Loving the Israeli Wall

As Alan Dershowitz points out in The Case for Peace, security barriers have also been erected by India, Cyprus, and even by the United Nations, which installed a security barrier to protect Kuwait from Iraq. The United States is justifiably constructing a fence along its southwestern border with Mexico to prevent the influx of illegal immigration. The wall that India is now completing to seal off its border from Bangladesh is one of the most impressive of the lot: it is three meters high and 2,500 miles long. Nor, for that matter, has its righteous indignation against the Israeli fence prevented the UN from constructing a security fence of its own around its headquarters in New York City. Oddly enough, no mention is made of the wall built by Egypt to check the flow of Gazans into the country. And while we’re at it, let’s not forget the Great Wall of China, celebrated as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and now a major tourist attraction, whose original purpose was much like Israel’s.

Both the American and Israeli fences have been compared to the Berlin Wall, an accusation which misses the point entirely. The Berlin Wall was intended to keep citizens in, not interlopers out. That was a wall that vindicably had to be torn down, as President Reagan exhorted Mikhail Gorbachev. But after the reunification of Germany, the UN -- and, of course, the EU and the bristling legions of “rights” organizations -- have been predictably silent about every other barricade in the world except, to a limited degree, America’s, and to a much vaster extent, Israel’s. The Big Satan and the Little Satan are plainly committed to defending the boundaries of their respective hells, which for one reason or another people insist on entering.

Adding to the devil’s brew, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has been consistently critical of the Israeli barrier, the most likely reason being that it spares Jewish lives. Naturally, there is not a word from Solana, a Spaniard, about the fences built by Spain with EU funding and over Moroccan objections around Ceuta and Melilla, the Spanish enclaves on the North African coast, to keep out Arab refugees. Nevertheless, as we have seen, complaints continue to abound from juridical and governmental institutions about the security fence separating Palestinian farmers from their fields. These organizations refuse to recognize that, absenting the fence, Palestinian terrorists are determined to separate Israeli citizens from their lives, which is obviously a matter of no importance.

In Frost’s poem, the protagonist speculates further about the uselessness of the wall his curmudgeon neighbor insists on patching up. A wall makes sense, perhaps, where there are cows,

But here there are no cows.

Before I 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 Israelis know very well what they are walling out, and it isn’t cows, pine cones, or olive groves. And it matters not a whit to whom it is “like to give offence.” Playing on Frost’s astringent pun, it is not a question of “offence,” but of “a fence” that just happens to save lives. Navi Pillay, Javier Solana, the International Court of Justice, and the rest of that sanctimonious crew have neither the right nor the moral authority to affect outrage or promulgate demands.

“Good fences make good neighbors,” Frost’s wall-loving farmer concludes, which, as the last line of the poem, continues to resonate in the reader’s mind, as the poet no doubt intended. Like the first line, it is twice repeated, to maintain the thematic balance. Obviously, something there is that loves a precept, especially if it is a good one. One notes that it is not the “old-stone” farmer but the skeptical speaker of the poem who actually initiates the process, alerting his neighbor that the time has come to mend the wall:

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.

It is as if the speaker subliminally concedes an implicit truth he would prefer were not the case. Even if one would rather have it otherwise and dispense with the need for barriers entirely, under certain circumstances good fences may indeed make good neighbors. It is moot, however, whether the Palestinians will ever make good neighbors, but from Israel’s perspective -- and from the perspective of any other nation that might find itself in an analogous position -- good fences clearly make less destructive neighbors.