Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Berlin Wall and the Palestine Wall

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall divided a nation. It was a tangible manifestation of the global split between capitalism and communism that nearly led to a nuclear war. We should celebrate its fall along with the Germans, and be thankful that our foolishness as well as that of the Soviet Union didn't kill us all.

Francis Fukuyama said the fall of Communism marked the "end of history." He was wrong. Violent symbols of conflict like the Berlin Wall still exist, in tangible as well as symbolic form.

Israel has built a similar wall through the West Bank. Along with settlements, it is part of Israel's colonial project to annex parts of the West Bank. As Robert Naiman notes in a great post on the Just Foreign Policy blog, 85% of the wall lies within the West Bank and outside the internationally accepted borders of Israel. It cuts off 9.5% of the West Bank and 35,000 Palestinians from the rest of their territory. The wall has been condemned by the World Court and even Israel's High Court.

Friends of Freedom and Justice Binin, a Palestinian activist group in the town of Bilin along the wall, excellently documents the confiscation and repression that the wall engenders on their website. Yesterday a number of Biliners marked the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall by protesting at the Israeli wall and actually ripping down a part of it as Berliners did to theirs. Check out the video below. As you can see near the end, the Israelis respond rather violently.

Definitely read the whole of Naiman's post. He notes that the US and EU have done nothing to stop the wall as we provide massive foreign aid to Israel. Commendable calls on Israel to stop building new settlements on Palestinian territory have not been backed up with action. Naiman notes:
We've reached this point in large measure because of the unwillingness of the Obama Administration to put real pressure on the Israeli government to implement past agreements - in particular, to implement a freeze on the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. When the first President Bush demanded a settlement freeze, he backed up his demand with real pressure - holding up loan guarantees to Israel. The Obama Administration never indicated that there was any "or else" associated with its demand for a settlement freeze, leading the Netanyahu government to conclude that it could just wait the Obama Administration out - a conclusion that appears to have been borne out by events.
In other news on Obama's failure to back up rhetoric with real change in our foreign policy: the New York Times reports that the Mahmoud Abbas is threatening to resign as head of the Palestinian Authority. He believes, I think correctly, that the peace process is completely untenable in the wake of the Obama administration "backpedaling" on its call on Israel to halt new settlement construction in Palestinian territory. Doesn't sound like change to me, Mr. Obama.

Note: Just Foreign Policy does some great work on pushing our government for a more peaceful foreign policy that is fairer to the people of the Global South. Check out their website and sign up for their action list. For subscribers they send out a daily compilation of pertinent news stories on American foreign policy; it's a great way to stay in the loop.

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