Friday, March 5, 2010

The Rest of the Story

At college campuses around the world this week, Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) is taking place. The one thing you can count on from this movement is a whitewashing of the facts.

I heard from an IAW participant earlier this week that Israel “built walls around all of the water sources and controls the water flow to the West Bank.” He presented this as straight fact and used it to illustrate his claim that “Israel is trying to annihilate the Palestinian people over a prolonged period.”

The facts of the water issue are, among many, that this is an issue that the two sides are working in tandem on, and while Israel does have walls around some (definitely not all) Palestinian water sources, they are often erected at the request of the Palestinian Authority, who also requests Israeli security assistance to protect said water sources for Hamas attacks. So while Israel has built walls around Palestinian water sources and guards them with soldiers and weapons, they do this not entirely for the reasons that the IAW people would like you to believe.

Sure to be front and center at IAW demonstrations, events, and literature is Israel’s Security Barrier. Like the water issue, sure not to be mentioned are the facts.

In 2002, it is estimated that 410 Israelis were killed in attacks emanating from the West Bank. In 2009, the figure was 5. Security experts and the Israeli military attribute the bulk of this decline to the success of the Barrier. This monumental reduction has given Israel the confidence to remove two-thirds of the West Bank security checkpoints, which has opened up freedom of movement and commerce, resulting in an estimated 7-8% economic growth over the past two years in the West Bank during a time of general worldwide recession. Further, in response to Palestinian complaints, Israel has begun moving parts of the Barrier, allowing Palestinians in effected areas to reclaim lost land and familial/local connections.

The reduction in violence created by the success of the Barrier has allowed Israel to take more risks than it has in the past to benefit the Palestinians. Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has, for the first time in his career, acknowledged the right of the Palestinians to their own nation. In so doing, he has emphasized economic development in the West Bank, such as the removal of travel checkpoints and easing of Israel-West Bank travel restrictions. From the Palestinian side, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad have created a antiviolence tone. Fayyad, in particular, has latched onto the importance of economy-building, just as Netanyahu has embraced.

Fayyad’s embrace is nothing short of a fundamental shift in the Palestinian nationalist movement. His predecessor, Yasser Arafat, built the Palestinian narrative on revolutionary tenets of violent resistance and victimhood. Fayyad has instead decided to inspire a sense of individual and group empowerment and independence as practiced peacefully by most of the world.

Here are some specific examples of benefits derived by the Palestinians from the Barrier:
-Approximately 2,000 new businesses in the West Bank registered with the Palestinian Authority since 2008, including a second mobile phone service provider that is expected to inject $700 million into the West Bank economy and generate $354 million in revenue for the Palestinian Authority
-In Bethlehem, the rise in tourism has led to 6,000 new jobs

The IAW movement, along with its various cohorts, has been and will be preaching that Israel is trying to strangle the Palestinians with its Security Barrier. The notorious “10 word answer” is a concept that in 10 words you can articulate an argument more persuasively than you can in 100 because, in having to keep it simple and to the point, you find the 10 most powerful words. The Security Barrier is not an issue that lends itself to the 10 word answer. So far I have used 645 words to make the case for the Barrier, and in doing so have painted a more complete picture. If you should run into someone participating in IAW, and they give you the 10 word statement, as them for the next 650 words.

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