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Separate but Equal Revisited

by Ralf Dahrendorf

Surely not a wall? An Israeli friend, a "Peace Now" activist, replied to my question with his own: "Do you realise that not one suicide bomber entered Israel from the Gaza Strip?" Why not? "Because there is a fence." If an electric fence was built around the West Bank territory, he continued, two problems could be solved at once. Palestinians would be allowed into Israel only at a small number of checkpoints, and the settlers would soon find their own position untenable and return to Israel.

Things, of course, are not that simple. Such a fence would probably include settlements close to, but inside the 1967 line. The return of the settlers would be a difficult process both in practical terms and because of Israeli public opinion. Then there are the questions of the Israeli Arabs and of Jerusalem (for is it, as Berlin once was, to be sliced in two by a wall?). Having said that, it is striking that a man of liberal values such as my "Peace Now" friend should advocate the physical separation of groups as the road - perhaps the only road - to peace.Things, of course, are not that simple. Such a fence would probably include settlements close to, but inside the 1967 line. The return of the settlers would be a difficult process both in practical terms and because of Israeli public opinion. Then there are the questions of the Israeli Arabs and of Jerusalem (for is it, as Berlin once was, to be sliced in two by a wall?). Having said that, it is striking that a man of liberal values such as my PeaceNow friend should advocate the physical separation of groups as the road - perhaps the only road - to peace.

The notion that groups should have equal rights but remain separate was once the ultimate concession of traditionalists in the old segregated American South. A form of apartheid without oppression was as far as they were prepared to go. The notion that groups should have equal rights but remain separate was once the ultimate concession of traditionalists in the old segregated American South. A form of apartheid without oppression was as far as they were prepared to go.