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Thursday, September 02, 2004

Fence hypocrisy

By Erick Stakelbeck


The resounding success of Israel's security fence in preventing suicide bombings apparently has spawned a legion of imitators.

Although their actions have received little attention, several countries have built or are in the process of building barriers similar to the ones erected by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza.
Oddly enough, the European Union, which has been perhaps the most vociferous critic of the Israeli fence, is at the forefront of this movement.
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Last week, the European Union announced that it is planning to construct a security fence that will separate new EU members Poland and Hungary from neighboring Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. The European Union said that the fence was being built not to keep out terrorists, like Israel's, but to "prevent the free movement of migrants seeking to enter" EU territory.
In other words, the European Union wants to prevent illegal immigrants from its impoverished, ex-Soviet neighbors from seeking economic opportunities in EU member states.
This is not an unprecedented move. In recent years, the United States has constructed miles of reinforced fencing along its border with Mexico for much the same reason.
The problem with the proposed EU fence is the utter hypocrisy that comes along with it.
Last month, the European Union voted in favor of a controversial U.N. resolution demanding that Israel dismantle its security fence in the West Bank.
The resolution — which passed by a margin of 150-6 — came after months of harsh criticism by EU officials regarding the Israeli barrier, which has been labeled "contrary to international law" by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
In the eyes of the European Union, the Israeli fence, which is the primary reason that there has been just one successful suicide bombing inside Israel since March, is illegal. But the EU fence, which is being built mainly for economic and not security reasons, is perfectly acceptable. Adding insult to injury, the European Union has, according to reports, even enlisted several leading Israeli contractors to aid in the construction of its barrier.
The European Union's double standard on the fence is nothing new. In 2000, it helped fund the construction of a barrier between the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in North Africa and neighboring Morocco.
The Spanish fence, like the one currently being planned for Poland and Hungary, is designed to protect EU member states from illegal immigrants. The European Union also has plans to build a similar fence around the Moroccan town of Melilla.
"It's incredible that the EU has no problem building a fence just to keep illegal immigrants out," a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon recently told the online magazine WorldNetDaily. "But when the Jewish State builds a security fence as a last resort for the purpose of keeping terrorists out and saving Israeli lives, we are blasted by them and the U.N."
Indeed, the United Nations — which has passed more than 400 resolutions against Israel since 1964 — has thus far not contested any of the EU fences. In fact, the United Nations has been silent about a number of security barriers around the world, including one that was, until recently, being erected by Saudi Arabia along its southern border with Yemen.
The Saudis, who have adamantly opposed the Israeli fence, began building their own barrier in 2003, purportedly to keep out smugglers. In February, the project was scrapped — at least temporarily — due to complaints from the Yemeni government.
In India, construction began several months ago on two security fences — one along its border with the disputed territory of Kashmir and the other along its boundary with Bangladesh. India's fences — much like Israel's —are designed to prevent attacks by Islamist militants. Nevertheless, India voted in favor of last month's U.N. resolution condemning Israel's West Bank barrier (which is almost completely comprised of chain link fencing, a far cry from the "apartheid wall" some of its opponents have dubbed it).
Turkey, which has fenced and mined close to 500 miles of its border with Syria, also voted against the Israeli fence. So, too, did Thailand, which is currently constructing a security fence along its border with Malaysia.
Even Botswana and Uzbekistan have erected barriers along their borders with, respectively, Zimbabwe and Kyrgyzstan. Yet both countries voted in favor of the U.N. resolution outlawing the Israeli fence.
None of these countries are locked in a struggle for their very existence, as is Israel. And none of them can even conceive of the nearly 1,000 deaths — most of them civilian — that Israel has suffered at the hands of terrorists since the intifada began nearly four years ago.
All of them, however, can lay claim to at least one thing: self-righteous hypocrisy.