Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Cordonning off people

In Baghdad the US military has begun to implement a policy of enclosing neighborhoods behind high walls, with checkpoints to control entrances and exits. Ostensibly, the British successfully applied this system to end the counterinsurgency in Malaysia. Yet when applied in Vietnam it did not work.

These walls, separating small groups within a larger whole are different from large-scale international walls, beginning with the Great Wall of China.

It is worth recalling the origins of such enclaves. They are not pleasant to contemplate. What we are concerned with is human polderization. A polder is a low-lying tract of land that forms an artificial hydrological entity, enclosed by dikes. The term stems from the Dutch, and indeed the best known examples are found in the Netherlands, where agriculturally useful land has been wrested from the sea by such methods.

During World War II Hitler’s theorists applied the term "human polderization" (Polderisierung) to the territories being conquered in the East, especially the Ukraine. These vast territories were to be controlled by walled cities inhabited by ethnic Germans. Superhighways, again restricted to the Germans, linked the enclaves. In the interstices, the "polders" that resulted from this slicing and dicing, the native population would live, relegated to a status of helotry.

This seems to be what the Israelis have in mind for the Arabs in the East Bank. Settlement proceeds apace there, with special roads for Israeli citizens only. Checkpoints restrict the movement of the indigenous population, which is essentially confined to a series of Bantustans. Perhaps the appropriate term for them is human polders.

Recently a group of German parliamentarians returned from a visit to the state of Israel. Some of them compared the policies currently being implemented by the Israeli government in the Occupied Territories to measures taken in the Third Reich. A scandal ensued. Yet was the perception of those parliamentarians entirely wrong?



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