Blogging is to heroin as….:

Blogging is to heroin as….
: Bo Weevil is soliciting SAT questions. I nominate: Blogger : Journalist :: Caterpillar : Butterfly.

The Wall
: Nick Denton joins the calls for building a wall between Arabs and Jews, between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as the only sensible course left to bring peace.

I understand the desire: Enough of all you hate-motivated Middle Easterners, enough of your murders, enough of your hate leeching out of the region and killing others — us — all around the world, enough! Just stay away from each other, damnit. It’s like shouting at the kids in the back seat. Every parent in the world wants to build a wall between their kids sometimes. We want to build one between the Arabs and the Jews.

And Denton has a point: A wall may just buy the two generations the region needs to find peace.

But I doubt it.

A Wall was East Germany’s solution to a different problem — it was built to keep people in not out — and it didn’t work.

The first problem is Jerusalem. It, just like Berlin, wants to be an international city, a free zone, and that will complicate any plan to build a wall. No one will reasonably be able to keep Muslims from the Temple Mount and Jews from the Wailing Wall and Christians from their holy places. Jerusalem must be free. So if you make Jerusalem an international city, you build a big hole in the wall where bombers masquerading as pilgrims can pass through. You are soon forced to build a wall within the wall. You might as well not build a wall at all.

The second problem is image: The last thing Israel needs right now is to be seen as the wall-builders of our era.

The third problem, is that building a wall just avoids the problem, the real problem: the hate.

Fine, so a wall would make it yet harder for suicide-murderers to wander by a market or a hotel or a bus and trigger terror. But these merchants of hate, these people who will stop at nothing — even selling their own children into death and murder and hell — will find new ways to detonate hate. They invented the 737 bomb. They invented the woman bomb. They invented the child bomb. For all we know, they invented new, improved anthrax. A wall will not stop their weapons. A wall will not stop the retaliation. A wall will not stop the killing. A wall will not stop the hate.

I spent a lot of time in Berlin when the Wall was still up (I was working on a very bad novel about it that no one will ever read). When I first crossed over Checkpoint Charlie, I certainly was no fan of Communism, but I didn’t fully realize the damage it caused. By the time I came back across to the West, I saw the damage clearly. I saw it in a simple sign: I can’t tell you how happy I was to see the first Coke sign on our side; I celebrated all the choice we had.

The Berlin Wall only accentuated that contrast; it turned gray to black and white. And the media that flew over the Wall — in the extreme, our decadent Dallas and Dynasty at the end — only made the contrast more striking for people on the other side. The Wall turned out to be porous; it let images and ideas and jealousies and competition and dreams through from this side to that until such pressure built up on the other side and it simply had to blow. Media exploded that wall.

An Israeli wall would be just as pourous. The hate would still flow through.

And if this wall does prevent Palestinians from killing Israelis, the pressure will still build up; they and their alleged allies will aim their hatred elsewhere. They will attack Israeli’s friends. They will kill us.

I wish I had a solution, like Denton. I don’t. I know too little about the Middle East.

I wish a wall were a solution. I fear it is not.

The solution must come from self-interest, the need to begin cooperation or the need to end defeat. Mutual self-interest may well be impossible to find.

: Update: Don Wolff writes in email that I missed a successful wall: the DMZ in Korea. He says this keeps people of murderous intent from distrupting a democratic society.

Motive matters in how you judge success. If your aim is to cut off North Korea to the point that they’re starved, then perhaps that wall is successful. You could measure the wall of water around Cuba similarly. If the goal of the Israeli wall were to cut off Palestine and starve them of attention and economics, I’m afraid that wouldn’t work. The Palestinians have murderous allies.