“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out.”
— from Mending Wall by Robert Frost
“Why doesn’t the media print about the inhuman treatment in Israel and Palestine? They have surrounded the cities and cut off supplies. Over a million and a half Palestinians have died. If the inhumane treatment is disgusting, why doesn’t America do something about it? It’s disgusting what’s going on in Palestine.”
— from The Tonawanda News sound off column
Robert Frost wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors,” in his 1914 poem Mending Wall, but decades later, does it really?
Surely, the 400-mile wall separating Israel and the Palestinian West Bank didn’t foster a greater friendship. And, as Frost wrote, if there is “something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” surely it’s the Palestinians that are cut off from their jobs, schools and land.
In his book A Wall in Palestine, French journalist Rene Backmann explores this issue. As Backmann describes, “the Israelis are cloistered in a kind of moral superiority, living in a ‘walled’ society in which the aspirations of other peoples are cropped out of view, and in which they can live in peaceful denial of their role as oppressors.”
Essentially, Israel is like that bully stealing everyone else’s toys and lunch money during recess — a sentiment that two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof agrees with to some extent.
“Israel goes out of it’s way to display it’s ugliest side to the world by tearing down Palestinian homes or allowing rapacious settlers to steal Palestinian land,” Kristof wrote in a July 7 New York Times column titled In Israel, the Noble vs. The Ugly.
Yet not all Israelis are bad. Kristof goes on to describe the Rabbis for Human Rights, a group of Israeli rabbis who are opposed to the Palestinian oppression.
And if the wall is so bad, why build the wall in the first place?
Well, if rights and freedom are so precious, how was the U.S. Patriot Act ever passed?
Perhaps both the wall and the act are effective protection against the threat of terrorism, but for Palestinians, life with the wall will never be the same as life without the wall.
“For the people here, the land is as essential as water is to fish” Backmann quotes Qaffin’s mayor Taisir Harashi. “If you take a fish out of water, it dies. If you deprive a Palestinian of his land…”
The damage is unimaginable. Just like how BP and the Gulf oil spill ruined the livelihood of many sailors and those living on the Gulf Coast, those from Palestine who worked in Israel have no way of going to work because of the wall. Once prosperous communities like Qaffin now have 80 percent unemployment. Yet this doesn’t even begin to explain the total social and economic impact the wall caused. After all, is the price of safety worth crippling the whole livelihood of another group of people?