Solid Walls vs. Flimsy Rhetoric

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) recently posted a message on Locust Walk comparing Israel’s border security operations to Donald Trump’s controversial political statements in an effort to convince people who dislike Trump to side against Israel and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Unsurprisingly, SJP neglects to mention the persistent threat of terrorism against the Israeli people, which bears little comparison to the security of the United States.

Instances of violent crime committed by “undocumented” immigrants in the United States are not particularly common. Trump may have used such instances to sway public opinion, but the purpose behind his aggressive immigration policy is plainly to prevent undocumented immigrants’ competing with U.S. citizens for jobs or public benefits.

Contrast this with Israel, which has been subject to military assault by its neighbors since its inception, simply for existing. Still today, Israel endures constant bombings, shootings, stabbings, and rocket attacks perpetrated by terrorists from Palestine who are financially supported by Palestinian governing bodies (and more powerful Middle Eastern countries such as Iran). During the Second Intifada from 2000 to 2005, militants and terrorists based in Palestinian territories slaughtered approximately one thousand Israelis of Jewish and Arab background alike, more than two-thirds of whom were civilians (in addition to hundreds of Palestinian civilians, often for suspected collaboration with Israel). At the height of the bloodshed in March 2002, an average of four Israelis were killed per day. Throughout the Intifada, the overall average was about one Israeli death every two days, and more than one civilian every three days.

In response to the Intifada, Israel constructed a security barrier near the “Green Line” border between Israeli- and Palestinian-populated areas in the West Bank to prevent terrorists from entering Israel and to hinder militant snipers in Palestine from targeting civilians. Since construction, terrorist attacks have decreased by 90 percent, lowering terror-related murders by 70 percent and injuries by 85 percent. A leader of the terrorist organization Islamic Jihad called the fence an “obstacle” to terrorist operations and stated, “If it were not there, the situation would be entirely different.” The barrier was constructed with judicial approval and careful consideration of its impact on Palestinians; several times, parts of it were rerouted or dismantled in response to Palestinian complaints, and monetary compensation was provided to Palestinians affected by it.

It stands as a simple fact that Israel must be aware of who enters through all its borders if it is to keep its citizens alive, and the success of the West Bank barrier in decreasing civilian deaths is evidence that, in Israel, border walls are an effective and necessary means of defense. Precisely where the border should lie and whether or where Israel should be allowed to build or expand settlements are issues that are up for debate. But to assert that Israel has some moral or humanitarian obligation to maintain open borders is to condone the senseless murder of thousands upon thousands of innocent Israelis, not to mention the negation of Israel’s right to self-determination.

Granted, Netanyahu did send out the tweet comparing Trump’s immigration policy to his. However, Netanyahu does not speak for all Israelis; on the contrary, he is a highly polarizing figure there. Additionally, he owes it to his people to do what he can to keep US-Israel relations healthy; without US aid and alliance, Israel’s security would be undermined. Thus, he must often take steps to appease Trump, just as he would be appeasing Clinton if she were president. Still, his words have consequences, and he bears responsibility for Americans’ associating Israeli border policy with Trump’s. But his statement does not change the fact that Israel’s border security is necessary to keep innocent people alive.

Clearly, when Trump and Netanyahu use the words “illegal immigration,” they are referring to two entirely different issues of incomparable severity. If SJP truly seeks a peaceful solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict that guarantees security, rights, and self-determination to both Palestinians and Israelis, they would not so vehemently criticize border security measures that have saved innumerable Israeli lives and pose, at most, a severe inconvenience to Palestinian bystanders. (They might also do well to not include actual terrorists in a memorial to fallen Palestinians.)

Considering these facts, if you are anti-Trump, you should not necessarily be anti-Netanyahu, or at the very least, you should not be anti-Israel. Netanyahu has indeed “already built” a border wall, and he had very good reason to do so. Unlike that of the United States, Israel’s border security is not a matter of jobs or welfare; innocent lives hang in the balance.

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