Friday, September 15, 2006

OP-ED, Israeli Wall differs from US Mexican barrier, By Ray Hanania

US barrier differs significantly different from Israel's wall

Sept. 16, 2006
Arab American Media Services. Permission granted to republish in entirety.

By Ray Hanania

One is allegedly being built to provide security, the other to prevent non-citizens from entering their country.

The Wall that Israel continues to build and the wall that the United States is planning to build have many things in common.

But the one thing they do not share is deception.

The Israeli wall is in fact deceptive in its motives, hiding behind a popular excuse to justify an unpopular real objective.

The American Wall to prevent Mexicans from entering the United States illegal will be built on American soil.

The Israeli Wall which is mostly concrete and 26 feet tall in populated areas, and a combination of equally tall barbed wire fencing bordered by cement trusses and moats is being built on land that is outside of Israel and now farmed and owned by Palestinians in the West Bank.

Israelis see the debate over whether it is a Wall or a Fence as an opportunity to distract audiences from the real issue that undermines Israel’s arguments justifying the wall that it is really an outright land grab to expand the boundaries of the Jewish State of Israel by annexing by default land from non-Jewish inhabitants in the West Bank.

Palestinians are constantly distracted to the debate over whether or not the Wall is in fact a Wall, which suggests a harsher image, or a “fence,” which implies a more temporary structure.

They have even augmented the adjectives used to describe the Wall – something Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims do all too often implying that the reality of the tragedy they constantly face under Israel’s brutal occupation is never tragic enough.

It’s the “Apartheid Wall” which wraps itself around an unholy, immoral policy that was the official definition of the former South African governments that intentionally by law segregated Whites from Blacks and imposed a system of outright discrimination against Blacks by the White Minority population.

Israel’s law also embrace similar discrimination based on religion, granting to Jews greater citizenship benefits than those given to the Christian and Muslim “citizens” of Israel.

The reality is that Israel discriminates against Christians and Muslim citizens on the basis of race and religion, giving non-Jews a special numerical code that identifies them apart from Jewish citizens on citizenship papers and ID cards.

It’s abhorrent, but Israel’s subtle campaign to discriminate against Palestinians in every possible way is far from the outright aspects that Apartheid so abhorrent to so many in the world.

To fight the Wall, Palestinians should focus on the fact that the wall or fence, however Israelis wish to describe it, is less about preventing violence or terrorism, and more about annexing land under the guise of the alleged higher moral call.

It doesn’t matter whether it is a wall of concrete or a fence of wire. The Israeli barrier, the neutral term beleaguered western media outlets have surrendered to under intense pressure from the pro-Israel lobby, still conveys an immoral and unprincipled connotation when the true reasons for the wall are exposed as a clever land grab.

The theft of land has been a singularly consistent chorus in the orchestra of Israeli actions since it was founded through conflict and war in 1948.

The barrier contemplated by the United States and approved recently by the U.S. Congress would be a fence of wire rather than a concrete wall, yet it is invoking outrage among even those who strongly support curbing the immigration of foreigners illegally into the country across the border with Mexico.

Part of this opposition is certainly driven by racism and class distinction. But the images of a Wall were only recently in our generation erased from our memory as remnants of World War II and all the terror and oppression that war symbolized.

The Berlin Wall was a wall of shame, a symbol of oppression and the icon of totalitarianism. Why has Israel’s Wall managed to fall through the cracks of principle and morality?

Granted, Americans in particular among their generation in the West are the least informed people on earth about the truths of the Middle east conflict. They are slaves to media manipulation, the real materialization of the fears of George Orwell’s 1984.

The tyrants frighteningly evoked in Orwell’s fictionalized expression of future fear have not stormed upon American streets with tanks, soldiers and restrictive Nazi-like laws. Instead, they have cleverly managed communications to imprison the minds of Americans in a slavery of ignorance of facts and knowledge.

If Israel wanted to build a wall separating Palestinians from Israelis, I could easily support that notion. Most people who embrace peace based on justice and hope that violence will be one-day overcome by reason in the Middle East also might support the building of a wall, if it were built on Israeli lands and not as many as miles into the occupied territories of what should become an independent Palestinian State.

Imagine if the United States were to use the estimated $2 billion to $7 billion dollars needed to construct the 3,340 KM-long border fence or wall not on the border but on the lands of Mexico, the outrage and the violence that would be provoked.

In fact, I could imagine that if the United States were to do what Israel is doing to the Palestinians regarding land annexation, Mexico would declare war on America, and Mexicans would use whatever means available to free their lands, too.

The rights of individuals, the principles of justice and the rule of law all stand on the side of the landowner, not the powerful who believe that security can be misused as a means of taking someone else’s lands.

(Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American journalist, author and co-founder of the National Arab American Journalists Association. He can be reached at