Loving the Israeli Wall

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” begins one of Robert Frost’s most celebrated poems. He is not exactly sure what that “something” is -- weather has a hand in it, or it may be elves. But he feels that the wall the neighboring farmer is intent on repairing between their two properties has no sensible purpose. “We do not need a wall,” he reflects, for:

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines …

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” he repeats, “That wants it down.”

Similarly, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also “wants it down,” announcing on June 8, 2009, that Israel must demolish the wall (which, incidentally, is mainly fence), now two-thirds completed, between Israel’s eastern border and the West Bank. Pillay contends, as did the so-called International Court of Justice, that the barrier is illegal and contravenes the rights of Palestinians. Moreover, the commissioner declared that Israel must “make reparations for all damage suffered by all persons affected by the wall’s construction.”

There is, of course, not the slightest allusion to the families of the more than one thousand Israeli victims of Palestinian terror since the start of the Second Intifada, who were affected precisely by the lack of such a barrier and who should by rights be receiving Palestinian reparations. Nor is there any acknowledgment of the fact that this particular “wall” serves an undeniably legitimate purpose: to keep out suicide bombers who have the annoying habit of crossing over into Israel and blowing up buses, shopping malls, gas stations, cafes, discos, pizza parlors, Passover seders, and whatever else they can take with them. Israel, apparently, is in default for undertaking to protect itself.

Nor is the slightest attention paid to the fact that in an especially sensitive area where there is no barrier, along the border between the Egyptian Sinai and Israel, over one hundred suicide bombers, kidnappers, and weapons experts were apprehended by Israeli security and eleven terror rings were dismantled in 2006 alone. The Palestinian suicide bomber who killed three Israelis in Eilat in January 2007 infiltrated through this weak point. The terrorist who self-detonated in a shopping mall in Dimona in February 2008, killing one person and injuring thirty-eight others, may have penetrated through the open border with Egypt after the Rafah wall was leveled by Hamas. Another theory is that he came from the area of Hebron where the security barrier remains unfinished.

Pillay, like most of her duplicitous ilk, also has nothing to say about the palisade being built by the government of Thailand, which is higher and longer than the Israeli barrier, to cordon off two million Muslims living in the south of the country. She has nothing to say about the “wall of shame” dividing Morocco from Western Sahara (1,500 miles), the electrified fence between Botswana and Zimbabwe (300 miles), and the soon-to-be-completed, ten-foot-high barrier along the entire border between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, built by the Saudis to discourage terrorist infiltration!

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.