Celebrating Berlin While Enabling Israel's Apartheid Wall

The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall highlights both the inherent thirst for freedom and proclivity to hypocrisy ingrained in the human condition.

As people across the world are joining to celebrate the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, there is reason for joy and despair.

In Berlin, celebrations included the stacking and subsequent toppling of 1,000 8-ft tall foam domino tiles along the path where the wall once stood. 

In the US, the German Embassy coordinated a campaign with the motto "Freedom Without Walls" to promote awareness of the historic day in an event intended to target college students across the country.

And In the town of Qalandiya in the West Bank, a group of masked Palestinian activisits united to tear down a two-meter cement block of today's Berlin Wall - Israel's ever-expanding "separation fence" which has divided families from each other, Jews from Muslims and Israelis from Palestinians.

Israel began building its "barrier" -- which stands at twice the height of the Berlin Wall and more than four times the length -- in 2002, citing security reasons. 

Berlin's wall ran for 155 kilometers. Israel's is expected to reach at least 650. The average height of the Berlin Wall was 3.6 meters. The fenced portions of Israel's wall reach 6 meters, and the cement portions reach 8.

As world leaders converged on the German capital to celebrate the anniversary, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel praised the courage of East Germans.

"Many played a role. But it would not have been possible without the courage of the people in the former East Germany," she said.

But in the West Bank the courage that spurred the 100 protestors that broke through the wall at a military checkpoint in Qalandiya was obscured by tear gas grenades launched from the Israeli Army and silence among Western leaders. 

If there is anything to be learned from Berlin, it would be that walls do not protect, they divide; they do not prevent, but incite. If western policy makers would muster a fraction of the courage that the protesters in Qalandiya displayed and challenge Israel's misguided rerunning of history by implementing resolutions made by the International Court of Justice to dismantle the "illegal" wall, a practical and productive step towards a just peace would be within reach.

Anything short of that is for show, rather than for shalom.

Last summer, President Obama stuck a note on another famous wall in Israel, the Wailing Wall. Among the few sentences he had included was, "Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just."

But it may be wiser in this instance to turn to history rather than to God to know what is right and just.

As George Bernard Shaw famously concluded, "If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience."

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