Israel’s anti-terrorist barrier has long been the subject of condemnations and demonstrations by groups such as Australians for Palestine. One such protest was held in Melbourne’s city centre recently. What should be a discussion about how to change a reality where a security barrier is an essential act of self-defence, has in recent times, been twisted and distorted into claims of apartheid and racism. These claims have no factual basis and deflect from the real issue - sustained Palestinian terror and violence against Israel as a means to achieve political gain. It is time to clarify the realities of the fence that Israel had to build in order to protect her citizens from unrelenting terror.
The international media and the Australians for Palestine group publish images of a tall concrete wall. In reality, more than 97 per cent of the barrier is no more than a chain link fence, hooked up to an early warning system to detect attacks and infiltrations.
The concrete sections are the only prevention against terrorist snipers shooting at Israeli drivers on highways and have been placed strategically in areas where such actions were commonplace.
The fence is a way to directly prevent violence and it has worked: in those areas where the barrier has already been completed, attempted terrorist acts have been thwarted, and countless lives saved.
In recent years, Jerusalem was the target of 24 Palestinian suicide bomb attacks carried out by Palestinians entering from Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus, Ramallah and villages across the West Bank. It was therefore decided that the barrier would be built to protect Jerusalem residents as well.
This is where the geography of the fence is complex. Jews and Arabs live in such close proximity to one another in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas that the fence has often been re-routed and building delayed to accommodate Palestinian humanitarian concerns and legal petitions. Palestinians have petitioned Israel’s High Court and been granted the legal right to have the fence moved.
In June 2004, in the first and most influential court ruling, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that a 30km stretch of the proposed fence should be re-routed in an area north of Jerusalem, to meet the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian population. While the court supported Israel’s right to build the security fence to protect Israeli citizens, the court also required Israel to take into account Palestinian rights.
More court rulings to move the barrier’s location followed in 2004 and 2005, all examples of successful Palestinian recourse to the Israeli legal system and authorities.
Furthermore, Israel has replanted 68,000 fruit and olive trees uprooted because of the fence, in locations chosen by Palestinian farmers and built more than 40 gates for the farmers to reach their fields.
Israel’s anti-terrorist fence has no ideological or territorial rationale. The governing Kadima party has repeatedly stated its wish to withdraw from territory, not annex it. The fences’ purpose was always to prevent Palestinian terrorists from the West Bank from attacking Israeli civilians and that will not change. The status of the territory enclosed by the fence will be resolved in a negotiated peace agreement.
These examples expose why the accusation that Israel’s building of the anti-terrorist barrier is racist and apartheid is so wrong. Apartheid was a system of legal racial segregation enforced by the government of South Africa over a period of more than 40 years. Israel, a multi-ethnic, multi-racial society, in which the Arabs have democratic rights and are represented in Parliament, has built a barrier to protect all its citizens from terror, a legitimate right for any nation.
Critics claim that Israel’s security fence is discriminatory and disrupts Palestinian daily life. Yes, the barrier is ugly, inconvenient, and a symbol of conflict. But responsibility for the fence lies with the Palestinian terror groups which compelled Israel to build it.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.
10 posts so far.