Israel's barrier not a 'Berlin Wall'

Jonah Goldberg

2/25/2004 12:00:00 AM - Jonah Goldberg

If you must hate Israel, go ahead. But, please, don't be stupid about it. By which I mean there are enough intelligent reasons to criticize Israel - though I certainly don't agree with all of them - that you shouldn't have to embellish patent nonsense to bolster your case. Case in point the current brouhaha over Israel's new "racist Berlin Wall."

Israel is constructing a security barrier between itself and the West Bank. The hope is that it will curtail the influx of so-called suicide bombers who blow up people from all walks of life - old, young, men, women, Arab, Muslim, Christian and, of course, Jews - with regularity.

Yasser Arafat doesn't like the barrier, which in and of itself is a huge endorsement. Arafat claims that it will repartition the Holy Land and increase the hardships of the Palestinian people - a subject he's an expert on as he has caused so many of those hardships himself.

Others don't like the wall because it will remove "incentives" for Israel to negotiate a permanent peace. In other words, they object to the fact that the wall will work. Because the "incentives" for Israel to negotiate are the waves of terrorists blowing up old ladies on buses and kids in pizza parlors.

This barrier will make such attacks much more difficult. A similar barrier in Gaza has prevented any successful suicide bombings. Since 2000 alone, there have been over 300 bombings from the West Bank.

Which illuminates the stupidity of the "Berlin Wall" analogy, bandied about by Arafat & Co., as well as by countless scribblers and talking heads here and in Europe. The Berlin Wall was built to keep people in not to keep people out .

The people it kept in were decent folks who wanted to live in peace and democracy with their families, not people who wanted to perpetrate war by murdering families. So, yes, perhaps in the Bizzaro world from Superman comics, where everything is done backward, this wall qualifies as a new Berlin Wall. But here, in the realm where Earth-logic reigns supreme, it is distilled nonsense.

Indeed, for this barrier, wall, fence - whatever - to qualify as a Berlin Wall, a whole slew of other partitions would have to qualify for the appellation as well, staring with the one in Gaza.

Another "Berlin Wall" would be the one they're building in Saudi Arabia to keep out terrorists and smugglers from Yemen. To date nobody's called that a new Berlin Wall. Ditto: the wall dividing Cyprus, which has kept Greeks and Turks from killing each other for decades.

Neither have they condemned the "peace lines" the British put up in Belfast to curb bloodshed on both sides. The British newspaper, The Telegraph, grasping the Orwellian distortion behind the Berlin Wall rhetoric recently editorialized: "It is often said that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. By extension, is not one man's 'Berlin Wall' another man's 'peace line'?"

Well, that's half right. While it may be true that one man's terrorist is sometimes another man's freedom fighter, that doesn't mean the second man is necessarily right. Sometimes so-called terrorists are actually freedom fighters, but sometimes a terrorist is just a terrorist.

Saying that the definition of a terrorist is always dependent on perspective means that anybody who blows up innocent people can be noble just by saying so. Similarly, just because some people say that the new Israeli barrier is a Berlin Wall doesn't mean it's true.

I don't love the idea of a wall either. But it's the last resort of a nation besieged. The wall's defenders say it will alleviate the stress caused by Israeli checkpoints within the West Bank and that it may even convince the Palestinians that violence is futile.

I won't hold my breath.

But the fact remains that whether you call terrorists "freedom fighters," "martyrs" or "accountants," a state has the right to defend its citizens from foreigners who blow up its people. And if, to that end, you build a barrier some people foolishly call a Berlin Wall, well, that's a small price to pay.