Isabel Kershner, writing in The New York Times, recently misrepresented the reality of Israeli-built walls and the fact that it is Palestinians enclosed by them and not Israelis.
Establishing that she spends far too much time in an Israeli milieu and too little in occupied Palestinian territory, she flips reality by penning, “Challenged by hostile forces on most of its fronts, Israel is already pretty much walled in.”
Yet it is Israel itself which has chosen to build walls. The people to describe as “walled in” are Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinians are the ones being forcibly enclosed within bantustans as part of a comprehensive system of apartheid – not Israelis.
Throughout the article, Kershner repeatedly omits vital information about an underground wall Israel is building to further obstruct Palestinian egress from the tightly blockaded Gaza Strip.
Israel has peace agreements with both Egypt and Jordan – and security arrangements with the Palestinian Authority to police its own people under Israeli occupation.
Even on its frontline in the occupied Golan Heights with Syria, where a devastating civil war has killed hundreds of thousands of people, Israel funds Syrian armed opposition groups to maintain a buffer zone controlled by “friendly forces.”
Yet these facts are excluded in Kershner’s decision to present a tough neighborhood spin with Israel “challenged by hostile forces on most of its fronts.”
Most of those fronts – beyond those where the Israeli government has signed peace agreements with other states – are occupied territory held by Israel for over 50 years.
Treating occupied people as “hostile” is akin to the moral equivalency offered by US President Donald Trump in equating anti-fascists and anti-racists with Nazis and white supremacists.
How else are people under an oppressive military occupation that deprives them of their most basic rights, while systematically colonizing their land, supposed to feel about their occupiers?
Yet Kershner dismissively employs the term “hostile forces,” undercutting millions of occupied people calling for equal rights and a return to stolen homes and properties.
Also omitted is a racist quote early last year from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding his determination to build walls all around Israel, though some of this construction would clearly be on occupied Palestinian territory.
Likening Palestinians to animals, Netanyahu stated, “In our neighborhood, we need to protect ourselves from wild beasts.”
Israel’s wall with Egypt, though readers won’t learn it in this article from Kershner, was built in significant part to keep out African migrants and refugees, principally from Eritrea and Sudan, fleeing war and other perils.
Netanyahu himself admitted as much.
President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea 🇮🇱🇺🇸
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) January 28, 2017
Not noted in Kershner’s article is that last year the US earmarked $120 million over three years for the US and Israeli militaries to develop jointly a system to detect tunnels. The New York Times reported on that funding, but in the context of an article about tunnels between Mexico and the US.
Land grab unreported
Kershner claims the “aboveground fences and sections of concrete wall [that] run along and through parts of the West Bank” are “a legacy of Palestinian suicide bombings during the second intifada.”
But she fails to note many observers’ contention that due to the fact 85 percent of the barrier runs inside the occupied West Bank, Israel’s construction of it appears to be far more of a land grab than anything to do with security.
There remain large gaps and other vulnerabilities that tens of thousands of Palestinians use to bypass the unfinished West Bank barrier every year.
This fact undermines Israel’s claim – repeated even by Trump to justify his plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border – that the barrier is an effective security measure.
The evidence indicates that what stopped the suicide bombs is not the wall, but that Palestinian factions decided to abandon the tactic.
Nor does Kershner mention that the International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 that Israel’s barrier runs “contrary to international law.”
This follows on the heels of a New York Times article in March that The Electronic Intifada reported on.
There, Russell Goldman reported that the windows of a “nine-room guesthouse” in Bethlehem “overlook the barrier that separates the territory [the West Bank] from Israel.”
In fact, the wall outside the hotel separates occupied West Bank territory from occupied West Bank territory. The New York Times’ unwillingness to correct the article may leave readers with the impression it doesn’t know the relevant geography or that it has ceded at least part of the West Bank to Israel.
Kershner is also vague on how the tunnels were used by Hamas during Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza.
She writes: “In 2014, after 50 days of fighting, Israel said it had put dozens of Hamas tunnels out of commission, including several extending into Israeli territory, threatening nearby civilian communities. Some had been used to attack soldiers.”
She should be clearer. Were any of these tunnels used to attack civilians? The answer from the UN Human Rights Council’s independent investigation into the 2014 war is no.
The 2015 report stated that “the tunnels were only used to conduct attacks directed at IDF [Israeli army] positions in Israel in the vicinity of the Green Line, which are legitimate military targets.”
Kershner has an obligation to her readers to state this, particularly in the aftermath of carnage which saw only six Israeli civilians killed, but 1,462 Palestinian civilians – including 551 children – lose their lives during Israel’s assault.