The Fallacy of Israel’s Walls
One conservative politician after another has appeared on national media to hold up Israel’s walls as an example of efficiency and a model that the United States should emulate on its southern border. None of the news pundits as far as I know challenged this analogy and the facts behind Israel’s walls. Should the U.S. really emulate this model? Israel has built basically two walls. The first is along the borders of Gaza the other extends about 350 miles through towns in the West Bank. Neither wall is built along Israel’s borders that have not been demarcated or agreed upon by its neighbors, as has the border between the United States and Mexico.
To begin with, conditions in Israel and on the U.S. southern border are not comparable. Israel is the only country in the world that occupies other people and their territories keeping them under martial law. Israel’s ability to protect its walls is not easily transferrable to the U.S. or Mexico. Thus far neither northern Mexico nor the southern U.S. states are under occupation. What Israel can do is not likely to be duplicated by the United States, unless the Federal Government declares martial law in several U.S. border-states.
The second difference speaks to where the walls are located. Israel’s walls are constructed on Palestinian not Israeli lands. Thus far, all plans call for building a wall on U.S. lands; not a slat is slated for Mexican territory. Several southern and western states will lose valuable land, some or most of which is privately owned. It is one thing to grab someone else’s land and take it for free then take it from your own citizens. Israel does not pay for land upon which its walls are built, but the U.S. will pay billions for land even if taken under eminent domain. The process of acquiring private lands will undoubtedly drag on in courts for years to come assuring escalating future costs.
Third, Israel has never advanced the argument that walls will definitely or are even likely to reduce the flow of immigrants, legal or otherwise, into Israeli territory as is now being advocated for the southern borders. Palestinians and other Arabs are not stampeding to live in Israel or under Israeli control. There are no “caravans” lining up to enter Israel. There are no lines of Palestinians or Arabs seeking asylum in Israel. Using the argument that a wall will stop unwanted Central or South Americans just like Israeli walls stopped unwanted Arabs is patently false. The same applies to illegal or legal drugs. No Palestinian drug gangs have threatened unsuspecting Israeli children. Tunnels under Israeli walls are not done to smuggle drugs but to bring needed daily requirements to keep people alive, given the Israeli siege of Palestinian towns and villages.
If Israeli walls were not built to stop illegal Palestinians from migrating to Israel, or to help stop drugs from pouring in, then why were they built? Television pundits never ask this question and they do not give us answers. They do not question why President Trump has only one international leader who is his authority on walls, Benjamin Netanyahu as if the Israeli politician was an objective judge of the efficiency of walls. President Trump would not dare or dream to ask this question of six million human beings who are the victims of Israeli walls. Millions of people in Mexico and the U.S. border-states will be the future judges of America’s wall, not Netanyahu.
Now that we raised questions about the reasons for Israel’s walls, we offer here at least three reasons, most of which are not appropriate for the U.S. wall. To put it bluntly, the wall is another means for a land grab. The Israeli government blatantly uses the justification of security to take over Palestinian lands under, around and beyond the wall. It makes lands so appropriated, without legality or compensation, available for use by its settlers. The World Court, by a vote of 14 to one (the American judge) found the wall is not needed for security but is purely designed to take over Palestinian lands. One can speculate about the ability of a Trump administration to confiscate private property and turn it over in a manner that benefits a real estate operative from New York.
The second reason is part of the ongoing Israeli attempt to weaken Palestinian economy, consistent with long-standing effort to make life unbearable for occupied Palestinians. Uprooting olive trees, depriving people of drinkable water, refusing to allow construction of new homes, restricting internal trade, discouraging Palestinian exports, and many more formal and non-formal ways to keep millions in need, are now joined by efforts to disrupt the movement of people and goods around these walls. These efforts have been widely condemned by international agencies and numerous governments. Advocates of America’s walls seem to ignore the likely negative economic impact on both Mexico and the United States. There is currently significant trade that goes on daily along the southern border. The Trump Administration has not even studied possible harm to Americans if they have to circumvent future walls.
The third reason is a consistent and persistent effort to dehumanize the occupied peoples. Israel has hundreds of ways to remind Palestinians every day that they are less than human compared to the settlers that run Israel. While Israeli settlers use the most direct routes, often under guard by Israeli military and border guards, their Palestinian subjects have to take detours around miles of walls. A Palestinian is deprived of easy access to his own farm even if he is old or infirm. Perhaps that is what the U.S. can borrow from Israel: the citizens of Mexico and other Central American countries should be reminded by the presence of walls that they are a rung below their white neighbors to the north, or to put it more in U.S. jargon that some of President Trump’s supporters are privileged while the brown people to the south continue their separate suffering.
Have these walls made Israel and Israelis more secure? It should be recalled that there were no security walls in the first thirty-five years of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and Israel managed to survive and prosper despite Palestinian resistance. Few today recall that the initial Israeli wall was supposed to be “temporary” and extend for only fifteen miles. The rationale presented then claimed that the wall was necessary to protect the road from Jerusalem to its international airport at Lod. The biggest threat at the time (2004) was suicide bombers, who had been somewhat common 2000-2004. The number of suicide attacks decreased in the following years, not because of a fifteen-mile wall, as wall defenders often maintain, but because the Second Intifada was called off. Should the Palestinians decide to go back to suicide bombing the security walls would not stop attacks, although walls may present an added challenge. Other contributions to Israeli security are the stuff of myth, not fact. Some Israelis point to decreased drug smuggling but never present facts about drugs before or after the wall. The same is said about Palestinian migration but never with a shred of evidence. The mythological approach to proving the value of walls would fit nicely in the Trump habit of ignoring facts. Walls would not enhance U.S. security any more than Israeli walls have for their security. Thoughtful Israelis know that only peace with its neighbors would ever assure their security. Peace along the U.S.-Mexico border has been maintained for over a century, without separation walls.