This past week, Breitbart News’ Charlie Spiering challenged White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s claim that the Republicans won funding in the omnibus spending bill for President Donald Trump’s wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Spiering pointed out that the steel-slatted structure to which Spicer was referring, while called a “bollard wall,” looked to the ordinary observer like a fence — a sturdy, impassable fence perhaps, but a “fence” nonetheless.
The White House is at pains to refer to such construction — which resembles some of the existing infrastructure along the border — as a “wall.” But Democrats are telling their supporters that they prevented Trump from obtaining funds to build his border wall, and many conservatives agree.
At any rate, the “bollard wall” seems rather different from the “big, beautiful wall” Trump supporters were promised — and that is still on Steve Bannon’s White House whiteboard.
The administration’s effort to call a fence a wall is something of an amusing contrast to the effort by Israel, over the past 15 years, to point out that its so-called “wall” along (and, in places, within) the West Bank is actually mostly a “fence.”
Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs tackles the question, “Is it a ‘wall’ or a ‘fence’?”, in a special section on its website:
Despite the many pictures being shown in the international media of a tall concrete wall, more than 97% of the planned 720 km. (480 mile) anti-terrorist fence will consist of a chain-link fence system. … Less than 3% of the fence will be constructed of concrete.
The concrete sections, the website explains, were typically built in areas where Palestinian snipers were shooting at nearby Israeli residents, or at vehicles on Israeli highways near the 1949 armistice line.
Israel’s fence is not a mere physical barrier, which could easily be climbed or cut. Rather, it includes electronic sensors along its length, as well as a fine-grained dirt track running alongside it that would capture footprints, and a road that allows the Israeli military to patrol it and move quickly to capture anyone who manages to cross it.
It has been effective — almost eliminating illegal crossings — because it combines physical, electronic, and human elements.
Israel’s critics prefer the term “wall” because it makes the measure seem more drastic, and cruel to the Palestinians living beyond it (though there are some Israelis living beyond it as well). Moreover, anti-Israel activists draw parallels with the Berlin Wall, which was viewed by the West as unjust, and which was eventually torn down when Germany was reunified. Pro-Israel activists prefer the more innocuous-sounding term “fence” — largely for the same reasons.
But for ordinary Israelis, the most important thing is that the fence — or wall — has prevented terror and saved lives.
That is why Israelis resisted widespread international criticism and condemnation of the “wall.” They did adjust its route — after intervention by Israel’s Supreme Court to ease the burden on Palestinian civilians — but on their own terms.
Ironically, the “wall” was an idea from the Israeli left, and was reluctantly implemented by then-Likud Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. After terrorists killed over 1,000 Israelis, both soldiers and civilians, enough was enough.
Likewise in the U.S. The Washington Post was stunned to learn from polls last year that “many of Trump’s fans don’t actually think he will build a wall — and they don’t care if he doesn’t.” The issue is whether the wall (or fence) stops illegal crossings.
The “bollard wall” is a dumb-looking fence; one hopes that the administration will look instead to the Israeli model.
Regardless, the White House should worry more about what the “wall” is meant do, and less about what to call it.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.