Today’s New York Times ran an article declaring that the Bush Administration might reduce U.S. aid to Israel in proportion to the amount that Israel might use to build its controversial “security fence,” which is designed to prevent Palestinian suicide attacks against Israelis. The fence is hated by Palestinians because it does not follow the traditional Green Line international border, but rather twists its way through the West Bank incorporating Israeli settlements in its scope and surrounding some Palestinian communities like Qalqilya on all four sides. The U.S. side worries that the fence may establish a de facto international border and in effect become an Israeli land grab of Palestinian territory it does not already control.
In Israel’s defense, most reasonable people will understand its motivation in constructing this fence. The suicide bombers who have attacked Israeli civilians within the Green Line have claimed a horrible toll of death and devestation. No one can fault Israel for trying to thwart the Islamic militants. A fence that followed the internationally recognized border (the Green Line) would be a project to which the Palestinians could not reasonably object. But the fence currently under construction not only protects Israelis within the Green Line, it protects Israeli settlers and their population centers. As such, the fence is no longer a defensive protection, but rather a means of protecting Israel’s illegal conquest of Palestinian lands. In other words, it is a means for Israel to maintain the status quo.
History is littered with the corpses of fences erected by various invaders and conquerors to keep out undesirable alien maurauders: Hadrian’s Wall, China’s Great Wall, the Berlin Wall, Belfast’s Catholic-Protestant divide. Fences do not work. They attempt to maintain an artificial divide between peoples, when the natural state of humanity is to mix, interrelate and engage is social intercourse. The Israeli fence will fare as poorly as the ones that came before it. Israel must make peace with the Palestinians to ensure real, true security. No fence can perform such a miracle. Only people can.
Returning to the issue of U.S. aid…this takes us into complicated financial waters. But it is important for Americans to understand how their tax dollars can enable Israel to accomplish tasks of which we might disapprove.
When the U.S. gives foreign or military aid to Israel, that country might not spend this money directly on projects such as the security fence. But U.S. aid may allow Israel to fund certain projects which it was intending to fund out of its own pockets. Having these funds freed up would then allow Israel to move the money over to pay for building the fence. In foreign aid terms, we say that such U.S. funds are “fungible.” That is, they may be used indirectly to accomplish purposes of which we Americans disapprove politically.
The Bush Administration is considering reducing Israeli aid by the amount that is indirectly supporting the security fence. I heartily support this proposal. The problem with U.S.-Israeli relations is that we support Israeli positions wholeheartedly. We almost never oppose Israeli policy. Israel, even when it does things of which the U.S. disapproves, never hears our disapprobation. Israel never faces any consequences for its odious behavior or policies (like building this reprehensible fence). I say that Israel must face consequences in order for any pressure to be exerted upon it to change its ways. No pressure, no change. It’s a simple as that.
Oh course, the ‘fence’ that you mention is actually a wall. But
doesn’t ‘fence’ make it sound more neighbourly and nice?
It truly boggles my mind how the media, and we ourselves, allow
language to be used against us. This mystification, bewitchment, or
whatever you want to call it, of language is possibly one of the
greatest impediments to true conversation and dialogue.
Interesting blog… Thanks!
Richard Silverstein says
Erin: Thanks for your comment & for reading my blog. I have a lot of posts about the Mideast conflict under the category “Mideast Peace” if you’d like to see them.
If I had written “Israel is building a fence” you would be justified in criticizing the “niceness” of the word fence. But by calling it a “Bantustan fence” I think my meaning comes through pretty clearly. “Bantustan” is a pretty strong denunciatory term, I think. You are correct in saying that “fence” is too mild a word & perhaps I should have said “wall.” But I don’t think it’s as important a distinction as you do (at least the way I formulated the phrase).
Until you have lived there, and had to pick pieces of your wife or daughter or son up off the ground, i dont think any american has any right to tell israelis how to protect themselves. Until the suicide bombers give up and stop their “jihad” nothing will ever change. If they gave up, the world would be much more quick to denounce things israel does, but as long as they send crackheads to blow themselves up no one will ever feel sorry for them.
Richard Silverstein says
Robert is spouting the same old tired rhetoric which Israel’s right wing (& their American Jewish supporters) have tried to use for decades to extinguish vigorous debate and questioning of Israeli policies.
Guess what? I’ve lived in Israel two years (and you’d know that if you’d bother to read any of my other posts about Israel) so don’t tell me I can’t speak my mind. I haven’t picked pieces of anyone off the ground, but have you? I doubt it. And even if you had, that has nothing to do with my right to criticize those Israeli policies which I believe are a good part of the reason all of these Israelis are dying in these terrorist attacks. And by the way, if neither you nor I picked any pieces off the ground at the World Trade Center, does that rule out either of us having any right to speak our minds about Bush’ terrorism policies? Of course not.
Robert also seems to have trouble with blog etiquette when he left the same comment in two different places in my blog (neither comment was relevant to the post on which he left it). Like my dog, he wants to leave his calling card as many places as he can just so I’ll know he’s been here.
People like Robert don’t want to engage in dialogue. They want to score points. I told Robert that I would ban him from my site. But since this comment is at least on topic (if not puerile) he can stay–depending on what he writes in future.