Walls still oppress millions of people
It was quite disturbing that during the 20th anniversary celebrations for the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was little addressed about the walls that remain today.
Two of the most inhumane walls still remain and are being expanded as I write: the American-Mexican border and the illegal Israeli separation wall.
Both of these walls are justified on defunct rationality.
The U.S. border wall in many ways could be called the wall of ignorance. It is a wall constructed to prevent the flow of non-status or “illegal” migrants from Mexico to the U.S.
Much of the support for the wall comes from the American fears that see these migrants as thieves who steal American jobs.
This placid argument ignores that the migration is a by-product of the U.S. led North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The economic policies imposed on Mexico since NAFTA has forced millions of Mexican farmers off their land and has led to a significant rise in the unemployment and underemployment of Mexicans.
The irony is that NAFTA was first advertised as something that would decrease the flow of Mexican migrants.
In the words of President Bill Clinton, “There will be less illegal immigration because more Mexicans will be able to support their children by staying home.”
Although this wall is often justified as a tactic to prevent suicide bombers, in reality, its aim is segregation.
Even from an Israeli perspective, the wall is a tool of separation. Retired Israeli colonel Shaul Arieli said the purpose of the wall is “to shape the final borders of Israel … [to] annex [Palestinian] land.”
Israelis who continue to justify the wall’s existence appear ignorant to the fact that the Palestinian authority called for an end to suicide bombing in 2006.
If Palestinians have stopped using the tactic that justified the construction of the wall, does a need still exist for it?
Instead of being used for security purposes, the wall acts as a barrier of separation. It prevents a humane life for Palestinians, since it restricts the Palestinians’ human right to access water and medical care.
Pregnant women have been forced to give birth at Israeli military checkpoints because the Israeli authority has often disallowed Palestinians passage through these check points at night.
If this wall is necessitated by security, is it these fetuses that Israelis need to fear?
If not, then it becomes clear that this illegal wall is used to support a regime of segregation and apartheid similar to that of South Africa.
In the words of Palestinian scholar Hanan Ashrawi, the wall is “a grand theft…. It steals our land, our resources, particularly our water … but more than anything else it abducts any chance of peace.”
The irony is that walls reassign the role of victimhood. Victims become villains and villains become victims.
The U.S. border wall acts as a tool to rally American support behind the idea that they must protect themselves from the incoming hordes of Mexicans.
The Israeli separation wall puts forth the story that it is in fact the Israelis that are in the most danger. Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank harms significantly more Palestinians than Israelis.
Each of these walls addresses the by-product of a problem, ignoring the root cause.
In Mexico, the problem is an unjust economic system that breeds an increased flow of immigration. In Palestine, it is an illegal occupation that leads to Palestinian violence.
In living history, many not only ignore these walls but support their existence either directly or through ignorance and inaction.
While these walls continue to exist, they will perpetuate the systems of injustice that led to their creation.
Until these systems of injustice are gone, we should not be celebrating the fall of the Berlin wall.