From outside one will always triumphantly impress theories upon the world and then fall straight into the ditch one has dug, but only from inside will one keep oneself and the world quiet and true. /FK (Contact: TBONotebooks at fastmail.fm. The Blue Octavo Notebooks welcomes mail, although we cannot guarantee a response. Your email may be posted in part on The Blue Octavo Notebooks unless otherwise requested.) Please enjoy the notebook entries, and thanks for reading.

Monday, February 21, 2005

From the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly:

This spring Israel is scheduled to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, but it plans to continue building a controversial 400-mile anti-terrorist barrier between itself and the West Bank. Though the International Court of Justice has ruled that the fence violates international law, it remains highly popular among Israelis—attacks have declined by as much as 90 percent in certain areas since construction began, two years ago. Similar security barriers have been constructed throughout history, from the Great Wall of China to the lesser-known wall between Israel and Gaza that was built in 1994. Today the West Bank barrier is just one of many partitions around the world aimed at repelling invaders—whether terrorists, guerrillas, or immigrants. Here are the sites of other notable security barriers, in chronological order of inception.

1. North Korea/South Korea: Called "the scariest place on earth" by President Bill Clinton, this 151-mile-long demilitarized zone has separated the two Koreas since 1953 and is the most heavily fortified border in the world.

2. Belfast, Northern Ireland: Nicknamed the "Peace Line," this series of brick, iron, and steel barriers was first erected in the 1970s to curb escalating violence between Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods. The barriers have more than doubled in number over the past decade, and currently stretch over thirteen miles of Northern Ireland.

3. Cyprus: A 112-mile-long construction of concrete, barbed wire, watchtowers, minefields, and ditches has separated the island's Turks from its Greeks since 1974. The Turkish Cypriot government reduced restrictions on cross-border travel in April of 2003.

4. Morocco/Western Sahara: Known as "The Wall of Shame," these ten-foot-high sand and stone barriers, some mined, run for at least 1,500 miles through the Western Sahara. Built in the 1980s, they are intended to keep West Saharan guerrilla fighters out of Morocco.

5. India/Bangladesh: Aiming to curb infiltration from its neighbor, India in 1986 sanctioned what will ultimately be a 2,043-mile barbed-wire barrier. It's expected to cost $1 billion by the time it is completed, next year.

6. India/Pakistan: In 1989 India began erecting a fence to stem the flow of arms from Pakistan. So far it has installed more than 700 miles of fencing, much of which is electrified and stands in the disputed Kashmir region. The anti-terrorist barriers will eventually run the entire 1,800-mile border with Pakistan.

7. Kuwait/Iraq: The 120-mile demilitarized zone along this border has been manned by UN soldiers and observers since the Gulf War ended, in 1991. Made of electric fencing and wire, and supplemented by fifteen-foot-wide trenches, the barrier extends from Saudi Arabia to the Persian Gulf. Last year Kuwait decided to install an additional 135-mile iron partition.

The last structures in the list are being built by, respectively, the United States, Botswana, and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, you might recall, was one of the more vociferous critics of Israel’s security barrier. Shocking, we know.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Say what you will about Secretary of State Rice, this caricature of her is more than a bit much. From Al-Ahram, if you couldn’t guess.

In other news and opinion, Mounzer Sleiman claims that “No other development has done so much to make the Middle East unstable than Israel's decision to become a major nuclear power.” One could argue that any of myriad other “developments” in the Middle East have done to make the region unstable—for example, the widespread disenfranchisement of women (and other groups) throughout Arab countries; the plethora of dictators, corrupt and otherwise, throughout the region; the paucity of freedoms of religion, speech, and press in Arab countries; dehumanizing, hate-filled ideology that legitimizes acts of terrorism like suicide bombing; and so on, to name but a few—but then one wouldn’t be published in Al-Ahram. Plus, it’s more entertaining to blame the region’s instability on Israel’s nuclear capabilities, especially when such finger pointing can be redirected at you-know-who: Jews. In this case, Jewish scientists. In America, you see, “the large community of Jewish nuclear scientists and the lax security has allowed Israel to pursue a nuclear weapons programme without even paying the economic costs usually associated with such endeavour.” Naturally, “Jewish scientists provided Israel with ‘under the counter’ assistance” in developing its nuclear program. So it goes.

(My thanks to those who’ve sent me messages wondering why I haven't posted in a while. Basically, I’ve been super busy.)

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