Cyber breaks down real world walls

by lestro

According to the New York Times, there is a team of Palestinian and Israeli coders who are working together on creating a new web-based personal computer that will allow people to log in to their own virtual harddrives from any internet connection.

Despite the differences between their people and the walls put up to stop them, the programmers are working toward a common vision and goal.

They trade ideas through a video hookup that connects the West Bank office with one in Israel in the first joint technology venture of its kind between Israelis and Palestinians.

“Start with the optimistic parts, Mustafa,” Gilad Parann-Nissany, an Israeli who is vice president for research and development, jokes with a Palestinian colleague who is giving a progress report. Both conference rooms break into laughter.

The goal of is not as lofty as peace, although its founders and employees do hope to encourage it. Instead wants to give users a free, Web-based virtual computer that lets them access their desktop and files from any computer with an Internet connection., pronounced “ghost,” is short for Global Hosted Operating System.

“Ghosts go through walls,” said Zvi Schreiber, the company’s British-born Israeli chief executive, by way of explanation…

There are 35 Palestinian programmers and 13 Israelis and they are only 35 miles apart, but it’s what you might call a long 35 miles.

The stretch of road separating the offices is broken up by checkpoints, watch towers and a barrier made of chain-link fence and, in some areas, soaring concrete walls, built by Israel with the stated goal of preventing the entry of Palestinian suicide bombers.

That’s a serious wall.

There’s a Robert Frost poem that is often-quoted but rarely understood called “Mending Wall“. The line most people pull out, especially when discussing issues like national borders, is:

Good fences make good neighbors

The problem is that the point of the poem is exactly the opposite.

The poem is a lament about going out each spring and rebuilding the wall along the property with his neighbor. It has to be done every year because “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, it wants it down.” But it is also the only time he and the neighbor come into contact and they keep the wall between them the entire time.

Frost wonders why they do this year after year. Why do they go through the work of mending this wall?

It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

But because spring puts the mischief in him, Frost goes further, asking the neighbor “why” (and Frost italicizes it). He continues pushing:

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.

The neighbor has none of it, however and continues his own ways “in darkness” as it seems to Frost because he won’t break free from his “father’s advice” which no longer serves a purpose.

It used to be that we told people to tear down walls. Now we want to build one of our own and we support our allies doing the same to protect themselves. But we forget that governments often overreact and go BIG when something catches them off guard (remember when Mayor Quimby created the Bear Patrol after a bear wanders through town and frightens everyone? Interestingly, that also turned into an episode about immigration policy) and in building a wall we don’t ask who we give offense by keeping them out.

Trying to keep someone out only guarantees they are going to feel even more persecuted and try even harder to get in. Walls are old ways. And they don’t work. We know they don’t work. Hell, earlier this year the Palestinians tore down a wall at the Egyptian border and relatively peacefully crossed into Egypt, did their shopping and went home.

So, of course, the Egyptians rebuilt the wall.

Now across a border on the Gaza Strip, one of the world’s most notorious turf wars, a group is getting past the old was and working together on a very forward-thinking project.

“We are doing something across cultures and across two sides of a tough conflict,” Dr. Schreiber said. “I was prepared for the possibility that it might be difficult, but it hasn’t been.”

Just another example of technology and ideas subverting borders.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down

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