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Of walls and refugees

Well, hallelujah! Turkey has started to build a wall along its border with Syria. Guess what, most of the wall is 2m tall and in some stretches will be over 2.5m high.
The first part of the wall will extend for over 900km. Walls separate people and break up families. Walls cut people off from each other and their fields. This wall will split vulnerable refugees from their kith and kin across the border. This wall will divide Turkish Kurds from Iraqi and Syrian Kurds.

See these factual inaccuracies regarding the length of wall and reasons its being built.

Haven’t we heard all this before about the security fence that Israel built to stop attacks on its civilians. Yes, indeed and that one has been dubbed an Apartheid Wall, by Israel’s antagonists. So why should this wall, which is longer and higher not be painted with the same brush. Is it okay to separate Muslims from Muslims, but not Muslims from Jews?

Surely if it is permissible for Turkey to prevent terrorists from penetrating into its territory, the same rules should apply to Israel? Surely a wall is a wall, irrespective of where it is built.

In 2003, while Israel was building its wall, there was an international outcry. No one expressed any concern while suicide bombers entered Israel at will and blew up thousands of civilians. In November 2003, Pope John Paul II criticised Israel’s building of a wall to keep Palestinians out, and he called for a global movement against terrorism following deadly attacks in Iraq and Turkey.

At a Sunday blessing on November 16th 2003, the Pope said: “In reality, the Holy Land does not need walls but bridges. Without reconciliation of souls, there can be no peace … The construction of a wall between the Israeli and Palestinian people is seen by many as a new obstacle on the road to peaceful coexistence.”

Surely Israel’s detractors will need to acknowledge that the Pope’s words apply fittingly to the Turkish wall as well.

Is it not ironic, that Turkey who so arrogantly led an illegal flotilla to breach and deliberately challenge Israel’s blockade of Gaza, is now falling prey to its own venom? Turkey was shrill and defiant in its assault on Israel. Turkey is now being hoisted by its own petard and is culpable of the very same actions it so vociferously accused Israel of.

Remember how Turkey reacted with brute force against its own citizens when they protested in Gezi Park and elsewhere? Remember how Turkey invaded Cyprus twice during 1974 and is still occupying 40% of the island? Remember how the Greek majority that were living in Turkish-occupied Cyprus, were forced to flee? Recall that a week ago, the Turkish parliament voted to extend by a year a mandate authorising a military deployment to Syria if needed.

I await with anticipation an outcry from the multitudes of human rights activists who find walls so cantankerous.


  • Ben studied at Wits, the Hebrew University, London School of Economics and University of Pretoria. He has two master’s degrees and has written four books on anthropology. He was the founding member of Jews for Justice, which took a stand against apartheid and provided assistance to victims of violence in Crossroads. He started Boston House College, a multiracial school in 1979. He currently serves as chairperson of the SA Zionist Federation in the Cape Council. He is married with four children.


  1. kathy b kathy b 13 October 2013

    Thank you! At least someone out there sees it.

  2. iain ewok robinson iain ewok robinson 14 October 2013

    I can’t make out here whether you agree with the necessity of the Turkish Wall as with the Apartheid Wall, or disagree with the Turkish Wall and the Apartheid Wall?

  3. Baz Baz 14 October 2013

    Execellent ! agree with @ kathyb ‘s comment too!

  4. Cray Cray 14 October 2013

    Just out of curiosity, how far into Syrian territory does the Turkish wall go?

    From the BBC article,

    “The new route runs closer to Israel’s boundary with the West Bank – the Green Line – than the original one but will still include 6-8% of occupied territory in the West Bank on the Israeli side”

    Perhaps if Israel had built the wall along the lines of the 1967 boundary there would be less of an outcry. As it is it kinds of looks like Israel are trying to annex territory in much the same was as the illegal settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

  5. RobinB RobinB 14 October 2013

    I agree with your starting point – that the Syrian wall is as bad/wrong/evil/stupid/etc. as the Israeli one. (Yes, I’m aware that wasn’t the point you were making, but just as valid a conclusion from what you said) However, I do not agree with your conclusion – that if the Syrian wall is uncriticised, it is right, and that therefore, the Israeli wall is right.

    Your lack of logic, not to mention flipping the “logic” of your arguments to this degree is really just not acceptable – from any standpoint. What you’ve actually done, is to make a specious “logical argument” which is actually only an emotional appeal. You could have said something meaningful here, but I’m afraid you failed.

    Before you dismiss what I’m saying as merely anti-Israel – its not. You cannot start out by saying that walls are wrong, and then use a lack of criticism of a wall to justify another.

    One of the most basic ethical statements, no matter your cultural or religious/spiritual background is “Two wrongs don’t/can’t make a right”. Well, two walls can never right either – even if the world is unfair in its criticism.

  6. george orwell george orwell 14 October 2013

    Turkey is in bed with the Americans, suppling America’s Al-Qaeda-linked ‘rebel’ friends with arms and assistance, despite video footage of one of them cuting out and eating the heart of a dead man.

    Israel is also in bed with the Americans and shares the anti-Syria trope with Turkey.

    Turkey and Israel are Americans best buddies in the Middle East, along with the misogynistic, anit-democratic dicatorships of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain.

    No suprise then, that two of the Nobel Peace Prize Winner Obama’s buddies are putting up Walls.

    President ‘Hope & Change’ Obama has introduced
    – detention without trial (NDA Act) (last seen in apartheid South Africa)
    – instituted illegal drone assassination programmes
    – further resource wars across the M.East and the entrenching of AFRICOM and drone bases on the African continent

    So we shouldn’t hold our breath and think that ‘the great bastion of democracy and freedom’ (USA) is going to say anything about its client states (Turkey and Israel) resorting to Walls.

    Once a blind eye is turned to Walls in Turkey and Israel, everyone will be free to put up walls. North Korea is then free to put up a Wall, as is Iran, China, etc.

    Now that Obama has defied international law, any other country can launch their own drone assassination programme too and the US doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

    Edge of a slippery slope …

  7. The Creator The Creator 14 October 2013

    Turkey is obviously not building the wall to keep terrorists out, since the flow of terrorists is one-way (from Turkey into Syria — the Turks, like the Israelis, are sponsoring terrorism there). So, as with the Israeli wall, there must be another reason for it.

    However, the Turkish border is an international border. One is entitled to police international borders. Building walls to imprison racial minorities, as the Israeli regime does, is rather less legitimate. That doesn’t excuse the Turks (who are close political and military allies of the Israelis, incidentally) but it does help explain why less of a fuss is being made.

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