Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Fences seem to be popping up regularly this week. Besides the famous fence being built to more or less separate two peoples who have proven that living together is no longer an option, there are also some less well-known fences that are going up and coming down in this land.

I was suitably astonished at an article in the Israeli press that outlines the legalizing of gambling machines that currently exist in places but are operated illegally. The argument is that by legalizing the ownership and public use of these sources of entertainment, Israel will be able to control their use and keep it 'above the table' where watchful official eyes can supervise.
But still not a casino shall dwell in the Land claim the proponents of machine legalization.

Entertainment - yes, at times. Addictive & destructive - yes, always! New Zealand is overflowing with such sources of 'entertainment', heartache and distress. The rates of crime, divorce, violence and bankruptcy have all been linked to gambling availability. It's the same the world over. Israel, as the National Lottery Corporation claims, may indeed win the battle against illegal gambling - but that's it - the war will be lost!

There used to a great advertisement on New Zealand radio stations warning about problem gambling. "First my time, then my job, the car, the boat, the house, then my kids, my wife, my life". Gambling is well-documented as leading people (poor and wealthy) down this track to disaster. In Australian casinos there is a very powerful sticker on each machine - "When it's no longer fun, walk away". Laws which demanded such warnings were not passed without good reason.

Amira Hass and Shulamit Aloni have both written articles, parts of which compared the evacuation of Gaza and West Bank Jews to other Israelis who have their houses taken when unable to pay bills, mortgages and the like. Not only is the big D not the only evacuation of Jewish homes they argue, but Disengagement will allow IDF expenses to be realloacated towards helping the poor and struggling Israeli instead.

I can not accept their comparisons in totality (and their animosity towards others worries me) but it does make me wonder why this country would consider taking down the fence around gambling and instead open up the can of worms, temptation and addiction that comes with gambling. So take the money from Gaza and the IDF if you like. With the Gaza fence up and the gambling gate wide open, the poor, the needy, the greedy and the desperate will find consolation with a drink and a machine rather than in the knowledge that no Jews now reside in Gush Katif.

Fences galore! What do you think about the fences that the IMF want Israel to build across the Negev to allow passage from Gaza to the PA territories in the West Bank? Israel wanted a train system. The IMF wants a multi-laned highway, 5 meters below the surface with high double fences to stop Palestinian infiltration. The highway they say is the cheaper option. It makes greater sense to allow Palestinian private vehicles to travel from side-to-side doesn't it? It's only fair, isn't it? On a road, public transport can travel too. There is some concern (rightly so) that this would cut Israel in two. But does that matter?

Whatever happens, we are destined to live in a military and political reality where fences will be needed because as they say, fences make good neighbors. At the same time, Israeli society itself needs to maintain and enhance fences where required in order to safeguard the few defenses that still exist and guard us from becoming just like any other Western state.

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