building a wall

by tobybee

so, the more walls, the more secure you are as a democracy? or is it that keeping refugees, and really any foreigners, out makes you a democracy? in any case, Israel is building another wall, this time along the border with Egypt. As The Age states:

Israel will build a security fence along the length of its border with Egypt, stretching across the Sinai desert from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the $500 million fence on Thursday with the aim of thwarting drugs and people-smuggling rackets that operate across the border.

”In the end, there will be no choice but to close off the state of Israel by a fence on all sides,” Mr Netanyahu was quoted as telling his cabinet.

”The state has to be fenced off completely on all sides. Why? Because Israel is the only country in the First World to which people can walk on foot from Third World countries and Africa,” Mr Netanyahu said.

”If we don’t fence ourselves off, Israel will be flooded by hundreds of thousands of foreign workers and illegal residents,” he said.

You can also read about it in Haaretz here.

One of the things that struck me when I was in Israel a couple of years ago, was the vast numbers of migrant workers, mostly from Thailand (I think), who I saw. The women seemed to be predominantly looking after elderly people, or cleaners, and the men were labourers. But, of course, when you’re a settler-colony, you need migrant workers: the foundation of the settler-colony is based on displacing and eradicating the Indigenous population. So you can’t use their labour. Hence, in the US, the Native Americans were displaced and massacred, while people were brought from Africa to be slaves. Or in Australia, people were brought from around the western Pacific to work as indentured labourers; and Indigenous people were displaced and massacred (to put it all a bit crudely). So, Israel relies on migrant workers, because it can’t allow Palestinians to become too needed within Israeli society. (and yes, I know that Palestinians do work for Israelis, but now it’s predominantly in the West Bank only.)

So when Netanyahu says that they want to keep out migrant workers, he’s talking about a very particular idea of who needs to be kept out. Because Israel depends on migrant labour, as does every other western country. But note that he’s imagining a ‘flooding’ of people from Africa, and talking about closing Israel off on all sides: it’s incredibly racialised, and racist. And sounds exactly like what any other western country would say. So, will this wall make Israel more Jewish and democratic (as the Haaretz article quotes Netanyahu as saying is the aim of it)? If this is what a democracy today means, then, I suppose, sadly yes.