Israel and Palestine: Both Sides of the Fence

I’ve been to Israel. I have family there. One of the brothers is a peace activist in Jerusalem. The other lives in a large West Bank settlement. He has a dead son, a victim of the conflict. He was killed in uniform, in a raid on a Palestinian home -hardly an innocent victim. My last time there, I chose not to visit that home -I couldn’t be a guest on a settlement. Really, there is no ”settlement”, only occupation and displacement. The threat of “terrorism”, though, is real. I remember sitting in a bar with a friend. “That’s where I landed,” she told me, describing the attack. All have a right to defend themselves -I’m no pacifist. But no one has the right to imprison a people. And people have a right to defend their rights. That is what the Palestinian insurgency is, people fighting for freedom and justice. I don’t support the “terrorist” tactic of suicide bombing, nor the “military” tactic of home demolitions. But I support the Palestinian struggle. And I support the Israeli people’s right to live in peace. This is a fucked up issue. But it’s a fucked up world. Enjoy…
Alex Hundert

Building Fences, Building Prisons
Yusuf Faqiri

When one discusses the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, many start to think about the conflict as something that deals primarily with religion. Think again: this conflict is a tragedy between a criminal state and a displaced people who’s only hope lay with the late Yasser Arafat. Ever since the creation of Israel in 1948, the Palestinian people have faced constant persecution at the hands of Israel. The Palestinian people went from living a good life to one in refugee camps. The state of Israel has been able to do anything they please. They are able to do this because the United States has given their ardent support to the Israeli state. Therefore Israel couldn’t care less if they violate human rights or break international laws. They know they can get away with it.

Israel knows that they are occupiers rather than being a legitimate state. The intention of this article is not to discuss whether Israel has a right to exist or not because Israel certainly does have a right to exist as a state. The aim of my article is to show the double standard the Israeli government is able to get away with. The biggest tragedy in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is that a people, who have suffered so much throughout history could inflict so much pain on another group of people.

The creation of Israel in 1948 was the beginning of a time of suffering that the Palestinians to this day are enduring. Before one rants about all the atrocities the Israeli state has committed against the Palestinian people the issue of the wall needs to be discussed first. This fence will have dire consequences for the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people’s hope lay with Yasser Arafat, but even Arafat was outmaneuvered and forced to concede virtually everything to negotiators in Israel. There are several examples of this. One of the better ones is the Oslo accords, which did virtually nothing to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. To this day the United States is still boasting about that so called historic day. What historic day? The only party the Oslo accord benefited was the Israeli state, not the Palestinian people. Yasser Arafat was in many ways pressured by outside powers to sign this document.

There is no need to discuss in detail the contents of the Oslo accords, but a few sections of the document need to be brought to light. Article XIV called for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank area. Well, guess what folks? A decade and a half later Israel still occupies this area. They refuse to abide by international law. The controversial “security fence” that Israel is building will surely have dire consequences on Arab-Jewish relations. The European Union has already formally condemned it. The fence will displace even more Palestinians.

But why would Israel care about making more Palestinians into refugees? They have been getting away with these tactics for over sixty years. It’s no coincidence that a poll conducted in Brussels found that 59% of European Union citizens saw Israel as a “threat to peace in the world. The “security fence” will undoubtedly cause more inhuman suffering. Approximately 70,000 Palestinian’s will be left stateless within a state. These people will live in what we would call a “no man’s land”. In 2003, the Israeli government, in one of its many radical moves, “decreed that all non-Israeli citizens must apply for written permission to enter, leave, work and live in Arab areas trapped between Israel proper and Israel’s new security wall.” Essentially, this “security fence” will leave 70,000 Palestinians living in a loop around Jewish settlements, on the Israeli side. Consequently under these pathetic regulations Palestinians who live on this side will require Israel’s written consent and permission to live in their homes or to cross into the West Bank. It’s not far-fetched to compare these conditions to Apartheid in South Africa. Once again it should be a focus here that Israel is violating basic human rights. What right does Israel have to torment the poor Palestinian people?

The obvious answer to this is that they have no right -but the Israeli state realizes that no powerful voice is willing to stop them. People need to understand that Israel’s atrocities against the Palestinians will never stop until the United States becomes a fair arbitrator in the conflict. Many people ask themselves why American foreign policy is so favourable to Israel. The answer is simple. The Israeli lobby in the United States has managed to dictate American foreign policy.

Another important point that needs to be understood is the impact the fall of the Soviet Union had on the middle east. After its fall, the United States remained as the only superpower and with this came change in the Middle East. With the USSR out of the way the United States was now able to impose their foreign policy on the Middle East. The United States proceeded to buy off other Arab states that were previously hostile to Israel. The most famous of these states was Egypt, which became a very close Arab ally to the United States. After all, the United States does give the second biggest portion of its foreign aid (after Israel) to Egypt.

As much as Israel should be criticized for these atrocities, the neighbouring Arab states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia should be ashamed of themselves for selling Palestinian blood for American money. Few statesman throughout history have stood up for the Palestinian people besides Yasser Arafat. The most famous of those who did was Gamal Abdel Nasser. The Middle East needs someone like Nasser to stop this Israeli barbarism. The world needs to wake up, look around, and realize that that the true terrorist is the Israeli state. The true war criminals are the Israeli government. Israel needs to be held accountable. They are committing crimes right before our eyes.

Good Fences Can Still Make Bad Neigbours
Joshua R. Otis

To call it a violation of a non-binding International Court of Justice advisory opinion and a non-binding United Nations resolution would be to ignore the several examples of other countries constructing similar security fences with the international community turning a blind eye.

To call it a “Wall of Apartheid” would be to insult the millions of black South Africans who lived under true Apartheid as a majority being denied the right to vote and to choose where they could live, work and travel. It was in South Africa where blacks who protested the racist regime were persecuted, imprisoned and killed by the government. This is simply not the case in the State of Israel, a democratic country that guarantees the freedom of movement and speech for all of its citizens which include Arab Israelis and the Arab Israelis who are members of the Israel’s Knesset (parliament).

To simply call it a wall would be to ignore the 97% of the barrier that is composed of chain-link. What is being wrongfully referred to as a wall or Apartheid wall is a security barrier or a separation fence constructed for the purpose of protecting the lives of Israelis from Palestinian terrorists.

Here is the story of how and why the security fence came to be. Between September 2000 and November 2003, more than 900 people were murdered in attacks by Palestinian terrorists. In February of 2002, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared his support for a security barrier which was later approved by his cabinet in April of that year. Construction of the fence began at the end of July 2003 in a plan to construct a barrier near the Green Line, a line that is not an official border, but an agreed upon truce.

Since its construction, the fence has been proven to be largely successful. Suicide attacks fell by 75% in the first six months of 2004 compared to the equivalent pre-construction period in 2003. Today, terrorist attacks from the West Bank have declined by more than 90% since the beginning of the fence’s construction. Lives of Israelis, including Arab Israelis, have been saved.

The legality of the fence has also been questioned. No internationally binding resolution or binding court ruling has banned the completion or removal of the security barrier. In an effort to stop the construction of the fence, Syria, a sponsor of terrorism against Israel and an ally of the Palestinian Authority, put forth a motion to the UN General Assembly to halt the fence’s construction and remove completed portions of the barrier. The resolution lacked legal legitimacy, so a motion was brought forward to receive an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague. Arab countries and supporters of the Palestinian Authority appeared before the ICJ to argue against the security fence and Israel’s right to secure its safety. Over 20 countries wrote briefs to the ICJ that questioned the court’s legal ability to settle disputes of a political nature between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. An ICJ advisory opinion is not a legally binding ruling so there has been no violation of international law by the State of Israel.

Turkey and Great Britain have both been outspoken against Israel’s security fence. This is overt hypocrisy. Turkey has constructed a barrier with Syria while Great Britain has used barriers to separate Protestant and Catholic neighbourhoods in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Other countries with security barriers include India, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and the United States. None of these countries have come under international scrutiny to the same extent as Israel. None of these countries have been subjected to the regularity of terrorism suffered by Israel. The UN and the international community have been inherently biased and hypocritical towards the State of Israel. Even the UN constructed a separation barrier across Cyprus to divide the island’s Greek and Turkish populations.

As mentioned earlier, the security barrier is indeed a fence and not a wall despite the many images of tall concrete walls shown in the media. Less than 3% of the fence will be constructed of concrete. These small sections of the fence can be found in extremely high terror-risk areas where snipers have frequently fired into Israeli communities and on Israeli vehicles traveling on main highways. So, is the security barrier the answer to Israel’s security concerns?

The immediate answer to that question is a “yes”. The fence has proven itself in its ability to limit the amount of Palestinians illegally entering the State of Israel and as a result, has significantly reduced the number of terrorist acts on Israelis. Unfortunately, the answer to the posed question is also a “no”. The summer of 2006 has seen a new fashion of Islamic extremist terrorism –short range katusha and kassam rockets. These weapons transcend security fences. This new form of terrorism shows the continued dedication of Hamas, Fatah and Hezbollah in their pursuit of the complete destruction of Israel and the Jewish
people. Both groups have shown complete disregard for Israel’s sovereignty in their efforts to fire rockets over, tunnel under or blow through security barriers for the purpose of killing or kidnapping Israelis.

The security fence was never constructed for the purpose of being a political border. Also, the government of Israel has repeatedly stated that the fence is not meant to be permanent. Its status and existence is open for negotiation if a responsible Palestinian government would show a commitment towards ending terrorism and securing the safety of Israelis. The Hamas government of the Palestinian Authority is not committed to ending terrorism. Hamas commits terrorism.

The actions of Hezbollah and Hamas continue to demonstrate the most important message that needs to be conveyed to the international community and media. The message is that Israel has no partner for peace. A fence in Israel can only be as good as its neighbour. Unlike the deaths of innocent Israelis, the fence is reversible.