Using ominous terms to demonize Israel has become an all-too-common game: anti-Israel cynics foist contextually lacking information on individuals with little knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. By cleverly framing their arguments, these individuals trivialize Israel’s most important actions, ignoring its overwhelming contributions to the Palestinians and the rest of the world. IsraAID, an example of one of the many Israeli humanitarian organizations, provides humanitarian aid worldwide to people in need, regardless of religion, race, gender, nationality, age, and disability.
South African Apartheid was established with the goal of disenfranchising South African citizens. The attempt to classify Israel as an “apartheid state” fails immediately when one realizes that West Bank Palestinians were never citizens of Israel, and that Jews and Palestinians are not racially distinct. South African blacks did not seek the destruction of South Africa, but merely reformation of the government. Yet Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip dispute Israel’s right to exist.
A campaign of terror perpetrated by Palestinian groups, such as Hamas and Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, has claimed over 1,000 innocent Israeli lives. The construction of a West Bank security fence is a temporary response to this unquestionable security threat. Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab, Palestinian affairs journalist, and one of the few experts with direct access to Gaza and the West Bank explains, “by resorting to suicide bombings and other terror activities, the Palestinians gave Israel a good reason to build the security fence in the West Bank.” Harsh critics of Israel seem to forget that 93 per cent of the security fence is—you guessed it—simply a fence. It is a structure no more extensive than what you might build to separate your herb garden from your neighbour’s.
Claims that the security fence purposely alienates the Palestinians from their land are completely unjustified. West Bank Palestinians, although not citizens of Israel, are nonetheless afforded the right to enter Israeli courts and contest the placement of the security fence. As a result, the fence has been moved and rerouted dozens of times. More recently, as described in Ha’aretz, Israel “agreed to dismantle a 2.4-kilometer stretch […] which will return 2,600 dunams of agricultural land to its Palestinian owners. The dismantled stretch will be replaced by 4.9 kilometers of fencing closer to the Green Line, at a cost of more than NIS 50 million.” Israeli lawyer and academic Alan Dershowitz remarks that “for the first time in Mideast history, there is an independent judiciary willing to listen to grievances of Arabs—that judiciary is called the Israeli Supreme Court.” In 2002, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot allocate land based on religion or ethnicity, and are therefore unable to prevent Arab citizens from living wherever they choose.
Nelson Mandela, iconic of the struggle against South African Apartheid, remarked that he could not conceive of Israel removing the fence “if Arab states do not recognize Israel within secure borders.” Measures like the security fence are not driven by a racist ideology; they’re driven by legitimate security concerns.
Israel’s outreach: Israel could not be further from imposing a South African Bantustan solution on the Palestinians. Not only has the Israeli government and the majority of the Israeli public accepted the idea of a Palestinian state, as demonstrated by the Oslo Accords and Camp David summit, guaranteed security will require important territorial concessions. Israel under the leadership of Yitzhak Rabin arguably did more for the Palestinians than any other state. They recognized the West Bank and Gaza Strip as Palestinian territories, something Egypt and Jordan refused to do when they had control of those areas. Israel’s ultimate goal is to achieve both its own security and a Palestinian self-determination. In direct contrast to the Bantustans, a Palestinian state will enjoy both international recognition and generous aid: recent pledges include $3 billion from the World Bank alone.
“Israeli hospitals extend humanitarian treatment to Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and West Bank. These efforts continued when all other cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis came to a halt,” clarified Palestinian obstetrician and gynecologist, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish.
Equality: Unlike blacks in Apartheid South Africa, the one million Israeli Arabs have full political and civil rights. Israel is one of the few places in the Middle East where Arab women can vote. Arab representatives, currently holding eight seats in the Knesset, range from the Communist and Arab nationalist parties to the Likud. Many Israeli Arabs have held government positions, including Oscar Abu Razaq, Salah Tarif, and Salim Joubran, a judge on Israel’s Supreme Court. On all of Israel’s university campuses, Arab students and professors study, research, teach and—above all—argue and debate. Over 20 per cent of the student body at Haifa University is Arab, and over 300,000 Arab children attend Israeli schools. In Jerusalem, the vast majority of the 120,000 Arab residents have retained their pre-1967 Jordanian passports and therefore remain in Israel with permanent resident ID cards. In both the 1996 and 2005 Palestinian Authority elections, Arabs from Jerusalem were permitted to vote. There was however, an extraordinarily low turnout on both occasions, suspected to be a result of utter mistrust of the PA.
More recently, after Israel’s complete withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Khaled Abu Toameh noted that “instead of turning the Gaza Strip into the Singapore of the Middle East, the Palestinians turned the Gaza Strip into a base for radical Islamic organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.” The Palestinian Authority’s corrupt and powerless regime in the West Bank further demonstrates the Palestinian leadership’s unwillingness to cooperate with Israel.
Palestinians ultimately suffer most from polarized presentations made by Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, and their unsympathetic gang of Israel bashers. By reinforcing the illusion that the Palestinians and their leadership are in no way at fault, all pressure inevitably falls on Israel. We all know that a real relationship requires two willing parties.