Last year we had the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. We, here in the west, engaged in a round of back slapping and moral grandstanding as we bemoaned the futility and sheer brutality of a regime that would install a wall to keep it's population from leaving (to places it didn't want them going anyway). People were shot, drowned and blown up in their efforts to escape and those who were caught were sent to prison for their "crimes". As many as 200 people lost their lives in the 20+ years of the walls existence.
All very disturbing, disgusting and completely unjustifiable. But we have dark secrets too. Our supposedly free societies engage in something not too dissimilar and cause a great deal more death and suffering. But we don't want to keep anyone in our countries. No... we want to keep people in their own countries. Whilst the aim might be slightly different... the outcome is the same.
Israel is to construct a barrier on it's southern border with Egypt. This is not a defensive barrier. Egypt and Israel's relations are actually pretty good. This is purely an anti-immigration barrier. Netanyahu, the Prime Minister, said "This is a strategic decision to secure Israel's Jewish and democratic character". For which read: we don't want any of those foreign sorts around here. Refugee's will, he claims, still be able to claim asylum but I suspect they will be turned around at the border crossings and told to claim asylum in that famously welcoming country, Egypt. But this is hardly Israel's worst wall. The "Security Fence" on the West Bank was designed to defend Israel from attack. This is understandable. What is less understandable is that this involved it only following 15% of the internationally recognised border between Israel proper and the occupied territories. I.e. it grabs land from the very people it's meant to be stopping from attacking Israel. That is sure to bring them round. Despite it being declared illegal by the International Court of Justice, construction is now nearly complete.
Far worse than this is the USA's wall on it's border with Mexico. Rather than attempt to help it's neighbour deal with it's crime and poverty issues, it decided to spend billions building walls at the easiest crossing points. This forced those seeking a better life in the country built upon immigration to move outwards into the deserts where thousands have lost their lives. Thousands. Of course nobody cares. They are breaking the law, attempting to illegally immigrate. Why have sympathy for them, those criminals?
That I believe is what a lot of people in the German Democratic Republic thought about their own "law breakers" who attempted to flee for a better life in the west. Why have sympathy for them, those traitors?
And the list goes on... walls in Morocco one stopping people getting into the EU, the other "defending" Morocco from people in Western Sahara (a country Morocco claims is part of their own territory!). Walls in Belfast, Cyprus, Korea. Etc.
I think it's time we started taking stock of our own civilisation. Can we justify criticising the former DDR, when we continue it's policies just in reverse? Who needs informers when you have a CCTV camera on every corner? Who needs political prisoners when you have enemy combatants? Who needs a Berlin Wall when you can have one of your very own?!
We must change our ways. And soon.
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