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When Fences Make Good Neighbors
The fence snakes its way for miles over dry hills and valleys, imposing
forbidding in its 12-15-ft height. In some areas, there are two rows of
wall, separated by a patrol road, and at night there are brilliant lights
supplement the motion detectors and television
cameras which monitor
attempts to cross by those on the other side.
The construction of the
has been widely and uniformly condemned by human rights groups, other
governments, environmentalists, and religious organizations, who point
the hardship this wall inflicts on the excluded population. Undaunted by
criticism, the government plans to add another 260 miles to the existing
miles of such fencing, to more effectively seal its border, making it 2
times the length of the former Berlin Wall.
No, this fence is not the one in Israel; they are constructing a similar
barrier to this which the US has on its Mexican border. The big
is that the Israeli fence is designed to keep out people who want to
them, while the US fence keeps out people who are illegally looking for
and a chance to better their lives.
If the US is justified by reasons of national security in building this
against the population of a country with whom we are at peace, how can
US reasonably criticize Israel for doing the same against a population
intent on its destruction? President Bush, who opposes the Israeli
said at a recent press conference that if the Palestinian terrorist
organizations were dismantled, then "a fence would be irrelevant."
have a formidable security barrier at our Mexican border, even though
are no Mexican terrorist organizations intent on exploding bombs on buses
San Diego and Los Angeles. We want to control our borders, even in time
peace; Israel should be given every opportunity to do the same,
in time of war. The history of the past 55 years does not inspire
for the dismantlement of Palestinian terrorist organizations.
The arguments against the Israeli fence are both practical and
Any wall can be breached, climbed-over, undermined, tunneled-under, or
flown-over. It will not deter enemies from firing rockets or mortars
the wall. In short, the wall may be ineffective in total deterrence of
determined to wage war on Israeli society. Critics point to France's
Line as indicative of a failed strategy relying on a static defensive
for protection, but they draw the wrong historical lesson.
was very effective in deterring a direct German attack on France's
front, but the line was too short and left the northern Belgian border
relatively undefended. That is where the Germans attacked, replaying
near-successful strategy of WWI. For Israel, having a defensive wall or
security fence to prevent easy entry for those intent on homicidal
is certainly better than having no barrier to such entry, despite its
practical limitations in total defense. The key is to recognize the fence
just one tool in border control, and not to fall under the illusion that
wall will provide total protection.
The more significant arguments are political, chief among them that the
security fence will demark the future boundaries of the planned
state, which should not be unilaterally decided by Israel. Further, the
Palestinian population is inconvenienced by the wall, which not only
into what Palestinians believe is their territory, but also separates
areas of that territory from another. Finally, the wall protects many
settlements in what Palestinians desire as an ethnic-cleansed area, free
At some point, political reality should intrude on these arguments.
fought five unsought wars to preserve its existence against the massed
attacking armies of the surrounding Arab nations. It magnanimously, if
unwisely, acceded to Muslim control over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem
the 1967 war. Bending to humanitarian concerns, and counter to the
of all the wars of the 20th century, it did not expel the Arab
from Israel proper in the 1948 war nor the Arab population of Judea and
Samaria (the West Bank) after capturing it from Jordan in the 1967 war.
did not engage in ethnic cleansing, though if it had, no doubt the
intractable population problems would not exist.
Israel has acceded to
view of a two-state solution, as it did in 1948 when the UN proposed it,
even though wisdom would caution that a trusteeship or protectorate or
mandate for the Palestinians would better fit the political realities
an irredentist nation, even one with limited sovereignty. It is not the
right of the loser in war to dictate the terms of peace; neither the US
any other country has adopted such a standard for itself, though there is
concerted campaign to do just that with regard to Israel. The views of
Israel as to its secure borders should be of greater import than the
of those who have been determined to destroy it. The wait for a
cooperative, accommodating, co-existing, non-irredentist Palestinian
will be very long.
Inconvenience to Palestinians can be minimized by access gates in the
but again the political reality is that the security fence is necessary
because Palestinians will not police themselves to prevent the attacks
the fence is designed to deter. Until Palestinians undertake the
dismantlement of their militants, they will be inconvenienced, just as
the Israelis who are blown up in discos and pizza parlors.
As for the settlements, the current fashionable view is that Arabs have
right to live anywhere in the old Palestine Mandate--Israel, West Bank,
Jordan–but Jews have only the disputed right to live in Israel proper.
West Bank area is to be ethnically cleansed of Jews, and their
used for Arab refugees.
Logically, this should lead to another enforced
population exchange, wherein the Arabs of Israel are relocated to the
Bank as the Jews there are expelled to Israel. If ethnic cleansing is to
practiced, it should be equitably applied. Jews should be free to live
any part of the Mandate area; that they are not is a symptom of the
problem’s intractable nature. Not long ago, a poll of Israeli
Arabs--citizens of Israel--showed 38% opining that peaceful coexistence
between Jews and Palestinians was not possible.
The corollary to the old proverb "fences make good neighbors", is that
neighbors require good fences.
from the September 2003 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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