslavement, and expulsions carried out by Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Romans, Crusaders, Russians, Nazis, and now Arab Palestinians. Now in Israel, Jews have for the first time in almost two thousand years a state of their own where they have the power to defend themselves against murderous attackers.
If one lives in a neighborhood infested with thieves, one reasonably desires to have strong locks and walls to keep out invaders. The lesson Jews learned in World War II was that in this cruel world, if you just sit there, you get slaughtered. So to prevent a second holocaust, Israeli Jews maintain a mighty army. But armies don't stop individual killers from sneaking in to kill babies. So the Israelis need a barrier to make it more difficult for murderers to enter their homeland. Israelis know exactly whom they are walling out, and why.
They say that the most important elements in real estate are location, location, and location. But that is incomplete. Timing is also important, since real estate goes through up-and-down cycles. So the elements are really location, location, and timing. The same applies to this wall. Right now there is a truce and a reduction in violent attacks. So for the sake of the truce and the road to peace, Israel should cease the construction of the wall. If the truce breaks down, they can resume building. Something indeed there is that for right now does not like this wall. It's bad timing. It gives offense not just to Palestinians, but to this moment's rocky road to peace.
But the wall should be seen in historical and geographic perspectives. This conflict is not just between Palestinians and Israelis, but between the whole Arab world and the Jews of Israel. Tiny Israel is surrounded by Arabs of a vastly greater area and population, and aside from Egypt and Jordan, no Arab state recognizes the State of Israel even within its 1948 boundaries. The conflict precedes the establishment of the State of Israel, as many Muslims and Arabs oppose the concept of Jews returning to their ancient homeland. Ironically, Arab states contributed to the viability of Israel by expelling their Jewish populations after World War II.
On one hand, Arabs don't want Jews to live in Israel. On the other hand, they kick them out of Arab countries and force them to move to Israel. With this contradiction, reflecting centuries of hatred, it is difficult to fault Israelis from concluding that good fences make better neighbors.
-- Fred Foldvary
Copyright 2003 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
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