Israel appears to be developing an obsession with walls and barricades that would have made the Romans proud.* First came the infamous West Bank barrier, which upon completion will cover around 700km, clearly separating the territory of Israel and the West Bank. The Gaza Strip is separated similarly. The stated purpose of this was to protect Israeli civilians from Palestinian terrorism, and in that respect is appears to have been a success. But underneath this reasoning there may be a humanitarian disaster for the Palestinians. The Palestinian economy declined between 2000 and 2002 as work on the barrier began, and has only made a feebly recovery. Communities have been cut in half. They have lost their human right to the freedom of movement. This isn’t even getting into Israel’s highly criticised settlement policy.
The city of Jerusalem is increasingly becoming cut in half, between West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem. Both Palestine and Israel consider Jerusalem their capital city – and of course, neither respect the right of the other to exist. Israel, having won the most wars and gaining the most foreign military aid, now appears to exist more so than Palestine. But that’s a different subject/rant altogether. Jerusalem is bearing more and more resemblances to Cold War Berlin, separated by the Berlin Wall. We can only hope this wall will be brought down as peacefully.
Then I read the news article which inspired this post, commenting on the Israel-Egypt barrier being built along the border at Sinai. And then, just as I was planning this post in my head, I read this news story of yet another barrier being planned, this time along the eastern border of the Golan Heights as a result of the Syrian Civil War.
The Golan Heights were captured by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967 and have remained in their possession ever since. As the Syrian Civil War becomes ever more violent and bloody it has begun spilling into other countries – this can be seen in both Lebanon and Turkey. Israel has remained neutral during the war – again a whole other subject – and does not want to be affected by the instability. So up goes another wall. Once more this barrier protects Israel from terrorism, this time the terrorists being radical Islamist insurgents who have gained influence in the Sinai region since the Egyptian Revolution. However it was also intended to cut off the flow of African migrants into Israel, and in that respect it will certainly be successful once reaching completion early this year. It is also hoped to crack down on illegal drug trafficking.
While there may be some legitimate reasons for all this obsessive building of walls, the fact is that it does nothing for Israel’s image of being an imperialist occupier, and the idea that a Second Apartheid is developing between the Jews and Arabs of the region. In fact, a quick search with the words ‘barrier’ and ‘wall’ brings up results for every single one of Israel’s neighbours, though not all of these are quite so dramatic in scale. Virtually, there are walls over every single one of Israel’s borders. Extreme paranoia, an abuse of human rights or necessary defence? I could not say.
*Well, okay, the Romans would have resented any attempt of wall-building by Israel, but that’s besides the point…