Israel’s Challenge

by MARK SILVERBERG December 26, 2008

I was asked recently to explain why Israel was “ghettoizing” the Palestinians by constructing a security barrier in areas that have served as transit points for terrorists entering the country. The questioner noted that, as a Jew, I should be more sensitive to the concept of a ghetto, and its dehumanizing effects on human beings. I responded that the security barrier was neither built for reasons of discrimination nor motivated by racism, but as a deterrent to protect the lives of Israelis from Palestinian suicide bombers and, in fact, it has, to a great extent, accomplished its purpose.  

But the suggestion that Israel may have had racist motivations in constructing the barrier disturbed me because it seems to be a recurring theme among major international bodies. I asked the questioner why she had decided to sort Israel out for “special treatment?” After all, the security barrier that Israel has constructed to keep Palestinian suicide bombers out of its country is not unlike the security barrier constructed by the Saudis to keep the Yemeni jihadists out of their country; or the one that India has constructed along its borders with Pakistan, Kashmir and Bangladesh for the same reason;or the one that the Thais have constructed to keep the Malaysian jihadists out of their country, or the one that the U.S. is constructing to keep Mexican illegals out of our country……although I couldn't recall the last time a Mexican self-detonated in Albuquerque, or fired missiles into Dallas or Houston.
What is disturbing here is that this anti-Israel parody goes far beyond the barrier issue. Comments such as these represent a callous disregard for fundamental justice, and perhaps even anti-Semitism cloaked as righteous indignation. For example, with the start of Ramadan (the Islamic month of fasting) in early September, Israeli forces manning West Bank check-points were instructed to avoid eating or smoking in front of Palestinians as a sign of respect, even as the Palestinians continue to use the Tomb of Joseph as a garbage dump and have urinated next to the Torah scrolls in the Cave of the Patriarchs.Further, on any given day, Israeli prisons are hosting Red Cross representatives, journalists, lawyers, prisoners' advocates, as well as family members of convicted Palestinian prisoners, while Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas on Israeli soil, is being held in isolation and denied any and all visitation rights from lawyers, family and even the International Red Cross in violation of his human rights and international law. So, where is the international outcry for Shalit?
Then there’s the condemnation that Israel is denying Gazans access to Israeli hospitals and medical care. In fact, the number of patients receiving permits for referrals to hospitals in Israel increased by 45% from 4,932 in 2006 to 7,176 in 2007, and has continued to increase in the first six months of 2008, despite increasing missile attacks on Israel's civilian population, including terror attacks directed at the very crossings used by patients. At the same time, there have been at least twenty incidents where Palestinians used “medical missions” to attempt terror attacks.
And there’s more. Israel is constantly confronted with the demand that it must return Gaza and the West Bank to the Palestinians and the Golan Heights to Syria – areas seized during the 1967 Six-Day War. Why then do we never hear that same argument being raised against other nations? After World War II, Poland annexed 10% of historic Germany (East Prussia); Morocco controls the Western Sahara; Armenia has controlled 15% of neighboring Azerbaijan since 1994; Turkey has controlled half of Cyprus since its 1974 invasion; Russia has controlled the Kurile Islands off northern Japan for 63 years and China has occupied Tibet since 1950. So, where is the international outcry demanding that these countries return lands they seized in war? Why is it that only Israel's control over the West Bank merits international censure?
Then there’s the demand that the Palestinians be allowed a right of return to Israel proper or at least fair compensation for having been displaced as a result of Israel’s War of Independence in 1948. Why are similar demands not being made of the Syrians, the Iranians, the Iraqis and the Egyptians who displaced (or more specifically expelled) 750,000 Jews from their countries in 1948? I don’t recall any demands being made of any nation for compensation or allowing a right of return to any refugees displaced after any wars in modern times – except of course for those being made of Israel. Czechoslovakia expelled its Sudetenland Germans from their homes after World War II; the Poles expelled millions of Germans from East Prussia and absorbed that territory into Poland in 1945; thousands of Turkish Cypriots were displaced by Greek military forces in the 1960s and early 70s while Turkish forces displaced thousands of Greek Cypriots from Northern Cyprus after their 1974-1976 war; 450,000 ethnic Chinese were expelled from Vietnam between 1978-1979; the Bangladeshis expelled over three million Hindus in 1974; 250,000 Georgians were displaced from Abkhazia between 1993 and 1998, not to mention more than 500,000 ethnic Russians in Chechnya who were displaced during the First Chechen War in 1994-1996 and more than 800,000 Kosovar Albanians who were expelled from Kosovo during the Kosovo War in 1998-1999. Somehow, I must have missed offers of a right of return or any compensation package being offered to these millions upon millions of persons displaced by wars – except in the case of Israel.
And then there’s the issue relating to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in Gaza. Lauren Booth, sister-in-law of former British premier Tony Blair, recently entered Gaza aboard a protest boat on August 23 and told Ynet News in Israel that Gaza was "the largest concentration camp in the world today" and a "humanitarian crisis on the scale of Darfur." She was later photographed at a seemingly well-stocked grocery store in the so-called "concentration camp." So, let’s consider how these Israeli “monsters” have behaved. Hamas has declared its intention to destroy Israel and murder every Jew residing there, and has fired over 7,000 missiles at southern Israel. In return, Israel is providing 70% of Gaza’s electrical power and, each week sends tons of food, fuel and humanitarian aid to an enemy whose entire rationale for existence is the extermination or subjugation of every Jew in Israel. During World War II, the Allies firebombed Dresden, obliterated German cities, and dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Israel feeds its enemies!
And finally, Israel has been condemned for retaliating against Hamas and Hezbollah for their missile attacks on Israel’s southern and northern civilian populations because, it is said, Israel is (and this is a direct quote from Human Rights Watch) “endangering non-combatants, using disproportionate force and committing crimes against humanity.” If Israel fired missiles into Gaza City, Sidon or Tyre, the world would be enraged, the UN Security Council would be called into Special Session, Condoleezza Rice would be threatening Jerusalem - again, and the media would be having a field-day. So why is it that when the Palestinians and the Lebanese fire missiles at Israeli civilians as their primary target, it is barely mentioned in the media, but when Israel retaliates against those missile sites in targeted bombings, it’s considered “disproportionate force” – all which leads to the real issue lurking behind the scenes here – our enemies’ tactical use of human shields.
Why is criticism never leveled at Hamas or Hezbollah who regularly use children as human shields to protect their leaders and their weapons? In all the condemnation being heaped on Israel by the media for its retaliatory strikes in Gaza and in Lebanon during the Second Lebanon War (and indeed any future conflict), no one ever asks: “How can any democratic nation expect to win a war without “endangering civilians” especially when the enemy uses human shields as a tactical weapon to insulate itself from military strikes? Are we not handing our enemies an enormous tactical advantage? How can any democratic nation ever hope to win a future war against enemies that use human shields if it is condemned for “endangering civilians”?
Until there is universal condemnation of these tactics and recognition of the discriminatory double-standards applied to Israel, claims by self-righteous international organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the UN General Assembly, the European Union and the International Court of Justice are more than meaningless. They are offensive and deceitful. Contributing Editor Mark Silverberg is a foreign policy analyst with the Ariel Center for Policy Research (Israel) and the author of "The Quartermasters of Terror: Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Jihad." He has lectured extensively on subjects of counterterrorism, Jihadism, homeland security issues and intelligence matters.

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