Tuesday, October 17, 2006

More Fence Sprouts

[Image: A New Fence Is Added to a Border Town Already Split. Photo by Tamara Abdul Hadi for The New York Times.]

Well, you can add these to the misshapen run-on border circumference snaking around the globe that I’d like to eventually visualize in some pictorial crypto-geographic way, one day. However (im)permanent these piecemeal extensions may be, they add to this crude satellite-reared global fence phenomenon of a single militarized structure I can't seem to get out of my head, constantly repositioning itself along a more abstract equator of borderzones, shifting and tilting across hillsides and slopes for better position over the world. It is a rampant architecture of strangulation strategically working its semi-displaced, self-erasing, self-resurrecting pieces into play, like little fence sprouts popping up here and there in the scorching fertile climates of borderland warfare.
In a matter of a few weeks following the recent cease fire, the Israeli Army threw up a fence around the northern side of Ghajar, a historically border-plagued village straddling the Blue Line that is currently meant to separate Israel and Lebanon.

[Image: The Blue Line covers the Lebanese-Israeli border as well as the Lebanese-Golan Height border. - Wikipedia.]

Intended to separate the northern side of the village from the rest of Lebanon, the New York Times says “it amounts to a new occupation of their territory, potentially worsening tensions over the disputed Shabaa Farms area nearby.” Israel insists the fence is merely a means to prevent Hezbollah from using the village as a southern bunker, which it did during the conflict, and apparently still does as a drugs-for-information outpost. But Lebanese officials say it is yet another insidious form of occupation. Of course, none of this territorial tension is new to the roughly 2,500 people who have lived in this inadvertently tactical village.
“In 1932, the residents of Ghajar,” we are reminded, were mostly from the Alawite sect, and "were given the option of choosing their nationality and overwhelmingly chose to be a part of Syria, which has a sizable Alawite minority. When Israel conquered the Golan Heights in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, the town fell under Israeli control. Many residents were given permits to work in Israel and were eventually granted Israeli citizenship. When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1978, the town began growing northward into Lebanese territory. The town’s future grew more complicated when Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000, leaving two-fifths of the town in Israel and the rest on Lebanese soil, across the so-called Blue Line demarcating the borders between the countries.”
Interestingly enough, there was a small snippet in the JPost about IDF orders to remove the fence, but, I think, sadly, it would probably be safe to add this one to the Subtopian cartography of longer term resident border fences.

[Image: Barbed wire fencing lining the Yalu River that separates North Korea and China. Photos by AP.]

Adjacently, on the other side of the Asian continent, China, now facing the North Korean reality of at least some verified nuclear threat, is busy posting their own security fence. Mother Jones sums it up: "The project was approved back in 2003, but construction seems to have picked up in the wake of North Korea's now-confirmed nuclear test with about 1,600 feet of fencing built in the past week. Made of 8 to 15 feet tall concrete barriers connected by barbed wire, the fence runs mainly along the banks of the 100-foot wide Yalu River, fertile land for local farmers. The two countries share an 880-mile border, a vital trade route for North Korea, which gets 90 percent of its oil from China."
However, at the bottom of this article are some more telling details of the plan.
But the border became a security concern for Beijing in the past decade, as North Korea's economy collapsed and social order crumbled in some places. Tens of thousands of refugees began trickling across the border into northeast China, fording the Yalu and Tumen rivers or walking across the ice in winter.

Professor Kim Woo-jun, of the Institute of East and West Studies in Seoul, said China built wire fences on major defection routes along the Tumen River in a project that began in 2003, and since September this year, China has been building wire fences along the Yalu River.

"The move is mainly aimed at North Korean defectors," Kim said. "As the U.N. sanctions are enforced ... the number of defectors are likely to increase as the regime can't take care of its people. ... I think the wire fence work will likely go on to control this."

And so again, the security border fence building craze, in the end, isn't really about security or the threat of terrorists exploiting the border integrity of the nation-state. They're simple devices under the guise of security to confiscate land, stem migration flows, levee the rising tides of refugees, deny the immigrants access, slap the asylum seekers in the face. I just wonder, what does the world plan to do with this global floating population of millions of unwanteds banging their heads up against the wall? And all too frequently finding themselves bundled together now fitting the murky profile of some would-be terrorist?
So, I ask myself, under what circumstances would a securitized border fence be tolerable? Is it that I'm just opposed to every type of fence or wall out there? I don't think so. And, in fact I can't answer my own question, yet. But, perhaps it has to do with more about the moment when the fence begins to define the context rather than the other way around. Do border fences help address the exodus of the refugee, or only compound it? Do border fences help decide territorial disputes, or contain them in a state of perpetual irresolution? Do border fences protect asylum seekers from homeland persecution, or merely lock them in? Do border fences even prevent smugglers and illicit criminals from pushing their goods across the line?
(and on and on... you get my point.)


Blogger Octopus Grigori said...

Fascinating post.

2:18 PM  

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