Columnists
From Bethlehem to Brownsville, Texas: border walls can have unintended consequences
By Henry H. Bucher, Jr., Faculty in Humanities, Austin College
Dec 28, 2018
Print this page
Email this article

Our president, in pushing for his USA/Mexico "great wall," recently noted that Israel’s barrier wall was "99.9% successful." Built after the violence of the 2000 Intifada, its 26 foot-high cement structure walled off most of what international law calls the Israeli-occupied West Bank.  Israel’s present government calls it Judea and Samaria.

Violence has been reduced in Israel, but not in the West Bank, especially where there are Israeli settlers. One unintended consequence of the barrier is to strengthen the argument of Palestinian progressives and their supporters, who have always called for a non-violent solution based on international law. Most successful is the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement calling for a boycott of, and divestment from, any company or group profiting from the occupation of the West Bank. 

Prime Minister Netanyahu laughed and joked about BDS in the early 2000s, but Israel has spent millions trying to stall BDS’ successes. Both the Prime Minister and his wife are now facing legal charges and his government has lost its majority in the Knesset with new elections being set for April, 2019. The most repeated argument by Israel against BDS is that it is spurred by Judeo-phobic anti-Semitism. In reality, several Jewish groups support BDS and are working against many obstacles to achieve a two-state or one-state solution which assures sharing the land in a democratic society.

One maverick but creative response to the wall in Bethlehem, which passes across the street from a Palestinian-owned hotel, mixes satire with wit. The owner changed the hotel’s name to the “Walled-Off Hotel” from the once famous Waldorf-Astoria which catered to the wealthy traveler, especially in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. The Walled-Off’s menu, art displays, and more, stress Palestinian resistance themes. The Walled-Off “proudly” advertises the “worst view in the world!” It has profited from the wall, especially at times like Christmas when the little town becomes much bigger in the number of visitors.

As our president loves to repeat: “We will see what happens.”