Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has praised President Trump’s clampdown on immigration to the U.S. According to a tweet by Netanyahu, Israeli walls have “stopped all illegal immigration,” and congratulated Mr. Trump on his “great idea.”
On Friday January 27, Mr. Trump issued two executive orders that ban nationals of at least seven countries from entering the U.S. and suspend the Syrian refugee admission program. Chaos across U.S. ports of entry ensued as soon as the orders took effect. Customs and Border Protection agents were unable to appropriately discern the impact of the directives, causing the deportation of U.S. visa and green card holders. Protests at major airports quickly erupted, and in less than 24 hours a federal judge temporarily overturned the order, and granted an emergency stay to some deportees.
Netanyahu’s tweet referred to “Israel’s southern borders” with Egypt, where it has constructed a 245 miles long wall to curb what it describes as illegal immigration from African countries. The tweet has reportedly enraged the Mexican government which protested Netanyahu’s position during a phone call between senior Mexican and Israeli officials, and also called the Israeli Ambassador in to the Foreign Ministry to receive a protest.
President Trump has repeatedly praised Israeli walls throughout his campaign. On the same day the executive orders were signed, he told Fox News that “a wall protects. All you have to do is ask Israel. They were having a total disaster coming across, and they had a wall.”
Conspicuously absent from this discussion is serious attention to the impact of Israel’s infamous so-called Separation Barrier, widely referred to as the apartheid wall, which it began building in 2002. Still under construction, the wall is expected to be at least 440 miles long, with large parts of it straddling Israel’s pre-1967 border – the so-called “Green Line” and instead snaking through Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.
Not unlike Trump’s “great idea,” the Israeli wall is another manifestation of racist policies targeting people based on ethnic, religious, and national backgrounds. Israel has argued the purpose of the wall is to curb Palestinian violence. But, fifteen years since construction began, episodes of violence continue to erupt, not least because the wall’s route led to uprooting and annexing large swaths of Palestinian lands, cutting off those confined behind it from the rest of the West Bank.
Palestinians argue that the true purpose of the all is to annex their land, and to encompass as many illegal West Bank settlements as possible, destroying prospects for a contiguous Palestinian state. At least 85% of the wall’s current course runs through Palestinian land. It is worth noting that the wall is already twice as long as the 1967 Green line. Israeli plans call for a wall that is ultimately four times as long and double the height of the Berlin Wall.
An Advisory Opinion delivered by the International Court of Justice in 2004 confirmed the Palestinian position, and deemed the wall along its current course to be illegal, warning that its impact amounts to unlawful de facto annexation of Palestinian territory.
These are the precedents that should be kept in mind as part of any consideration of the new administration’s plans for a wall along the US-Mexican border.