Avi — Benvenisti — A wall against fear

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A wall against fear
By Meron Benvenisti
There was never a rational reason behind the need
to establish the “separation fence” or for the
route the fence follows, but rather a
psychological need that was avidly answered by
politicians and generals who had no better ideas.
The terrifying wall, which brutally rapes the
landscape of hills and orchards and turns the
lives of tens of thousands of people into hell, is
first and foremost a psychological division of the
world into two: on one side lies the protected
area of the “home” where people are expected to
live normal, peaceful lives, and on the other
side, the threat of death, barbarism and terror.
To provide a remedy for the
geography-of-fear syndrome, the
Israeli government is prepared
– with the fervent support of
most of the public – to invest
hundreds of millions of
dollars; and the true
significance of this
witch-doctor’s potion is hidden
behind the argument over
whether this is a “security” or a “political”
This national project is on its way to gaining a
place of honor among similar projects – all
equally cynical, populist, wasteful and
destructive – that were described at the time
of their inception as the height of Zionism and
the most ingenious defensive system, but whose
initiators today deny all involvement with
these white elephants that have faded into
obscurity. As usual, of course, no one will
demand accountability from the witch doctors:
There is no price too great for national morale
and the fence will never be tested in reality
because there will always be those who will say
that, had it not existed, the number of attacks
would have been incomparably higher.
It is inherent in “national projects” of the
“separation fence” kind that, at a certain
stage of their execution, the absurdity of
their existence will be revealed. This is what
happened when the fence-builders came to
Jerusalem and tried to set up the “envelope.”
The route that they chose follows, more or
less, the same arbitrary line – lacking in all
urban, security or political sense – that was
drawn so hastily in June 1967. This line was
dubbed the “Arak and cigarette border” because
it was fixed in such a way as to leave the
factories producing liquor and cigarettes
outside the municipal boundaries of the
reunited city. Its only purpose was to annex
areas empty of Arab residents and to leave the
populated areas outside the municipal border.
Now, 36 years later, when the entire urban space
of Jerusalem (way beyond its artificial
borders) is filled by hundreds of thousands of
people, they wish to perpetuate the 1967 border
“with essential corrections” which will make
worse the existing urban distortion and turn
the lives of 50,000 residents into a
Those who are planning the fence do not even try
to present proof that its route is based on
security considerations since there is no way
to explain why a concrete wall that divides
inhabited homes and crosses fences and streets,
has any security value, and why those living on
the other side of the fence are more dangerous
than those on “our” side.
In order to justify with “security reasons” the
drawing of a political line that cuts off the
Ramallah canton from the Bethlehem canton, they
have cooked up a groundless ethnic-urban theory
designed to give a collective identity to some
quarter of a million people as “the Arabs of
East Jerusalem,” loyal residents of the State
of Israel. This group of people to whom the
Israelis, out of the goodness of their hearts,
have granted a blue ID card, “have to” behave
as if they are different from their sisters and
brothers who find themselves on the other side
of the arbitrary “Jerusalem envelope.”
The theory states moreover that the residents of
East Jerusalem tend not to engage in terror
activities since they “have something to lose”
and are interested in maintaining the
advantages of holding Israeli citizenship. This
is an attitude typical of colonial powers who
are convinced they can define ethnic
identities, create them from scratch, place
them inside borders and fences and erase them
when they are no longer needed.
The Arabs of East Jerusalem – a fictitious
identity created when arbitrary borders were
drawn – are the “good Arabs” in the eyes of
those planning the “Jerusalem envelope” and if
they dare “to make trouble,” they will soon be
taught a lesson.
The fence itself will be dedicated at an
impressive ceremony and the Jewish public will
cheer on its far-sighted leaders. The danger
involved in building the fence, the
difficulties of crossing it, the
expropriations, the loss of contact between
families – all of these will serve merely to
increase enmity and nurture the urge for
revenge, but these do not bother the
fence-builders. Anyway, as the fence-planners
know, the aim of the fence is not security but
One can assume that the fence-planners would
like to avoid the embarrassment caused them by
the “Jerusalem envelope” but, what can one do,
the psychological and political pressure
increased after the last murderous terror
attack. And so what if the absurdity and
baselessness of the fence idea have been
revealed? It’s not important, because the
public so badly desires a wall against fear
that no one will bother to ask questions.