Israeli Barrier Around Gaza

Putting aside geopolitics for a minute (whether I call it a "wall" or a "fence" is a political decision, for example), it's interesting to read the technical security details about the barrier the Israelis built around Gaza:

Remote control machine guns, robotic jeeps, a double fence, ditches and pillboxes along with digitally-linked commanders are all part of the IDF's new 60-kilometer layered protection around the Gaza Strip.

[...]

The army has set up a large swath of land around the Strip for placing barbed wire coils, an electronic fence, and two patrol roads named Hoovers Alef and Hoovers Bet. There will also be a third patrol road a few hundred meters from the fence. All the land was "purchased" from the border settlements by the Defense Ministry. The army said it would allow farmers to work some of the land if possible.

Besides the barriers, the army has relocated over 50 cement pillboxes from their location inside the Gaza Strip to the new border. Some of these will be equipped with 50-caliber machine guns with laser sights that can be fired from control rooms equipped with monitors and radar along the border.

[...]

The IDF is also taking into account that the Palestinians may try to dig tunnels under the fence, but would not elaborate on steps it was taking to thwart such action.

In Beyond Fear pages 207-8, I wrote about the technical details of the Berlin Wall. This is far more sophisticated.

Posted on September 12, 2005 at 11:32 AM • 62 Comments

Comments

ZwackSeptember 12, 2005 12:01 PM

Leaving Geopolitics aside, have any of these walls/fences/defences ever been shown to be effective?

The Berlin Wall, The Great Wall of China, The Maginot line,...

Hadrian's wall is the only one that I can't think of having been breached, but given the Antonine wall was further North perhaps the fact that it was entirely in Roman territory helped.

Z.

StudentSeptember 12, 2005 12:42 PM

Walls can be effective, but not as a single defence. For example, the walls around a prison tend to cut down the amount of people getting out.

Castles dominated the lands for a very long time. If you controlled the castle you controlled the area.

If you want larger scale examples Finland built and defended several lines during the second world war, resulting in huge losses for the Russian army.

As long as you remember the fact that walls are tools and not perfect solutions in themselves they are quite good. Humanity has not spend the last three or four thousand years building walls and defences without a reason.

Christophe CSeptember 12, 2005 1:04 PM

The example of the Maginot line (to protect France in 1940) is a good one: it was so powerful that Germans had to go through some areas they were not expected to cross (the Ardennes mountains).
The lesson is: good defense will lead to a big surprise.
[Please forgive my poor English].

Bruce SchneierSeptember 12, 2005 1:07 PM

The Berlin Wall was very effective. It wasn't perfect, but it was effective. Similarly, the Gaza whatever-you-call-it is greatly reducing the number of suicide bombers coming into Israel from Gaza. The broader question is whether the trade-off is worth it.

Pat CahalanSeptember 12, 2005 1:12 PM

@ Lee

I think what historybuff was trying to say was the Maginot Line was supposed to ensure that Germany couldn't invade France without going through Belgium, which would draw the British into any conflict on the side of the French.

In that sense, it *did* function exactly as designed.

If anyone really believes that defensive wall strategies are ineffective, ask the guys who survived Omaha. They're not necessarily built to keep everyone out, just increase the cost of getting past the wall.

RvnPhnxSeptember 12, 2005 1:22 PM

Y'all are missing the point! By building this damn thing is the IDF showing any good will towards Gaza's Palestinians at all? I think not. They (Palestinians) still don't control the roads in/out or the airspace--and god (or whichever deity may please you) forbid that they attempt to go fishing off of the coast. So it looks to me quite a bit like all the Isreali's have done is expand the effective size of the holding pen that has been Gaza since they wrested control of it from Egypt.

LeeSeptember 12, 2005 1:24 PM

@Pat

Yes i agree totally with that, one thing you have to look at is something i know bruce has said before, about bad security possibly being worse than no security. A wall/fence is designed to keep people out, but in the case of the the maginot line it may as well not have been there because the end result was still the same.

Glauber RibeiroSeptember 12, 2005 1:25 PM

The Gaza wall has the advantage of being built on land that's available for free.

ZwackSeptember 12, 2005 1:36 PM

The Maginot line was touted as protecting France from attack by Germany. While well designed, it didn't solve the real problem (the Germans attacked elsewhere)

Bruce stated that the Gaza Barrier is effective as it is "greatly reducing the number of suicide bombers coming into Israel from Gaza." I would be curious as to how much the withdrawal of settlers from Gaza has to do with that compared to the Barrier? Is the Barrier actually deterring people or are there other reasons for the drop in the number of suicide bombings?

Z.

Precision BloggerSeptember 12, 2005 1:59 PM

Zwack, you raise a question that is being passionately debated in Israel. One of the primary goals of withdrawal from Gaza is to give Israel a more defendable border. (A more obvious goal is to stop the deaths of Israeli soldiers who died in Gaza defending the settlers, and there are other goals as well.)

Some argue that Israels' presence within Gaza enabled them to protect Israel better. Only time will tell who is right.

In any case, war these days is about more than borders. A similar argument rages about whether withdrawal will make it easier to fire rockect from Gaza to Israel.

Personally, I believe Sharon made a good decision; I hope to live long enough to tell whether he might be right.
- Precision Blogger

PeterSeptember 12, 2005 2:10 PM

Forgive if I'm wrong; but aren't the Berlin Wall and the Gaza Wall functional opposites? Once to keep people in and one to keep them out. It make sense that they would be very different.
Peter

EddieSeptember 12, 2005 2:53 PM

As far as I remember, the Gaza barrier was breached 3 times by attackers in the last 10 years, one was a bus driver who had a work permit who drove his bus into a group of soldiers, the other 2 were British nationals who set off a bomb at Mike's bar in Tel Aviv. All 3 had legitimate reasons to leave Gaza.

I've was in Gaza this summer, there have been a lot of civillian casualties from people who've approached the barrier, the mentally ill, kids, etc. If your goal is to preserve life, the wall has been a failure. If your goal is to preserve Jewish life, it's been a success, now to be repeated in the West Bank.

jonasSeptember 12, 2005 2:57 PM

@Peter: that depends on which side you believe... according to East German officials the "Antifaschistischer Schutzwall", as the wall was actually called by their leaders, was designed to keep the bad influence of western capitalism and foreign spies OUT.

UnixroninSeptember 12, 2005 3:39 PM

The spiritual similarity to the Berlin wall is pretty obvious. Really, the major difference is that the guards are on opposite sides of the perimeter. I find this a rather sad comment on the paranoia that Israel has grown into. In the words of a friend of mine, "The real triumph of the Palestinians has been to make the Israelis as crazy as they are."

As for the Maginot line, well ... it was at best a partial success. To say "it forced Germany to go through Belgium and thereby bring Britain into the war on the side of France" is disingenuous, considering that Germany did not invade Belgium and France until 1940, by which time Britain was already at war with Germany, Neville Chamberlain having been politically forced to declare war on Germany (simultaneously with France) on September 3, 1939, two days after after Germany invaded Poland.
Even then, it's widely stated that "the Maginot Line never actually fell." This, too, is false; while the main German assault went around the end of the Line, Hitler ordered the German forces to smash through the Maginot Line at one place anyway, simply as a demonstration of force to show that he could have done it any time he wanted to. It took the German war machine a single day to breach the Maginot Line.

David ThornleySeptember 12, 2005 4:09 PM

The Maginot Line and the Great Wall of China both worked well for their intended purposes, but both were intended to serve as part of an overall security plan.

The Great Wall of China wasn't all that effective against invaders (even today, nobody can defend a line that long in a static way), but it was very effective against raiders. Raiders could break through the wall and head off to rape and kill and loot and plunder, but it was quick and easy to station enough troops at the breach to stop them from coming back that way. The wall did a very good job of preventing raiders from getting back beyond it to safety, and allowing converging Chinese forces to pin the raiders against the wall and kill them.

The Roman limes, when the Empire was doing well, did something different: they served as light defenses and observation posts so the legions could smash incoming attacks on the other side of the line, before they reached Imperial territory proper.

From the early Roman fortified camps to the great fortifications of the 17th and 18th centuries, fortifications were very useful in protecting army contingents that could not otherwise stay in the field, allowing them to sortie at will. A network of fortified cities, castles, and other fortifications was useful in slowing the progress of an invading army, so that it could be fended off or defeated in other ways.

The French fortifications along the German border in 1914 were designed to stop the Germans. They forced the Germans to go through Belgium, pretty much forcing the British to come in on the French side. However, the French had no good plans as to what to do if the Germans did come through Belgium, and had to improvise fast. The fortifications were useful only in that they forced the Germans on a long detour that brought Britain into the war and gave France a chance to react to the German advance.

The Maginot line was designed to cover the border between France and Germany securely, while not tying up too much manpower. The main part of the French Army advanced into the Belgian plain to oppose the Germans, who were expected to attack as they had in World War I. The failure of the French plan was in not safeguarding the middle part of the front, where the main German effort came, bypassing the Maginot Line and cutting off the best part of the French Army.

The Germans did not have nearly as easy a time getting through the Maginot Line as their propaganda said, and tended to call pretty much any French border defense part of the Maginot Line. They certainly were not able to break through heavy French defenses in a day.

In military history, walls have been very useful as part of an overall defense plan, and pretty darn useless without one. When the plan was good, the wall was valuable. When the plan was bad, the wall might or might not help, but wasn't going to save anybody by itself.

angleSeptember 12, 2005 4:32 PM

[quote]The Berlin Wall was very effective. It wasn't perfect, but it was effective. Similarly, the Gaza whatever-you-call-it is greatly reducing the number of suicide bombers coming into Israel from Gaza. The broader question is whether the trade-off is worth it.[/quote]

So in your opinion, is the trade-off worth it or not? Or, to put it crudely, are Israeli lives worth Palestinian freedom?

Please commit instead of just saying wishy-washy things everyone will always agree with.

Ian WoollardSeptember 12, 2005 4:41 PM

Isn't the only way out of conflicts like Ireland and probably Israel is to say and do things that mostly everyone will agree with?

Davi OttenheimerSeptember 12, 2005 5:01 PM

@ Bruce

Excellent point on the technical aspects of the wall, but perhaps we could go back and look at the reasoning laid out by those who built these highly sophisticated systems to understand the calculations used to justify the extensive use of remote control and automation.

"according to East German officials the 'Antifaschistischer Schutzwall'"

Yes, that fits with what I have seen of the official East-German Communist propaganda of the day. The term you use is rougly translated as "anti-fascist protective wall". The books and papers I have seen use extreme and harsh depictions of West Berlin as completely overrun by Nazis who, after being assimilated into the new governing bodies, will cause great harm to East Berlin.

Ok, I apologize for dropping down into geopolitical issues, but an important factor to remember is that Walter Ulbricht, head of the East German Communist Party, is today widely believed to have wanted the wall precisely to increase tension and force the Soviets to intervene. This was actually counter to the Soviet intention to stabilize the area and create a buffer zone between them and NATO. Instead, Ulbricht seemed to have a knack for having a major crisis that required intervention every time the US and Soviets would meet. Here's a good book that helps uncover the details:

http://pup.princeton.edu/titles/7660.html

"In the wake of Stalin's death in 1953, the Soviets refused the East German request to close their border to West Berlin. The Kremlin rulers told the hard-line East German leaders to solve their refugee problem not by closing the border, but by alleviating their domestic and foreign problems. The book describes how, over the next seven years, the East German regime managed to resist Soviet pressures for liberalization and instead pressured the Soviets into allowing them to build the Berlin Wall."

So it seems to me that the political pressures to build a wall are an inextricable part of trying to evaluate the real cost-benefit even if you are just looking at the technology used.

Davi OttenheimerSeptember 12, 2005 5:10 PM

"I wrote about the technical details of the Berlin Wall. This is far more sophisticated."

Perhaps the question should then be "would the Berlin Wall have been as sophisticated as the Israeli Wall, if the technology existed?"

I would argue no, at least not to begin with, since tension between a state and a group trying to escape has a very different risk profile when compared with people intent on causing catastrophic harm to a state that they declare does not have a right to exist.

DMSeptember 12, 2005 5:27 PM

Davi - the "catastrophe" is what Palestinians call the creation of Israel, and for them, that exactly what it has been.

Davi OttenheimerSeptember 12, 2005 5:38 PM

@ DM

That's a geopolitical assessment, which I'll restrict myself from commenting on.

Instead, I just want to point out the fact that if you are going to build a wall/gate/fence using all of today's technology options, you will have to take into account the threats, vulnerabilities, and assets.

In the case posed by Bruce, the threat is from someone who does not recognize your right (as a state) to exist. That is somewhat different than someone who wants to quietly infiltrate your state to cause residual change, and extremely different from someone who wants to leave your state as soon as possible and never look back. In other words, the technology chosen for the wall reflects a threat/vulnerability/asset estimation that probably has the word "extremely high" for each of the three values. That perhaps clarifies why such expensive and sophisticated technology was implemented.

Davi OttenheimerSeptember 12, 2005 6:53 PM

I thought this was also an informative section, which explains some of the wall's requirements:

"Israel considers the new line an international border according to the Oslo agreement. That agreement bars the Palestinians from building anything within 100 meters and the nearest non-public building must be at least 500 meters from the fence. But since this was a unilateral withdrawal it is not clear whether these conditions will hold.

The fear in the IDF is that the Palestinians will build high-rise apartments on the border that can be used to snipe at Israelis."

That appears to say a wall could not be effectively staffed by humans, as they would be vulnerable to threat of nearby sniper or perhaps even rocket attacks.

RalphSeptember 12, 2005 8:49 PM

To decide if this is a good investment of my limited security budget I ask myself two questions:

1. What can this wall realistically achieve for me?

2. What else might I have done with the money I am spending?

It does seem like a very expensive piece of perimeter defence. I wonder how many untrusted people (Palestinians in this case) will pass through or around it. On balance, I think I would have chosen a cheaper perimeter and spent more on defence in depth.

But maybe the decision to build it wasn't a decision made with security as the primary goal.

Davi OttenheimerSeptember 12, 2005 11:07 PM

"it wasn't a decision made with security as the primary goal"

Good start to your post, but the end statement seems to miss the widely discussed "Talking Points" that Israel published in 2003:

http://israelemb.org/sanfran/News&Media/background/tp070903.htm

"In the last two and a half years, 250 suicide bombers have entered Israel from the West Bank. On the other hand, not a single suicide bomber has entered Israel from the Gaza Strip, which is separated from Israel by a fence."

So, based on your first question, is that the type of ROI (realistic achievement) you could live with?

On a similar note, it makes sense to ask "what else has been done with the money I am spending" before you ask what "might be done".

Stuart BermanSeptember 12, 2005 11:15 PM

There is some focus here on the 'portals' of the barrier which is less relevant that the barrier itself.

One thing that should not be forgotten is the scale of the geography where distances are measured in mere miles and hundreds of feet. This isn't a buffer zone that requires a terrorist to cross hundreds of miles to achieve their objectives - it is a very short drive or a short run away in some cases.

If we use the perimeter defense analogy - the crossing points are the firewalls - these elements are not undergoing as radical a change. The rest of the barrier approaches today's concepts of no 'open WiFi access points' and no 'dial-in modems'.

'Z' - the barrier in the West Bank has proven to be very effective in reducing suicide bombers - less because it is impermeable but more because of the delay it adds to the delivery of very real and devastating threats.

The electronic fence along Lebanon was also good at giving a warning of breach - allowing for a response by the security forces.

All this being said - it is a great shame that such a defense must be built -peace if far more desirable. To not respond to active and constant threats would be irresponsible whether in Israel or in our own networks.

RonKSeptember 13, 2005 1:25 AM

@ Davi

I agree with you that the valuation put on infiltration and damage to Israel is "extremely high" in this case but am torn between two possible explanations.

The cynical explanation is that the immediate political damage to Sharon would be very great (excuse the lapse into internal Israeli politics).

A less cynical explanation is that any successful attack would damage the peace process on both sides (this explanation is also political in nature).

As an Israeli, I can't see that the decreased chances for civilian casualties are the force justifying this. Or maybe I've just become much more jaded than most Israelis to the risk of being blown up.

uriSeptember 13, 2005 1:32 AM

@ RvnPhnx
*you* are missing the point. by building this fence and securing this new border the IDF will make sure, or at least within a reasonable % or sure that no terrorist will cross into israel and kill israelis in any town, being close to the border or the more attractive tel aviv or jerusalem.
i've been living in israel for over 12 years now and i did serve in the IDF and i did see a lot of blood on both sides. still, if you ask me (and my guess is most of the israelies as well) they rather build a new belin/china/maginot whatever wall than suffer the loss of children, women and old people by the hand of some paletinean terrorist.
so, a big bravo for the IDF, we are with you!

RalphSeptember 13, 2005 2:13 AM

@Davi

A fair point; but my last comment was to point out my post only made sense with isolated decision criteria.

There is weakness in the logic that if one fence stopped one attack vector then another fence will stop another attack vector and all fences will stop all attack vectors. It is possible the first fence simply directed the attacks to a path of least resistance.

There are many examples of security ideas that looked smart at the outset but resulted in unforseen changes in attack patterns (kidnapping or murder of people who had safe keys is the kind of thing I am thinking of). My gut feeling is that this wall is likely to be one of them.

DMSeptember 13, 2005 2:55 AM

Lets keep in mind that this 'fence' completely surrounds gaza, much in the same way that the west bank is completely surrounded by Israeli controlled territory.

The fundamental goal is control - control of everything that goes in our out, people and goods, by land, sea and air.

Its not just protection against terrorists, its protection against any form of independance whatsoever.

ThomasSeptember 13, 2005 3:13 AM

Well the Berlin Wall or more exactly the Inner German Border has nearly the same effect then the Maginot Line. People coudn't cross it but they went around... via Hungary for example... similar to Operation Barbarossa at the beginning of the german invasion to France. Why does the iraeli government (or ministery of defense) think that they will do better?

GnosticPoetSeptember 13, 2005 4:11 AM

The walls are a necessary solution to an untenable problem;and (but), implemented badly.

The walls are needed to reduce the risk of either sides taking pot-shots at each other. And to reduce the likelyhood of conflict between extremists/zealots from both sides. But it should not be used as a panacea to the problem. And the rights and freedom of both parties must be taken into account.

The wall will never be able to isolate the Israelis from the Arab world. Israel IS part of the arab world whether it likes it or not.

AdamSeptember 13, 2005 6:36 AM

@DM

Gaza has a border with Egypt. It also has a (much bigger) border on the Meditteranean. Is the 'fence' in either of these places? The west bank has a border with Jordan on the Jordan River and half-way across the Dead Sea.

Neither are completely surrounded by Israel, however on both of those borders with neighbouring countries, there are border controls. Is this surprising to you?

You say "Its not just protection against terrorists, its protection against any form of independance whatsoever."

I would say that self-governance is a form of independence. I would also say that an independent Palestinian state would not be as much of a concern to Israel if it did not mean vastly increasing the length of its border while reducing its area. Even that would not be a problem if it knew that Palestine would be (a) friendly and (b) a buffer preventing attack from Jordan or Egypt.

For Israel to consider itself as safe as it is right now, both A and B must be true. If A or B are false, Israel loses. My opinion is that both A and B are false.

The very widely held belief is that Palestine would not be friendly towards Israel (and Israel has some responsibility here). A slightly less widely held belief is that another arab state hostile towards Israel (which is pretty much all of them) would not have a major problem with first invading a neutral or Israel-friendly Palestine in order to push Israel into the sea.

RampoSeptember 13, 2005 8:27 AM

@Ian Wollard:

"Isn't the only way out of conflicts like Ireland and probably Israel is to say and do things that mostly everyone will agree with?"

Quite. What's needed in each case is for a third-party to attack both of the combatants simultaneously, forcing cooperation.

RampoSeptember 13, 2005 8:28 AM

Didn't the Usonians build a barrier along the border with Mexico some years ago, to prevent economic infiltration? How did that work out, cost-benefit-wise?

AMSeptember 13, 2005 12:25 PM

The comments I have read here are very interesting, but lack some understandings of the situation.
The war between Israel and the palestinians is a low-intensity fight.
This fence is intended to prevent the palestinians from delivering suicide bombers to Israeli cities.
This fence won't stand against an attack by a regular army.
We hope it will hold against the terror of the suicide bombers, as it have done till now.

Those who speak against the wall in the west bank are either blind, or wish that the fight between the two parties will never end.

This wall will bring peace eventualy, as it will turn down the flames and enable both sides to think rationaly.

Davi OttenheimerSeptember 13, 2005 1:20 PM

@ DM

"The fundamental goal is control - control of everything that goes in our out, people and goods, by land, sea and air."

Yes, that is usually a big part of what people mean when they say "border" in the classic definition of a nation-state. Depending on the risks, control might be right at the border, or just further along the path of illegal trespass. But it nonetheless exists as part of what defines a nation-state.

In this particular case, as I've mentioned above, there is an extreme risk if any uncontrolled ingress is allowed, and thus the border has very strong controls to reduce this risk.

Martin Kramer has a short essay that covers his interpretation of how the wall might reduce risk:

http://sandbox.blog-city.com/when_i_last_saw_gaza.htm

"In leaving Gaza and putting up a high barrier there and in the West Bank, Israel has spurned the messianism of the far right and the universalism of the far left. It's still inspired by the model of the classic nation-state, in which the dominant nationality enjoys a clear majority and lives behind impermeable borders. Today Israel is reaffirming its faith in that model.

The problem is the weakness of Palestinians who share that faith. In leaving Gaza to the Gazans, Israel hopes to compel the Palestinians to mirror Israel. It's a gamble: people like [former mayor of Gaza] Haj Rashad don't call the shots. Israel will soon find out whether, in the person of [Palestinian leader] Abu Mazen, it has found someone who does."

JoeSeptember 13, 2005 2:09 PM

@Rampo

IIRC, it was a few miles long, in one stretch of Arizona that was popular with infiltration. It may have helped, but more likely, they just started coming in via a different section of the border.

acSeptember 13, 2005 4:21 PM

@AM

Saying "those who belive such-and-such are either ignorant or evil" serves no purpose in a discussion except to end it.

That said, the stated intent of the wall (to prevent suicide attacks) is not the only consideration. We must also take into account unstated purposes and unintended effects of the wall. Few if any disagree that the stated intention of the wall, in itself, is a good thing. It's the other factors which lead to the dispute.

The wall is effective at its stated purpose--that much is undeniable. However, it is also effective at other things, such as building Palestinian resentment and international/NGO scorn.

There is such thing as winning the battle and losing the war. The wall cannot bring peace by inflaming one side and reassuring the other. The wall will keep the hatred alive, even if it manages to contain some of the violence committed by one side.

Ari HeikkinenSeptember 13, 2005 5:45 PM

Heh, so it's not a joke? Surely looks like overkill to me and more like something from a Leslie Nielsen movie. I bet most people here thought US was wasting most money on useless security, but they could actually be wrong.. :)

DMSeptember 13, 2005 6:36 PM

DM: ""The fundamental goal is control - control of everything that goes in our out, people and goods, by land, sea and air.""

Davi: "Yes, that is usually a big part of what people mean when they say "border" in the classic definition of a nation-state. Depending on the risks, control might be right at the border, or just further along the path of illegal trespass. But it nonetheless exists as part of what defines a nation-state."

True enough, but in this case, the goal isnt only to control what goes in and out of Israel but also what goes in and out of Gaza, which clearly is no longer part of Israel.

When "borders" completely surround another "nation", the other entity isnt a "nation" at all, nor can it ever be. Its more of a "jail".

Can anyone think of a country that is completely surrounded by another country?

Davi OttenheimerSeptember 13, 2005 6:52 PM

"The wall cannot bring peace by inflaming one side and reassuring the other."

Isn't this the same thing as saying technical security enhancements can bring assurance to one side in spite of angering the other side?

That sounds like the stated purpose of the wall to me.

"The wall will keep the hatred alive, even if it manages to contain some of the violence committed by one side."

Again, I read this as the enhancements to the wall may contain the violence from people who hate the wall and want to attack people on the other side.

Am I missing something? This sounds like the stated purpose again.

Davi OttenheimerSeptember 13, 2005 6:56 PM

@ DM

"Can anyone think of a country that is completely surrounded by another country?"

Oooh, a juicy red herring. I'll bite.

Wait, do you mean in the geopolitical sense or the technical security details sense?

Clive RobinsonSeptember 13, 2005 7:39 PM

@DM and Davi Ottenheimer

Have a look at the map of South Africa..

There are other examples, however what is important is not one country surounding another, but any country that is prevented by it's neighbours from carrying out free trade, or other endevor that a nation state would normally be entitled to do.

Davi OttenheimerSeptember 13, 2005 7:46 PM

"any country that is prevented by it's neighbours from carrying out free trade"

Ah yes but even the simplest risk models would say that a country that bombs its neighbors is optimistic, if not balmy, to expect unfettered trade access.

Can we get back to the technical security details yet?

DMSeptember 13, 2005 9:53 PM

Clive: Oh - I hadnt realized that Lesotho and Swaziland still existed. I assumed that they were absorbed into South Africa after reconciliation.

Davi: this subject was always going to be a hot potato, but I note that you have enthusiastically participated in the political aspects of it.

Im sorry - which country were we talking about? Countries that bomb other countries; umm, lets see now...

Hmm, countries whos founding principle enshrines racial/cultural/religious homogeneity and supremacy, hmm....

The most striking image I have from the time I lived in Israel is of two Israeli settlements on hilltops, modern apartment buildings and lush green gardens, joined to each other by a massive bridge over a decrepit palestinian village.

I think this vertical partitioning scheme has now been abandoned for the horizontal partitioning scheme that is so hot right now.

This wall is a sign of a massive failure of politics, and a sign of the complete failure of Israel, the nation.

Davi OttenheimerSeptember 13, 2005 10:27 PM

"I hadnt realized that Lesotho and Swaziland still existed"

Minor oversight. Hate it when facts jump in the way, eh?

"I note that you have enthusiastically participated in the political aspects of it"

Begrudgingly. I was really hoping to find out more about the technical details of automated scope and surveillance, but its probably not open to discussion.

"This wall is a sign of a massive failure of politics"

A symptom of border disputes, a sign of concern with escalating risks, control of the region, yes, I think you are on the right path there. Somehow it seems to fit with the history of walls in the region like 1004BCE (when the Jews won), 586BCE (when the Babylonians won), 141BCE (when the Jews won), 69CE (when the Romans won), 1076CE (when the Muslims won) 1099CE (when Christians won), 1187CE (when Muslims won)...I'm sure I'm missing a lot here, but basically 4,000 years of confrontation show that technology has done little on its *own* to resolve or increase the tension in the region.

Davi OttenheimerSeptember 13, 2005 10:32 PM

"which country were we talking about? Countries that bomb other countries"

Exactly. Any country actively at war with its neighbors will have serious issues with trade, which it should be calculating as part of its risk analysis. I don't see what's so surprising about this.

DMSeptember 13, 2005 11:41 PM

Davi: "Any country actively at war with its neighbors will have serious issues with trade".

True enough, as is the corrolary, "any country/people unable to trade because of its neighbors, will end up at war with them".


RampoSeptember 14, 2005 8:46 AM

Countries surrounded by other countries:

San Marino (surrounded by Italy)

Vatican (surrounded by Italy)

There are several passport-issuing "Red Indian" nations which are surrounded by the Unitied States.

acSeptember 14, 2005 10:39 AM

@Davi

You're missing my point. I said "The wall is effective at its stated purpose--that much is undeniable". It's pretty clear that the wall keeps suicide bombers out, just as effectively (or more effectively) than a lock on a door. So we're in agreement.

I was countering the assertion in AM's post that the wall would bring peace. Even neglecting for the moment that the wall inflicts hardship on Palestinian non-combatant, the wall totally fails to protect Palestinians against Israeli attacks.

Again, that's not its stated purpose. It succeeds wildly at its stated purpose. But it won't bring peace.

Davi OttenheimerSeptember 14, 2005 11:17 AM

@ ac

"But it won't bring peace."

I think the odds, as well as history, are in your favor so I can't disagree with that.

I also can't disagree with the idea that the wall will succeed at something it was not designed for.

But I think Martin Kramer has a faschinating take on the matter; if a highly technical wall that allows Israel to feel safe with 0% encroachment on the PA side (per the Oslo accords) facilitates a stronger sense of ownership/nationalism by the Palestinians, then a new risk model may emerge.

Davi OttenheimerSeptember 14, 2005 11:42 AM

@ DM

"any country/people unable to trade because of its neighbors, will end up at war with them"

No, that's not true at all. Trade disputes do not automatically end up in war. Wait, all the Arab states ban trade with Israel (ala the Coke/Pepsi market dilemma), so does that mean Israel should send suicide bombers into the Arab countries? Oh, the pressure to solve the world's problems in a blog.

How silly of me to overlook the "real" reason for suicide bombers being sent into Israel. Who knew Hamas was really just upset about trade embargoes?

DMSeptember 14, 2005 1:40 PM

David: Im using 'trade' as a euphemism for the freedom of movement of people and goods. The first and primary freedom.

As it stands now, and I think its intended to remain that way for the forseeable future, all movement of people and goods out of any Palestinian areas are to be completely controlled by Israel. That includes terrorists and weapons but also everything else. Nothing moves without permission, and the default is not to give it.

The "real" reason for suicde bombers?

As I see it - its pretty simple - one Rabbi put it to me that the Jews re-invaded the middle east. As someone descended from a colonised people, I tend to view it as a colonisation/migration of the middle east by eastern europe; the last colonial act of the millenium, and perhaps the most humane one (abscence of genocide isnt saying much). Resistance is inevitable. The same pattern of colonisation and migration would have provoked the same result, regardless of the cultures involved. Had millions of budhists descened on ireland with the stated intent of creating a budhist state, you'd find the same pattern of resistance.

datarimlensSeptember 15, 2005 12:22 PM

It is especially sad to see the Israelis deploy a more "advanced" version of the Berlin wall.
Learning would be a good thing.
What causes all the grief? (rethorical, it should be obvious)
Can the root cause be fixed?

DavidSeptember 15, 2005 6:45 PM

Just like the "surprise" of 9/11, if the wall is very effective, you can be sure other sorts of attacks will take place.

At one time, we only worried about hijackers on planes. Then they would blow up the plane. They they would take control of the plane and fly it into a building.

War is always about escalation, but peace requires justice and time.

Just look at how the bombs have "improved" in Iraq. As the weapons increase, we now have to worry about dirty bombs or nukes. The U.S. will deply drones that can attack with missiles. The terrorists start to attack with RPGs. Next they'll have greater and more powerful weapons too.

The wall may be effective briefly, but somehow, if there's no justice, they will breach the wall, but not by climbing it or digging under it. And because the attack is so hard to accomplish, the impact of the attack will likely be bigger. If you only get one chance, you'll make it spectacular.

And that's a recipe for even more danger to Israelis and Americans and those few remaining countries that are part of the coalition of the willing.

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