UK media absurd political analogy watch: The Berlin Wall & Israel’s Security Barrier

Ben Zygier (known as Prisoner X) was the Australian-Israeli Mossad agent imprisoned at Ayalon Prison in Ramla on espionage charges who committed suicide in his cell in 2010.

The 2013 row over revelations regarding Zygier’s incarceration and suicide received saturation coverage at the Guardian, and included this claim by Peter Beaumont – then foreign affairs editor for The Observer, sister site of the Guardian – in a report on Feb. 14th.

“The latest revelations come amid a growing outcry over the case in Israel, with some comparing the treatment of Zygier to that meted out in the Soviet Union or Argentina and Chile under their military dictatorships.”

The comparison, as we noted at the time, was simply bizarre. Indeed, the very term “Prisoner X”, implying that his identity and whereabouts were mysterious, was itself a misnomer, as Zygier’s original arrest warrant was issued by an authorized court, his incarceration was supervised by the Israeli judiciary, and the proceedings were overseen by the most senior Justice Ministry officials. Zygier was also legally represented by a top Israeli lawyer.

To evoke a comparison with the USSR – where several million Soviet “enemies of the state” died (due to overwork, starvation, torture or summary executions) after being sent, without anything resembling due process, to Gulag camps – is risible.

More recently, we found another example of the media’s use of a blatantly false analogy – in an article published at i100 (The Independent’s Buzzfeed-style news brand).

indy wall analogy

The Nov. 10th article by i100’s news editor Matthew Champion leads with the following strap line:

As the western world marks 25 years since the Berlin Wall came down, a group of Palestinian youths have reminded people they still live behind a wall.

It also included this quote, attributed to the protesters seen in the photo:

It doesn’t matter how high the barriers will be, they will fall. Like the Berlin Wall fell – the Palestinian wall will fall

Champion writes:

The Berlin Wall was seen as a symbol for oppression under communism and its fall is regarded as the key event in German reunification…In Arabic it is called ‘the wall of apartheid’, and allusions to the Berlin Wall are common.

However, other than the fact that both are walls – though in Israel’s case, the overwhelming majority is a chain-link fence  – it’s difficult to find any substantive relationship between the two.  Whilst the Berlin Wall was constructed by the totalitarian East German government to keep its own citizens from fleeing to freedom in the West, Israel’s “wall” was constructed to keep violent Palestinian extremists from crossing into Israel to ignite deadly suicide bombs at crowded cafes, bus stops and markets.

The former represented a tacit acknowledgement of the abject failure of the communist government to provide basic freedoms to its citizens, while the latter merely represented a rational decision by Israeli leaders to protect its citizens from harm. (Indeed, such security related fences are common in many parts of the world)

Note to British journalists: just because Palestinian activists routinely advance such ahistorical political analogies to demonize Israel doesn’t mean that you need to legitimize such intellectually unserious agitprop.

50 replies »

  1. So very shallow is the Guardian world-view. All incarcerations are Soviet-like, all walls are Berlin walls. All right-wing views are Fascist. All police actions are brutal, all wars are unjust. Only black and white exists, and Israel is pitch black for them.

    And here’s the kicker: That wall in the picture, as was pointed out by some in Israeli sites, is not even a piece of the barrier. It’s runs along a part of road near Ramallah but is not closed on both ends. You can walk right past it. It’s not part of the barrier at all. Just a fake photo-op.

    • Known as ‘Pallywood’.
      And all internecine conflicts are exactly analogous to the situation in Northern Ireland.

    • Notice the complete absence in the photo of barbed wire at the top. This publicity stunt and its publication is designed as a separation barrier between its intended audience and the truth – a form of apartheid.

  2. Sounds like a cheap shot. Palestinians are obviously well versed in PR in today’s world of social media, and i100 fell for it.

    Rather than pick apart the different specific reasons for a particular wall, it would be useful to acknowledge that all such division walls, (eg Berlin, the Peace line in Belfast and this Israel wall), are an on-the-ground (figuratively and literally) testament to a failure of politics.

    • That is correct.
      But when you say failure of politics in the Israeli barrier building, how many people actually view the UN politics as being the biggest obstical?
      The fact that UNRWA’s role has been so far under the radar within Western media spheres when discussing such failure of politics is a failure in itself.

      • You are 100% right, Itsik. It is high time some paper, perhaps the Sunday Times, when it has finished popping the bubble of corruption at FIFA, prints an in-depth expose of the corruption, shocking waste, encouragement (or at best incubation) of extremism and failure on all counts of this bloated UN agency.

        Rather like FIFA corruption, it is plain for all to see, but somehow goes under the radar until investigative journalists take the time and effort to gather the evidence.

    • testament to a failure of politics
      Well, Dunkelmann, spindoctor of subtile antisemitism, on the contrary, the fence is a full success for the protective policy of Israel within the bigger framework aka politics of securing the survival of Jews. No wonder that this success disturbs your mind.
      That´s why there is no large scale Intifada: due to the fence. The terrorists have to confine themselves to Jerusalem. The Palestinian/Arab politics of terror is a big failure..

    • A failure in politics? That would be NOT responding to the exploding pizzerias, Asshole.

      When you get stabbed for being who you are, you will be allowed an attempt to publicly associate your plight with Israelis. Until then, you are a know-nothing blowhard.

    • Why? Walls are built for different reasons. There is nil similarity between the Berlin Wall and the separation barrier, and it’s highly simplistic to try and force some bogus similarity on them.

  3. I find that individuals that feel the need to consistently analogize one historical incident to others are willfully blinding themselves to nuance and proper context. Yes, sometimes historical analogies are useful in framing a situation, but each moment and place in history is entirely unique, and judging by this example, it is easy to miss the point entirely when you’re so eager to simplify everything (i.e., walls are bad, etc.)

  4. Little Lord Dinkelberry III and his UK press will be the first to demand action and response the moment their pizzerias get blown up. As far as I’m concerned, this wall has SAVED lives, but then Jewish lives don’t really matter, and avoiding an all-out war by building a barrier (as opposed to fighting in the streets) is only to be commended when screaming about any actual fighting (ie, Gaza) going on (as in, Why can’t Israelis just take those 3500 missiles in the ass11?11).

  5. False equivalency is happening here in America where pro-Palestinian dipshits are equating Ferguson with Gaza. As if Michael Brown was throwing Molotov cocktails (he was jaywalking) or that the Black Panthers have been shooting missiles into St Louis proper (not quite, but 2 were arrested for wanting to commit an attack and kill the police chief of Ferguson).

    Desperation causes Palestinian advocates to hijack how Black men are being killed by cops in the streets of New York, Ferguson, LA, Austin, Atlanta, etc. and call it their own. But there’s just no strings to make these attachments. None whatsoever. The Arabs dying at the hands of Israeli police as of late are actually in the process of attacking and murdering people, and Arabs who died in Gaza did so because there was an all out war going on. Neither of these factors are involved in these false equivalencies. Zip. Nada.

    The Big Goose Egg.

    And yet……

      • Yes. That is what started the confrontation. He was walking in the middle of the street with his buddy when the officer told them, in not subtle terms, to get on the sidewalk. That’s how the brouhaha started, and it ended with 12 shots made and 7 hitting Brown, 2 in his head.

        And then the body was left out in the middle of the street for 4 hours while Officer Wilson was scrubbing his hands free of blood. That’s also in the Grand Jury testimony.

          • If you think that shooting an unarmed individual shouldn’t be tried in front of a jury of peers, then you’re unaware of the way the laws of justice are suppose to turn.

            I’m not going to get into a stupid fight with you about how Black men in America get killed by cops and then those cops walk off scotch free. The point is really bad equivalences being made.

          • As far as I’m concerned, bad mouthing Michael Brown is as bad as that shitty opera in NYC re Leon Klinghoffer. If ever there’s an equivalency, it’s that Black people of St. Louis are prejudged by blabberheads much like Jews and Israelis are by the rest of the world.

            If you want to generalize that the response to MB’s murder has been all about riots and looting, then I don’t know what you’re doing defending Israel’s right to exist in an unjust, overgeneralized perspective re her existence.

            • “bad mouthing Michael Brown is as bad as that shitty opera in NYC re Leon Klinghoffer” – of course. No difference between the individuals – and the situations – whatsoever.

              • Right. Because both Eric Garner and MIchael Brown weren’t killed by police for being much larger than the aggressive white guy who feels he has a right to protect himself by, you know, shooting his gun 12 times, or choking someone dead in the street.

                I love how much you know about all this, Leah. For example, you KNOW that there was a reason to kill these guys. Just like there was a reason to hack up a synagogue (Didn’t you hear about the suicide that was really a lynching even though evidence pointed in that direction?) and a reason to shoot a man in his wheelchair and then dump him overboard a cruise ship (Because, duh, Israel is real!).

                Congrats, Boobie! No difference whatsoever!

                • What a moron. You know nothing about what I do and don’t know.

                  “No difference whatsoever!” – have I mentioned already that you are a moron?

                  • I know you like to imply that you know what’s happening when in fact you know what the cops tell you. I know that when the situation is a white police officer shooting an unarmed black man that you decide to try the unarmed black man for why the white officer would shoot him. And then you blame the black guy for dying. I know you like to bully people.

                    In short, I know you’re “weak sauce.”

      • Sometimes, less is more. Sometimes, it’s best not to argue. If you want to support Darren Wilson, knock yourself out. But if you want to turn this thread into a trial of Michael Brown — which you have done with this response right here — then you now own your part in drawing the back the curtain in your involvement over Israel’s right to exist. Israel is not a Right Wing puppy dog. Israel is the most Liberal Nation in that region of the planet, and one of the more liberal democracies on Earth. Read that line over. Liberal Democracy. Not a Right Wing Police State which the pro=Palestinians knuckledraggers declare.

        Way to go!

        • Unhinged ululating. Despite your self-importance and pomposity, your spittle-flecked rant has nil relevance or effect as regards my relationship with Israel.
          Take a hike, idiot.

    • “False equivalency is happening here in America where pro-Palestinian dipshits are equating Ferguson with Gaza.”
      That’s the way they roll. They have been using this technique for decades, attaching themselves parasitically to any issue/current event in the public eye.

  6. Adam provides a very good link which exposes the hypocrisy of some countries condemning Israel for building a security barrier while they do so themselves (primarily Morocco, Turkey, India and Britain) – often on disputed territory. The article (being written in 2004) doesn’t mention Egypt, which has built a barrier along its border with Gaza – for much the same reasons Israel has! Funny how the UN has been silent about these other barriers.

    I wonder why…

    I would add that there are numerous other examples of barriers built – not for the vital reason of saving lives or preventing military or terrorist incursion – but for the mere prevention of economic migration. The US/Mexico border is the first example that springs to mind. Funny how the UN is silent about these other barriers.

    I wonder why…

    See this excellent article for more…

  7. It is strange that the Guardian and the Indy and other hostile-to-Israel outlets are happy to make analogous comparisons between Israel’s forced internal defense needs and the Berlin Wall.

    When the Berlin Wall went up in 1961 the British media was divided between those who rightly condemned the appearance of the Wall and the Communist and left-wing press who generally made excuses for it and discovered lame, hollow reasons why it had had to be built. Just as they had had to defend the indefensible when the Nazi-Soviet Peace Pact sledge-hammered them between the eyes in October 1939..

    One of my favorite satirical columnists of that Cold War period was ‘Peter Simple’ of the Daily Telegraph — in those days a staunchly pro-Israel newspaper — he used to like referring to the Berlin Wall as ‘the progressive, peace-loving, anti-fascist Wall’…

    The reason I find it strange that the anti-Israel left-wing media can make absurd analogies with the Berlin Wall is that quite apart from their excusing its existence and ignoring its critics in the 28 years of the Wall’s existence, the then East German regime (GDR) was a strong supporter of Arab terrorism and it provided training, weapons, education, refuge, financial and logistic support and propaganda help to some of Israel’s and the world’s worst Arab (and other) enemies.

    The Arab propagandists’ attitude to the Berlin Wall should, logically, be one of gratitude to the regime that built it. Gratitude, of course, has no place in their scheme of things, anymore than does accurate historical memory.

  8. In a March 23, 2008 interview, Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shalah complained to the Qatari newspaper Al-Sharq that the separation barrier “limits the ability of the resistance to arrive deep within [Israeli territory] to carry out suicide bombing attacks, but the resistance has not surrendered or become helpless, and is looking for other ways to cope with the requirements of every stage” of the intifada

    I guess that is why all haters here are against the wall.

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