A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Egypt's Wall

I haven't yet posted about the outrage over the Egyptian security wall along the Sinai/Gaza border because, first, Egypt denied it, and second, this is a crazy time with deadlines, massive blizzards, and the holidays. But sometimes events overtake intent. Here's The Arabist's post on this; this in a recent Ha'aretz, a piece suggesting "business as usual" for smugglers despite the wall; and there's a lot more out there.

On the one hand, I understand that smuggling from Sinai into Gaza has been a big issue between Egypt and Israel; and the Egyptian government is no friend of the Hamas regime now in Gaza, since they are the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt in their genealogy and genesis. Some kind of barrier has been inevitable, and it's not entirely clear that this is a major departure from what already existed.

On the other hand:

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it

and if I'm going to complain about the Israeli "security barrier" as a new Berlin wall (and with Christmas coming to walled-off Bethlehem, I am), I really need to be consistent and say that a deeper, more impenetrable barrier between Egyptian Rafah and Palestinian Rafah really is troublesome. Like the Berlin wall: are you walling Gazans in, or outsiders out? Or both?

I know there is no easy answer here outside of a peace settlement. I want Jerusalem to be the capital of two states, but I don't want the return of the Mandelbaum Gate. One Jerusalem for two peoples (three if we count the Armenians), three religions, two states, and the world. That may be the heavenly Jerusalem and may be unachievable. (Though I recall someone once noting that the ideal Jerusalem would have a three-day work week, since you'd get Thursday off for the Druze, Friday for the Muslims, Saturday for the Jews and Sunday for the Christians.)

I'd like to tear down all these walls. If you'd asked me if the Berlin Wall would fall in my lifetime I'd have said no (until 20 years ago, of course). I hope the separation wall falls, the Rafah wall falls, and everything that cuts people off from each other falls.

But it's Christmas and I'm being altruistic. I imagine myself as Ronald Reagan (and believe me, I've never done that before, except possibly during Pride of the Yankees) saying, "Mister Netanyahu, Mister Mubarak, tear down these walls!"

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