Note: Although a new version of the Frequently Asked Questions has been published (December 2009), this text is being maintained on-line for historical reference.
PEACE PROCESS | ISRAEL | PALESTINIAN TERRORISM | ANTI-TERRORISM FENCE | DISENGAGEMENT FROM GAZA
• What are Israel’s primary goals?
• What is Zionism?
• What is the Law of Return and why does it exist?
• What is Holocaust denial?
• Was European guilt over the Holocaust responsible for the establishment of Israel?
• What is antisemitism?
• Is all criticism of Israel antisemitic?
• Is Israel an apartheid state?
• How does Israel’s legal system protect human rights and basic freedoms?
• Does the international community treat Israel fairly?
• Why has there been a rise in antisemitic incidents?
t What are Israel’s primary goals?
Israel’s top priority is its continued existence as a state that is both a national home for the Jewish people and a democratic state for all its citizens, Arab and Jew alike. Israelis want to live in a secure country that exists in peace with its neighbors.
In order to supports Israel’s identity as a Jewish and a democratic state, Israel realizes that it must promote a political process that will lead to two nation-states, one for Israelis, the other for Palestinians.
The State of Israel sees itself as a national home for Israeli citizens who live here and to Jews living elsewhere. Upon its establishment, Israel provided a full and comprehensive solution to the problem of Jewish refugees who were force to leave Arab countries and Europe.
Similarly, the future Palestinian state must provide a full and comprehensive solution for the Palestinians, including those who currently reside in the territories and those who left and have been kept deliberately as refugees to be exploited as bargaining chips during negotiations.
Israel’s future as a democratic and a Jewish state is best secured by a peaceful resolution to the conflict. When that much hoped for resolution is finally reached, peace will bring benefits not only to Israel, but to all its neighbors.
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t What is Zionism?
Zionism is the movement for the reestablishment of the Jewish people’s self-determination in their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. In many ways, Zionism can be considered the national liberation movement of the Jewish people.
The desire of the Jews to return to their homeland began nearly 2000 years ago. In 70 CE, the Romans destroyed the holy Temple and razed the city of Jerusalem, the religious and administrative capital of the Jewish people. This act of horrific destruction brought Jewish independence to an end, and in the decades that followed, most of the Jews of Israel were exiled. Only a small number stayed, so that throughout history, there has always been a Jewish presence in the Land of Israel.
Despite their exile, the vast majority of Jews never stopped hoping to return home, and these yearnings played an essential role in their prayer and literature. For example, at the end of the annual Passover meal, Jews all over the world repeat the vow "Next year in Jerusalem," and at Jewish weddings the groom recites "If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning" (Psalm 137).
The Jewish connection with the Land of Israel was not manifested in prayer alone. In the late nineteenth century, as national movements took shape in Europe and as antisemitism on that continent grew, an Austrian Jewish journalist, Theodor Herzl, began to organize the national movement of the Jewish people – the Zionist movement. The goal of Zionism was political: the establishment of an independent state for the Jewish people. The most natural place for this state was Zion, or the Land of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people.
Herzl elaborated this vision in his book The Jewish State. He envisioned a developed, thriving country in which all inhabitants, Jews and non-Jews, would live in peace and tranquility. This vision and its fulfillment are Zionism.
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t What is the Law of Return and why does it exist?
The State of Israel was established with the goal of providing a homeland for every Jew in which they could live as free and equal citizens without fear of discrimination on the basis of their religious beliefs or ethnic background. The need for a homeland for the Jewish people was apparent after centuries of unequal treatment and persecution. It was recognized by the international community in 1922, when the League of Nations adopted the Mandate to Administer Palestine and in 1947, when the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 (the Partition Plan).
The Law of Return (1950), which states "every Jew has the right to immigrate to the country," thereby fulfilled both the will of the international community and the goal of the Zionist movement.
As the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel says, the Jewish state was to be founded by virtue of the "natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign state." The Declaration also stated that the "State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles."
To apply the Law of Return to non-Jews or to persons without a Jewish relative would be illogical and stand in contrast to the primary purpose of establishing the only Jewish state in the world.
The Law of Return established the right of every Jew to settle in Israel, providing a refuge for any Jew fleeing persecution. According to the law, every Jew is entitled to return to his or her historical homeland and be naturalized in it. The Law of Return allows Jews the right to return to their homeland, much as many states, including Western European democracies, grant to those who have ethnic or historical ties to their countries.
In contrast to some claims, the Law of Return cannot be considered discriminatory. It does not prevent persons of non-Jewish origin from being naturalized in Israel; this possibility is available under other Israeli laws, much as in other Western democracies. The Law of Entry to Israel (1952) and the Law of Citizenship (1952) are naturalization laws similar to those that exist in other Western democracies.
Similarly, the question of the Palestinian refugees has no connection to the Law of Return. While this issue must be resolved in the framework of a peace agreement, it has no relationship to the right of Jews to return to the only Jewish State in the world.
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t What is Holocaust denial?
The Holocaust was the deliberate and systematic attempt to exterminate the entire Jewish people. Modern attempts to deny or even diminish this tragedy, unique in its scale, desecrate the memory of its millions of victims.
In 1933, Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany and established a racist regime, in which Jews were deemed to be "Untermenschen" (sub-humans), not part of the human race.
After Germany instigated World War II in 1939, Hitler began implementing his "Final Solution" to annihilate the Jewish people. His forces concentrated the Jews in ghettos and established labor, concentration, and extermination camps to which the Jews were transported. Millions of Jews were exterminated, while most of the rest died of deliberate starvation and disease. Hitler’s aim was to wipe off the face of the map every Jew in the world.
During the six years of the war, 6,000,000 Jews – including 1,500,000 children – were murdered by the Nazis. Hitler’s deliberate annihilation of the Jews, carried out with chilling efficiency, killed one-third of the Jewish population of the world. This genocide was unique in scale, management and implementation. It sought to destroy an entire people, wherever they could be found, merely for being born Jewish. For these reasons it was given a name of its own: the Holocaust.
Now, little more than sixty years later, many antisemites deny that the Holocaust took place, or attempt to belittle the tragedy by claiming that its scale was much smaller. Some racists wish to cleanse Nazism of its evil stain. Others believe the State of Israel was established to compensate the Jews for the Holocaust; by denying that it took place, they seek to deprive Israel of its right to exist. This is why Holocaust deniers have much support in Arab countries. In fact, some Arab leaders during World War II supported the Nazi plans to annihilate the Jews, and some Arab voices have been heard complaining that Hitler did not finish the job.
In recent years, Holocaust denial has taken on a new facade. Malicious haters of Israel from both the left and the right wings of the political spectrum frequently equate Israelis with the Nazis and the Palestinians with the Jews. Not only is this an abhorrent blood libel aimed at delegitimizing the very existence of Israel, it is an attempt to minimize the Holocaust. By comparing the two situations, which absolutely share no common ground, Israel is both immorally condemned and the suffering of Holocaust victims is trivialized.
Holocaust denial, in all its forms, is a moral abomination and it should never be tolerated. Only by remembering, documenting and commemorating the Holocaust, can we ensure that nothing like it will ever happen again to Jews or to any other people on earth.
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t Was European guilt over the Holocaust responsible for the establishment of Israel?
‘Holocaust’ is the name given to the attempted extermination of the Jewish people by Nazi Germany and its sympathizers during WWII. By its end in 1945, six million Jews (one third of the world’s Jewish population) had been annihilated.
While it is true that the horrors of the Holocaust caused many people to sympathize with the plight of the Jews, it would be wrong to say that European guilt was the principal reason for the establishment of a Jewish state. Rather, the Holocaust can be viewed as an accelerant to a process of state-building that was already well under way.
The Zionist movement began in the previous century, and already by the 1880s, Jews were beginning to settle in the Land of Israel. Over the years, they not only established farms, towns and cities, but began to lay the foundations of the state-to-be.
A flourishing society, with its own government-in-waiting, was actively striving to establish sovereignty over those parts of the country granted to it in the numerous peace plans of the pre-state era.
International support for the goal of the Zionist movement – the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people – began long before World War II. Indeed, the initial key step towards the Jewish state was taken in the aftermath of the first World War, when in July 1922, the League of Nations granted Great Britain the Mandate for Palestine/The Land of Israel. In a decision taken by the 52 governments of the League, the Mandate called upon Great Britain to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national homeland in the land of Israel.
The next crucial step was the 1947 United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, which called for the partition of the Mandate territory into two states, one Jewish, the other Arab. Clearly this resolution was not aimed solely at providing the Jews with a homeland, but at rather the equitable resolution of the conflict between the two peoples.
Moreover, while most European members of the UN voted for the resolution, so too did most Eastern European, Latin American and African countries. It should be remembered that in 1947, the British Empire was already starting to crumble around the globe and the process of decolonialization was beginning in much of the developing world.
Given the abovementioned facts, the question should not be whether European guilt is responsible for the establishment of Israel, but rather how a state for the Arab residents of Palestine was not established at the same time. The answer lies in the Arab rejection of the partition plan, and their attacks on the nascent Jewish state. However, this issue is largely ignored by those clinging to the ‘European guilt’ fallacy, since this claim is part and parcel of the theories presented by those who try to delegitimize the very existence of Israel.
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t What is antisemitism?
"Antisemitism" is the name given to the form of racism practiced against the Jewish people. Though the literal interpretation of antisemitism would appear to denote hostility to all Semitic peoples, this is an erroneous belief. The term was originally coined in Germany in 1879 to describe the European anti-Jewish campaigns of that era, and it soon came to define the persecution of or discrimination against Jews throughout the world. Therefore, Arabs who claim that they cannot be antisemites because they themselves are "Semites" are merely attempting to obfuscate the issue, and thereby sanitize their own racist attitudes. This attempt to absolve themselves from the charge of racism is particularly blatant as severe antisemitism exists in many Arab countries today.
Despite the relatively modern roots of the term antisemitism, hatred of the Jewish people is an age-old phenomenon. Antisemitism has taken different forms and used various motifs throughout history. In modern times, it has been promoted by extreme nationalistic and even racist ideologies. Antisemitism reached its peak in the Holocaust. Over six million Jews (one third of the world’s Jewish population) were brutally and systematically murdered during World War II.
Modern antisemitism in Europe, after being repressed for decades following the Holocaust, has erupted with renewed fury in recent years in a new form: "anti-Zionism," or hatred of the State of Israel. This despite the fact that Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people – an expression of their legitimate aspiration to self-determination and national independence. The Zionist movement was founded to provide an ancient people with a sovereign state of its own, in its ancestral homeland. Israel is the modern political embodiment of this age-old dream.
The goal of anti-Zionism is to undermine the legitimacy of Israel, thereby denying the Jewish people their place in the community of nations. Denigration of Zionism is therefore an attack on Israel’s basic right to exist as a nation equal to all other nations, in violation of one of the fundamental principles of international law.
Just as antisemitism denies Jews their rights as individuals in society, anti-Zionism attacks the Jewish people as a nation, on the international level. Similar to the use of "the Jew" as a scapegoat for many a society’s problems, Israel has been singled out for disproportionate and one-sided condemnation in the international arena.
Anti-Zionism is often manifested as attacks on Israel in the United Nations and other international forums. Over the years, many an event of the international community has been exploited as an opportunity to condemn Israel – no matter what the subject matter, no matter how tenuous the tie to the conflict in the Middle East.
Moreover, it is no coincidence that the censure of Israel in international forums and the media often has been accompanied by a sharp increase in antisemitic incidents in many parts of the world.
While legitimate criticism of Israel is considered part and parcel of the democratic process, criticism that crosses the boundary into illegitimate – by demonization, the use of double standards or the delegitimization of Israel – should be considered an expression of the "new antisemitism." Both the traditional forms of antisemitism, as well as its new version (in which Israel is treated as the Jew of the international community) should be vigorously condemned.
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t Is all criticism of Israel antisemitic?
It is important to recognize that Israel, as a democracy, is receptive to fair and legitimate criticism. A valid, yet negative, analysis of Israeli policies should not be considered antisemitic, any more than criticism of another country should be considered racist.
However, all too often condemnations of Israel cross the border from valid criticism into regions of denigration that can be considered antisemitic. The generally accepted term for this type of disparagement is "the new antisemitism." Just as in the past Jews were made into the scapegoats for many problems, today there are attempts to turn Israel into an international pariah.
The line between legitimate criticism and the new antisemitism type of criticism is often difficult for some to judge. Former minister Natan Sharansky, in his seminal 2004 article "Anti-Semitism in 3-D," laid out the criteria for defining the boundary line. The 3-Ds of the new antisemitism are: demonization, double standards and delegitimization.
Demonization: Just as the Jews were demonized for centuries as the embodiment of evil, so too Israel has been called an evil entity. Much of the criticism in this category consists of comparing Israelis to the Nazis and Palestinians to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Holocaust inversion is not only prevalent in the Arab world, it is gaining ground in the West as well. This propaganda technique is particularly heinous as it not only fraudulently depicts Israel’s struggle to defend itself, it also diminishes the extraordinary suffering of Holocaust victims, in itself a form of Holocaust denial.
Double Standards: The test for judging a double standard is to check whether Israel is being judged by different criteria than other states under similar circumstances. Double standards are often found in international forums, in which Israel is unfairly singled out for criticism and held up to standards not applied to any other state. At the same time, the behavior of other nations in a comparable, or even worse, situation is ignored. The application of double standards can often be recognized by the unreasonable quantity, as well as the quality, of the criticism.
A significant example of double standards can be found in the calls for boycotts of Israel. If such calls were part of a larger campaign against the many regimes that grossly violate human rights around the world, Israel would argue that its inclusion in such a list is not legitimate. However, when Israel alone is singled out for a boycott, this is a clear demonstration of antisemitic activity.
Delegitimization: The new antisemites are attempting to delegitimize the very existence of the Jewish state. They do this either by undermining its right to have been established in the first place or by attempting to turn present-day Israel into a pariah state, for example by using loaded terms such as Apartheid or human rights violator. As Natan Sharansky wrote: "While criticism of an Israeli policy may not be anti-Semitic, the denial of Israel’s right to exist is always anti-Semitic. If other peoples have a right to live securely in their homelands, then the Jewish people have a right to live securely in their homeland."
Although valid criticism of Israel has absolutely no connection to antisemitism, some of the unreasonable condemnation has its roots in antisemitic attitudes, often disguised as "anti-Zionism." As a nation dedicated to the principles of democracy, Israel believes that criticism, whether by other nations or our own people, is a powerful force for positive change. However, there is a clear distinction between legitimate calls for improvement and the attempt to delegitimize Israel through the use of far-fetched analogies, demonization techniques, singling out or holding it up to standards not applied to other states. These types of criticism ignore the context in which Israel must strive to survive in the face of violent attacks against its citizens and, all too often, against its very existence.
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t Is Israel an apartheid state?
Like most other Western democracies with a sizeable minority population, Israel still has a great deal to do before absolute equality can be achieved. However, the disparity between the situation of Arab-Israelis and the situation that existed in South Africa is so vast that no legitimate comparison can be made. Indeed, when such parallels are drawn, they are far more indicative of the approach towards Israel of those making this judgment than they are of any reality in Israel.
As there is no genuine justification for making this charge, there can only be two possible explanations for it – either it is being made by someone who is totally ignorant of the situation in Israel or it is being made by someone who harbors a great deal of hatred for Israel. Moreover, this comparison does a great disservice to those who truly suffered under apartheid by diminishing both the agony of their situation and by denying the peaceful means that they used to end this horrific regime.
While the status of Arab-Israelis in Israel is still open to much improvement, a great deal has already been accomplished towards reaching the goal of absolute equality. One only has to look at the rise of Arab-Israelis in the public sphere to realize this; Arab Israeli can be found on the Supreme Court, in the Knesset (parliament), in ambassadorial positions, as mayors and even in the government (currently, Raleb Majadele serves as Minister of Science, Culture and Sports and Majalli Whbee serves as Deputy Foreign Minister). Prominent Arab-Israelis can be found in almost every sphere of Israeli life, including playing on Israel’s national soccer team.
Indeed, one of the ideals on which Israel was founded was that of equality. Israel’s Declaration of Independence states that the State of Israel "will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions." Moreover, it goes on to appeal "to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions." Subsequent legislation and judicial decisions have upheld these principles.
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t How does Israel’s legal system protect human rights and basic freedoms?
All citizens of Israel – regardless of their race, religion or sex – enjoy equal rights and protections under the law. This principle dates to the founding document of modern Israel, the May 1948 Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel. This declaration of independence proclaimed that the State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
Although the Declaration is not a legally binding constitutional document, it maintains its influence as a guiding principle in the interpretation of laws. Its centrality was acknowledged in the1992 Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, which explicitly provides that the human rights included in the law shall be interpreted "in the spirit of the principles in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel."
Like the United Kingdom, Israel does not have a formal, written constitution. This does not mean that basic human rights and civil liberties are not constitutionally protected. Soon after the founding of the State, the Knesset began to enact a series of basic laws relating to all aspects of life, which will eventually be brought together to form a written constitution. As well as the basic laws outlining the primary features of government, additional laws have been passed which deal with fundamental rights, such as the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.
In the absence of a formal bill of rights, Israel’s judiciary has played a key role in the protection of civil liberties and the rule of law. In addition to the Basic Laws, a body of case law has developed over the years that protects civil liberties. Equality, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion are but a few of the basic rights that are considered fundamental values by Israel’s legal system. Israel’s constitutional system is based on two fundamental tenets: that the State is democratic and that it is also Jewish. There is no contradiction between the two.
Beyond its contribution to case law, the Supreme Court has another unique function. In its capacity as a High Court of Justice and acting as the court of first and last instance, the Supreme Court hears petitions brought by individuals appealing for redress against a government body or agent. This means that any individual living in Israel or the territories, can appeal directly to the highest court in the land, and request immediate assistance if they believe their rights are being violated by any government body or by the armed forces. These petitions play an important role in guaranteeing individual human rights for both Israeli citizens and Palestinians.
Israel’s judicial system – first and foremost the Supreme Court, the watchdog of Israel’s democracy – has played a vital role in ensuring that all Israelis, Jewish and Arab, enjoy the same level of protection of their human rights and civil liberties as citizens of other Western democracies.
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t Does the international community treat Israel fairly?
The State of Israel is an active member of the family of nations and a dynamic participant in international organizations. Israel joined the United Nations as its 59th member on 11 May 1949. Since then, it has participated in a wide range of UN activities and has enthusiastically contributed to UN organs and international agencies, such as those devoted to health, development, labor, food and agriculture, education and science. Israel also plays a role in the work of non-governmental organizations operating under UN auspices, which deal with issues ranging from aviation to immigration, from communications to meteorology, from trade to the status of women.
Unfortunately, Israel’s willingness to fully participate in international affairs has not always been reciprocated. While the United Nations has intermittently adopted resolutions which would provide a reasonable platform for advancing peace between Israel and its neighbors, much of the time the UN has taken a biased approach towards Israel.
The UN has been misused often and turned into a partisan battleground in the ongoing political campaign being carried out against Israel by its adversaries in the region and elsewhere. The 21 Arab states, with the aid of the Islamic countries and the non-aligned camp, constitute an automatic majority for hostile initiatives, assuring the almost automatic adoption of anti-Israel resolutions in the General Assembly and other UN forums.
Since the end of the Cold War and with the momentum gained in the Arab-Israel peace process in the 1990s, a somewhat more balanced approach began to be felt in the General Assembly with regards to resolutions about the Middle East. The General Assembly’s 1991 repudiation of its infamous 1975 resolution libeling Zionism as racism is one such example. In recent years, Israel has also been allowed to increase its involvement in United Nations activities, due to its limited admission into a regional group (throughout the history of the United Nations, participation in a regional group had been uniquely denied to Israel).
However, the outbreak of Palestinian violence and terrorism in late September 2000 and the ensuing years of violence and tension have largely reversed the positive trend. The Palestinian leadership, the Arab member states and their supporters in the UN seek to exploit the situation in the international arena to their advantage. As in the past, blatantly one-sided resolutions against Israel are often proposed and adopted. At times, even international gatherings, like the "2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance" in Durban, have been hijacked to engage in antisemitic and extreme anti-Israel bashing.
Particularly galling is the exploitation of UN forums for human rights, which are used – often by states that blatantly abuse human rights – as platforms for one-sided and outrageous attacks on Israel’s reputation. This phenomenon is especially unfortunate given that the time devoted to condemning Israel takes away from the attention that should be devoted to grave human rights violations in other member states.
It should be remembered that some UN resolutions have been of crucial significance for Israel, among them Security Council Resolutions 242 (22 November 1967) and 338 (22 October 1973), which provide an agreed framework for settling the Arab-Israel conflict. Over the years, the UN has at times contributed to bringing about the cessation of hostilities between Israel and its Arab neighbors by appointing mediators, extending UN auspices to cease-fire and armistice agreements, stationing UN forces between the adversaries and its role in the international Quartet.
Still, the all too frequent anti-Israel bias on the part of the UN casts a dark shadow on its integrity and raises serious doubts about its ability to play a constructive role in promoting a genuine and fair peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
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t Why has there been a rise in antisemitic incidents?
The campaign to delegitimize Israel has led to a sharp increase in anti-Israel and antisemitic attacks worldwide. Increasingly, the line between legitimate criticism of Israel and antisemitic attacks on Jewish targets has been blurred.
Since the beginning of the second intifada in September 2000, Israel has been subjected to a worldwide campaign of delegitimization. It has been attacked in the media and international forums, vilified by political leaders and intellectuals. It has had its very right to exist questioned, as has its basic duty to defend its citizens. Extremists on the left and the right have joined together in their hatred of the Jewish State.
These attacks go beyond justifiable criticism, which Israel, as a vibrant democracy, considers part of the legitimate discourse of states. However, it is not legitimate to censure Israel in a grossly disproportionate way, single it out and hold it up to impossible standards not demanded of any other state. Nor is it legitimate to demonize Israel or attempt to delegitimize its very existence.
The reasons behind this growing phenomenon are many. It is closely connected to the ability of the Palestinians to market their image as one of powerless victims. They have used this perception to play on the sentiments of those who advocate human rights (while the Palestinian leadership and terrorists violate the most basic human rights of innocent Israeli victims of terror and of their own people).
Bias in the media has also been an important contributing factor to the delegitimization of Israel. It is not surprising that populations in the West, who generally trust their media, are influenced when exposed to largely one-sided depictions of the conflict.
Other condemnation is more ideologically based, often advanced by those who are willing to ignore all transgressions of totalitarian regimes, no matter how egregious, yet criticize any defensive steps taken by democratic states.
Traditional antisemitic attitudes, often cloaked as anti-Zionist positions, have also played a role.
Given that there are those who are unable, or unwilling to differentiate between the Jewish state and Jewish communities abroad, these attacks on Israel’s legitimacy have been accompanied by physical attacks on Jewish targets the world over, including in Europe. Antisemitic incidents have included bombings of synagogues and Jewish schools, vandalism and desecration of Jewish cemeteries, death threats and violence against Jews, and unprovoked assaults up to and including murder. These hate crimes directed against Jewish individuals and community institutions are often disguised as "anti-Zionist" actions.
The situation in the Middle East is even worse. Virulent anti-Israeli rhetoric was commonplace, but it has intensified since the start of the violence in 2000. Antisemitic and anti-Israeli myths, often perpetuated by governments with their own agendas, are readily believed by large percentages of the region’s population. The relentless flow of outrageous and unfounded accusations emanating from Palestinian spokespersons has greatly contributed to the growing wave of antisemitism. One of the consequences has been an increase in the attacks on Jewish targets in the Arab world, leading to loss of life such as during the April 2002 terror attack on the ancient synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia.
Israel is gravely concerned by the recent significant rise in antisemitism that targets Jewish communities in Europe and elsewhere. This growing phenomenon should arouse the deep concern of all civilized peoples. Israel calls on the governments of countries where the scourge of antisemitism is spreading to take all measures necessary to ensure the security of Jewish communities – and to bring the perpetrators of these deplorable attacks to justice. Antisemitic incitement – whether by individuals, organizations or even the leaders of certain countries – should be strongly condemned at every opportunity.
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Israel’s top priority is its continued existence as a state that is both a national home for the Jewish people and a democratic state for all its citizens, Arab and Jew alike. Israelis want to live in a secure country that exists in peace with its neighbors. GovXParagraph3
• What caused the wave of terrorism that began in September 2000?
• How can the terrorism be stopped?
• What do Palestinian ceasefires mean?
• What is the Palestinians’ humanitarian situation?
• Why have children been involved in the violence?
• Has the media been fair in covering the conflict?
• Is Palestinian terrorism part of international terrorism?
• Are targeted operations justified?
t What caused the wave of terrorism that began in September 2000?
Beginning in September 2000, Israel suffered from terrorist attacks on an almost unprecedented scale. Its citizens had to live with the day-to-day fear of being blown up by suicide bombers or shot to death by Palestinian gunmen. Over 1,100 Israeli lost their lives and many, many thousands more were maimed or psychologically scarred for life.
The wave of terrorism that began in September 2000 is the direct result of a strategic Palestinian decision to use violence – rather than negotiation – as the primary means to advance their agenda. Despite Palestinian claims to the contrary, Israel’s so-called "occupation" of the territories is not the true cause of the terrorism, as negotiations could have peacefully resolved all aspects of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict well before the violence started.
When the wave of violence and terrorism began in September 2000, the Palestinians originally claimed that it was a spontaneous reaction to the visit of then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount. However, later statements by Palestinian leaders in the Arab-language media contradicted this assertion. Neither did the report issued by the Mitchell Committee, composed of American and European leaders, give support to the earlier Palestinian claim. Consequently, Palestinian spokespersons changed their tactics and instead began to assert that the violence was a response to Israel’s "occupation" of the West Bank and Gaza.
This claim ignores events both before and after 1967 (when Israel came into control of the territories during a war of self-defense) that prove that the "occupation" is not the true cause of Palestinian terrorism. Not only did Palestinian terrorism precede Israel’s presence in the West Bank and Gaza; it has often hit brutally at those moments, as in 1994-1996, when the peace process was making the greatest progress.
Terrorism from Gaza continued even after Israel left that territory in 2005. The history of Palestinian terrorism makes it abundantly clear that the terrorists are not opposing Israel’s presence in the territories; rather they are opposed to making any kind of peace with Israel.
Indeed, the current wave of terrorism began shortly after intense high-level negotiations were conducted to find a permanent resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In July 2000, a Middle East peace summit was held at Camp David, hosted by U.S. President Bill Clinton and attended by Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Barak. During the summit, Israel expressed its willingness to make far-reaching and unprecedented compromises in order to arrive at a workable, enduring agreement. However, Yasser Arafat chose to break off the negotiations without even offering any proposals of his own. Consequently, the summit adjourned with President Clinton placing the blame for its failure squarely at Arafat’s feet.
Nevertheless, Israel continued to pursue a negotiated peace. At the Taba talks in January 2001, the Israeli government made known to the Palestinians its willingness to make additional compromises in order to achieve peace. Inexplicably, the Palestinians again rejected a peaceful solution. Later Palestinian claims belittling the Camp David and Taba proposals were refuted by the most senior American officials involved in the negotiations. For example, in an April 22, 2002 television interview, former US Special Envoy Dennis Ross characterized the charge that the West Bank would be divided into cantons as "completely untrue," noting that the offered territory "was contiguous."
Israel had already demonstrated its willingness to take substantial risks for peace. In the framework of the peace treaty with Egypt, it returned the Sinai Peninsula, an area that had given Israel significant strategic depth. In the negotiations that had been conducted since September 1993, Israel had gone far in addressing Palestinian aspirations in the West Bank and Gaza. It negotiated the establishment of a governing Palestinian Authority (PA) in the territories, which gradually expanded its jurisdiction and powers. In fact, after extensive Israeli withdrawals, the PA administered a significant portion of territory and 98% of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza.
It is clear that the wave of Palestinian terrorism, which began in the wake of the Camp David summit failure, has nothing to do with a spontaneous Palestinian action to "resist the occupation." The Palestinian leadership had taken a strategic decision to abandon the path to peace and to use violence as their primary tactic for advancing their agenda. This decision undermined the bedrock foundation of the peace process – the understanding that a solution can only be reached through compromise rather than inflexibility, and through negotiation rather than violence.
The Palestinian claim that Israel’s presence in the territories caused the terrorism began as a desperate attempt to deflect criticism after Arafat rejected Israel’s peace proposals. It quickly evolved into an excuse for the inexcusable – the indiscriminate murder of innocent civilians.
Terrorist attacks can never be justified, and they are particularly tragic when the disputed issues could have been settled through negotiations. The Palestinian Authority had been given a real opportunity to end the conflict through negotiations. However, Israel’s olive branch was met with a hail of gunfire and a barrage of suicide bombers. The greatest obstacle to peace is not the lack of a Palestinian state, rather it is the existence of Palestinian terrorism.
Despite fervent Palestinian claims to the contrary, the PA’s deliberate decision to use violence as a political tool is the true and only source of the wave of terrorism that began in September 2000. It is that decision that has caused the death of over 1,100 Israelis and severely harmed Israel’s dreams of peace with its Palestinian neighbors.
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t How can the terrorism be stopped?
True and lasting peace can only be achieved by a negotiated settlement. However, for negotiations to have a chance to succeed, Palestinian terrorism must end.
Beginning in September 2000, Israel was subjugated to a wave of terrorism that killed over 1,100 and injured many thousands more. Israeli citizens lived in daily fear of being murdered by suicide bombers, car-bombs and gunmen. Jewish holy sites were desecrated and destroyed, while Jewish worshippers were blown up.
The government of Israel has a duty to protect the lives of its citizens. However, the fight against terrorism poses a difficult dilemma for Israel. As a democratic state, Israel must strive to find the proper balance between its imperative security needs and its desire to uphold the democratic values and freedoms its holds dear. Finding this balance is never an easy task for any democracy under fire. Israel’s task is made all the more harder given that the Palestinian terrorists it faces have no respect either for human life or for the rule of law. They not only target Israeli citizens; they also hide behind the Palestinian civilian population, confident that any Palestinian casualties will be blamed on Israel, no matter which side is responsible.
In order to fight terrorism effectively, while attempting to minimize harm to the local Palestinian population, Israel has employed a variety of defensive methods. Passive security measures, which include roadblocks and curfews as well as the anti-terrorist fence, are aimed at limiting the free movement of terrorists.
Unfortunately, the daily lives of many Palestinians have also been affected by these measures. However, the difficulties caused by the anti-terrorist fence or roadblocks, as regrettable as they are, cannot compare to the irreversible harm to innocent lives caused by terrorism.
Active security measures against the terrorists are taken when more passive measures do not suffice. Even then, Israel makes every effort to minimize harm to bystanders. Israel has consistently attempted to limit its use of military force. For example, it waited 18 months before beginning any large-scale military operations against terrorism. That took place only after near daily suicide bombings in March 2002, culminating in the Passover eve massacre, left Israel with no choice.
It is never easy for a democratic country to fight terrorism. This mission is made more difficult when that state is subjected to international pressure to conform to impossible standards. Almost every defensive measure taken by Israel – whether it involves passive security measures, legal steps or proportionate and necessary military action – was met with international criticism. Israel will continue to uphold its democratic values; however, it must also protect the lives of its innocent civilians.
One-sided and unfair international criticism of Israel only encouraged more Palestinian terrorism. The chances of achieving peace are increased when the international community respects Israel’s right to self-defense while simultaneously making clear to the Palestinians the futility of terrorism. International pressure on states that sponsor and assist Palestinian terrorism should be strongly applied and the funds to terrorist organizations should be cut off completely. Only when the Palestinians finally abandon terrorism and truly commit to solving political disputes by negotiation can peace be possible.
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t What do Palestinian ceasefires mean?
At various times, it has been claimed in the international media that the Palestinians are observing a ceasefire with Israel. Indeed, the Palestinians make the ceasefire claim themselves in English language media outlets. In reality, these periods are not true ceasefires as understood in the Western world. The Arabic terms used to describe these phases have no direct correlation in English because they represent a different concept to that known in the West. The Palestinians consider these periods as time to regroup and rearm, and they only represent a reduction in the violence, not a cessation. Indeed, it has often been said that a Middle Eastern ceasefire is one in which Israel ceases and the Palestinians fire.
The two best-known "ceasefires" – the hudna that began in 2003 and the tahadiya initiative that was offered in 2006 – have much in common. Both began when the Palestinian side was under a great deal of pressure from Israeli defensive actions and both were only partially observed by the Palestinians, if at all.
The most recent phase, the tahadiya, was supposed to begin after the withdrawal from Gaza. The Palestinians offered to stop rocket and missile fire yet this period was characterized both by a constant barrage of Kassam rockets and mortar bombs fired on the Israeli city of Sderot and by the fact that the Palestinians took advantage of this period of relative calm to smuggle in enormous quantities of arms and ammunition, as well as to rebuild their terrorist infrastructure.
The earlier "ceasefire" began on June 29, 2003, when following talks with the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian terror organizations declared a "hudna" – a term that has been interpreted abroad as a ceasefire. However, a hudna is a temporary respite from fighting designed to gain time to regroup and rearm. About two months later, following a series of terror attacks, the Palestinian terror organizations declared the hudna was at an end.
Under the first phase of the Roadmap, the Palestinian Authority is obligated to end terrorism by dismantling the terrorist infrastructure, confiscating illegal weapons and arresting those involved in planning and carrying out acts of terror. The hudna, however, was an internal Palestinian arrangement, which the Palestinian Authority used as a means for avoiding its obligations under the Roadmap to fight terrorism.
The hudna was used by the terrorist organizations themselves, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as a tactical ploy for gaining time to build up their strength for the next round of terrorist attacks. The hudna was a cover for the Palestinian terror organizations to plan new terror attacks, dig tunnels for smuggling in weapons, increase the range of the Kassam rockets, as well as to regroup and train their forces.
While interpreted abroad as a ceasefire, the term hudna was seen by the Palestinian terror groups and their supporters in the Arab world as a mere tactical truce in keeping with Islamic history. In the year 628, when the prophet Mohammed considered his forces to be too weak to overcome the rival Kuraysh tribes, he concluded with them a ten-year truce (hudna) referred to as the Hudaybiya accord. Less than two years later, having consolidated their power, the Muslim forces attacked the Kuraysh tribes and defeated them, thereby enabling Mohammed to conquer Mecca.
Since that time, Muslims have understood hudna to mean a tactical truce intended to allow a favorable shift in the balance of power. Once that occurred, the truce could be broken. It was, therefore, no coincidence that the Palestinian terror groups adopted the term hudna.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad declared that their hudna would last three months, while Fatah declared a six-month hudna. Yet, they did not wait even that long to renew terrorism. Since the hudna was declared in late June 2003, and even before the mid-August suicide bombing of a Jerusalem bus, six Israelis and one foreign national were murdered in terrorist attacks, 28 civilians were injured; 180 terror attacks in all took place, including 120 shootings; additionally 40 terror attacks were thwarted by Israel. The bus bombing in Jerusalem on August 19, 2003 claimed an additional 23 lives, 7 of them children, while 136 were injured, including 40 children. It was clear that the Palestinian terrorist organizations never had a real ceasefire in mind, let alone an end to terrorism.
Only by fulfilling the requirements of the Roadmap and the agreements signed by the Palestinians, i.e. dismantling the terrorist infrastructure and organizations as well as putting an end to incitement, will the Palestinians meet their obligations and commitments.
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t What is the Palestinians’ humanitarian situation?
The Palestinian leadership’s decision in 2000 to employ violence as a political tool sabotaged Israeli-Palestinian economic cooperation, causing a sharp decline in the economic well-being of the Palestinian population.
Israel had made substantial efforts since the signing of the Oslo accords to facilitate Palestinian-Israeli economic cooperation in the context of the peace process. As a result, there had been a marked expansion of Palestinian trade and employment in Israel, as well as other forms of economic cooperation from 1994 until the outbreak of the violence in September 2000.
Israel, in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, had undertaken a broad range of actions since 1994 in order to promote and improve the free movement of goods and workers from the Palestinian Authority areas into Israel. In addition, industrial parks had been set up in the Palestinian Authority, involving substantial Israeli investment and economic incentives. These measures had a significant, positive impact on the Palestinian economy.
Unfortunately, the violence and terrorism have led to a sharp decline in economic activity in the area, with economic repercussions for both the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
The government of Israel would like to stabilize the situation in the territories, and to ease conditions for those living there. Israel has no desire to burden the Palestinian civilian population not involved in terrorism and violence.
Nevertheless, the acute security threat presented by Palestinian terrorism makes some measures unavoidable, if Israel is to fulfill its duty as a sovereign state to safeguard the lives of its citizens. An anti-terrorist fence is being built along the West Bank to prevent terrorist infiltration. Travel restrictions have been put into effect to stop terrorists from reaching their targets. The passage of Palestinians from the PA areas into Israel has also been limited, so as to prevent the spillover of violence and terrorism into Israeli cities. These measures, and additional precautions such as roadblocks, are designed to hinder the movement of terrorists and explosives, thereby saving innocent lives.
Exceptions to the restrictions have been made for the movement of commercial goods, food, medicine, medical crews and ambulances, which continue to circulate as freely as possible (given Palestinian use of ambulances to transport wanted terrorists and weapons and the involvement of Palestinian medical workers in terrorism). Moreover, procedures have been simplified to enable speedy delivery of humanitarian goods, such as medical supplies, to the Palestinian Authority.
Unfortunately, terrorists have used every Israeli attempt to ease restrictions on Palestinian daily life as an opportunity to renew their attacks on Israeli citizens.
It is Israel’s policy to differentiate as much as possible between those perpetrating, aiding and directing terrorist activities, and the civilian population which is uninvolved in terrorism.
It must be stressed that the purpose of the security precautions is not to unduly burden the Palestinian population, but rather to ensure the security of Israeli citizens facing daily threats to their very lives. The end to these restrictions, like peace itself, is dependent on an end to the violence and terrorism.
In the meanwhile, Israel is undertaking measures to ease the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian population of the West Bank, despite the security risks. This, in the framework of negotiations, and in the hope that confidence building measures will create a more positive atmosphere for peace.
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t Why have children been involved in the violence?
Instead of educating for peace, as Israel does, the extremist Palestinians have encouraged their youth to take an active role in the violence. Instead of making every effort to protect children, as Israel does, the Palestinian terrorists have deliberately targeted Israeli young people.
Israel is devoted to educating its children for tolerance and coexistence, teaching them to respect all peoples in accordance with Israel’s democratic values and ideals. Israeli children are taught in their schools and via the media that the pursuit of peace is the highest calling. Israel believes that the key to a true and lasting peace lies in educating the next generation of both Israelis and Palestinians to live side-by-side in peace.
In contrast, the Palestinian extremists have deliberately created a culture of hatred that encourages Palestinian children to take an active role in violent activities. They have trained young people in the use of weapons and created an atmosphere that prepares them to become suicide bombers. Most casualties among Palestinian youngsters have occurred due to their direct participation in the violence or as the result of Israel’s confrontations with terrorists who hide among the Palestinian population. The Palestinians have not attempted to safeguard Palestinian children from harm, rather it has chosen to use them as a propaganda tool.
Palestinian schools, summer camps, mosques and official media have all participated in creating this culture of hate. The cynical use of children as pawns in the conflict begins in the education system. Instead of educating children for peace, as Israel does, Palestinian textbooks openly teach hatred of Israel and the Jewish people. Educational facilities are used to inspire hero-worship of suicide bombers, psychologically preparing Palestinian children to follow in their footsteps. Children are given weapons to carry in anti-Israel rallies or are dressed up as suicide bombers. Youth groups and terrorist summer camps teach young people to become holy warriors, actually training them in the use of firearms.
Palestinian television is a very effective media for spreading the message of hate, with programs that incite violence aimed at every age group, starting with toddlers. Hamas has put a strong emphasis on producing children’s programs that incite even the youngest viewers.
This cult of martyrdom inspired Palestinian children to take an increasingly active role in the violence. The average age of suicide bombers dropped and attacks carried out by teenagers became more and more frequent. Younger children, some no more than toddlers, have been used to provide cover for the transportation of weapons and explosives. Others have been hurt and even killed when retrieving Kassam missile launchers.
The Palestinian manipulation of children, which has been extensively documented by the media, constitutes a reprehensible violation of every international treaty and convention meant to protect children in situations of armed conflict. This heinous exploitation of children is both profoundly immoral and fundamentally illegal.
Targeting children in terrorist attacks also violates international laws and norms. Hundreds of Israeli children have been killed or wounded in numerous terrorist attacks over the decades. They were not incidental victims of the violence, but were the intended and preferred victims of the Palestinian terrorists. Israeli children have been deliberately targeted by Palestinian snipers and roadside bombs. Youngsters were bludgeoned and stoned to death by terrorists while hiking near their homes.
Palestinian terrorists have murdered nearly 120 children since September 2000, choosing to strike at places where young people are known to congregate – discos, bus stops, fast-food restaurants and shopping malls. Suicide terrorists stood face-to-face with their young victims, including babies, before deciding to detonate their explosives. In one of the most horrendous terror attacks – the suicide bombing of a Jerusalem bus on August 19, 2003 – seven of the dead and 40 of the injured were children.
The suffering of any child is tragic and regretful, and Israel believes that every effort must be made to protect all children – Israeli and Palestinian – from the violence. Palestinian schools and media must stop preaching incitement to violence and hatred, and join Israel in teaching the next generation to live in peace.
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t Has the media been fair in covering the conflict?
The international media’s coverage of the conflict in the Middle East has in many cases been unfair and biased against Israel.
The electronic media, must by its nature, provide speedy and concise information. However, this can lead to a simplistic and superficial portrayal of realities that are actually complex and complicated, such as the one existing in the Middle East. The contradiction between the need to report about the intricate reality of the Middle East and the need to report as quickly and as simply as possible, often results in the distorted and unbalanced coverage of matters that pertain to Israel.
In many cases, the media tends to portray a complex situation through black-and-white stereotypes, in which Israel is perceived as playing the role of an "occupier" that is trampling on the rights of the "occupied." This in turn automatically leads to the distorted portrayal of Israel as the root of all evil in the Middle East.
However, the reality is much more complicated than that. Fairness requires that the reason why Israel came into control of the territories should be examined, as should the fact that ever since 1948, the Arab world has called for the destruction of Israel, by whatever means possible. Unfortunately, this set of circumstances, with its broad and profound ramifications, is difficult to convey in a television report that lasts mere seconds, or at most just a few minutes.
News coverage of the Middle East usually provides a momentary snapshot of current events. Visuals can provide dramatic pictures, but in most cases they provide little insight into the broader circumstances in which the image was shown, indeed often taking events out of their context.
The image of a Palestinian youth facing an Israeli tank is a news story that stirs the emotions of the television viewers, a story that sells well. But this imagery is a gross distortion of the reality. In the picture the tank is seen as representing the "cruel and powerful occupier," the embodiment of a wrong that is supposedly the source of the Middle East conflict. However, reality is much more complicated than an image that captures a single moment – its before and after unknown to the viewer. Furthermore, the picture and its accompanying report generally say very little or nothing about the ongoing Palestinian terrorism which is the sole reason for the tank’s being there in the first place. The media says very little about the Palestinian terrorists intentionally operating from urban centers. Little is shown about how the terrorists mingle with the Palestinian civilian population, cynically using children and other civilians as their pawns and shields behind which they launch their attacks against innocent Israelis. Very little, if anything, is said about the fact that the Israel Defense Forces act to avoid harming innocent civilians, even at the expense of endangering the lives of Israeli soldiers.
The international media has severely criticized Israel for restricting the freedom of movement of the Palestinians and for the suffering of the Palestinians at roadblocks that were placed in the territories by the Israel Defense Forces since the outbreak of violence in September 2000. The scenes that appear on television screens are indeed hard-hitting. They show Palestinians waiting, often for long periods, for security checks at the roadblocks.
These reports illustrate a situation that is only part of the picture, for the most part ignoring the context; that the only reason for the roadblocks being there is to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from reaching Israeli civilian populations. Also ignored is the Israeli government’s obligation to defend its citizens from those who are on their way to blow themselves up and murder innocent bystanders in cafes, buses, shopping malls and other public places in Israeli cities. Does the media’s focus on the roadblocks give due consideration to the right of Israeli civilians to live free from the threat of terrorism and violent death? The answer generally is no.
One of the most prominent examples of the fundamentally biased and unfair approach taken by much of the international media was seen in its handling of the fierce battle between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian terrorists in Jenin in April 2002. A short time after the battle began, most of the international media swallowed the Palestinian propaganda version of what was happening hook, line and sinker. They hastily jumped to conclusions and described the battle as an Israeli "massacre" of Palestinians. Israel was also immediately accused of having destroyed the city of Jenin.
Israel was both tried and judged in the media, before even the most basic facts were known. Had the international press verified the facts the media would have known that what was described as a massacre was actually a battle in which 56 Palestinians (the vast majority of them armed terrorists) were killed, as were 23 Israeli soldiers. What was described as the "destruction of Jenin" turned out to be a battle zone in only a very small area (about 100 x 100 meters), a tiny fraction of the entire city.
Another reason for the imbalance in the media coverage is that on Israel’s side reporters work in an open and democratic society, in which freedom of the press and freedom of expression are guaranteed. The international press in Israel has access to every news source and to every opinion in the democratic political spectrum, as it should be.
In contrast, Palestinian society and the societies in most of the Arab world have no freedom of expression, no freedom of the press. The opportunity in those societies to independently report events is virtually nonexistent, and, consequently, the ability of the foreign press to provide authentic, objective and credible reports is very limited. Reporting from these areas without noting this fact demonstrates a lack of moral clarity.
This situation was clearly seen in the coverage of the Second War in Lebanon. On the one side, the foreign press was provided with nearly unprecedented access to Israeli soldiers, while on the other, Hizbullah places severe limits on reporters. The result was that few, if any, pictures of Hizbullah terrorists appeared in the Western media, nor were there any interviews with anyone but a very small cadre of Hizbullah spokesman.
In the past, there have been a number of known cases in which the Palestinians threatened to harm foreign reporters who sought to report events that might damage Palestinian interests. The threat of kidnapping looms over the heads of all foreign correspondents in Palestinian controlled areas. Likewise, there have been cases in which the Palestinians agreed to allow the press some freedom in doing their work on the condition that the reports would correspond to the views and message that the Palestinians wanted to convey.
In the worst manifestations of media bias, particularly in some political cartoons and opinion columns, the language and content vis-a-vis Israel have gone to the extreme. The very legitimacy of Israel’s existence is questioned and at times even antisemitic stereotypes and symbols, similar to those attacking the Jewish people in the past, have been used.
However, what has generally characterized the international media’s bias is the double standard it uses towards Israel. While as a democracy, Israel welcomes legitimate scrutiny, the media relentlessly scrutinizes Israel, out of proportion to any other western democracy. Totally and unjustifiably ignored is the fact that Israel faces an existential threat from a significant portion of the countries in the region. These states, who have not yet reconciled themselves to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, are themselves very far from meeting even the most basic standards of democracy and freedom. Moreover, while criticizing almost everything Israel does in fighting terrorism, the international media has often ignored the fact that other western democracies have used similar or even harsher measures when confronting threats to their national security and the safety of their citizens. The criticism of Israel has reached such a level that any action taken by Israel – no matter how defensive in nature, no matter what the threat facing Israeli – is automatically condemned.
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t Is Palestinian terrorism part of international terrorism?
With the passage of time, it is becoming more and more evident that Palestinian terrorism cannot be isolated from international terrorism. As it has become apparent that Palestinian terrorists are more interested in the destruction of Israel than in the establishment of a Palestinian state, and that many Palestinian terrorist organizations are interested in the establishment of an Islamist entity in its place, it is clear that Palestinian terrorism is closely connected to jihadist terrorist organizations.
Not only is there growing evidence that international jihadist organizations are seeking a foothold in the Palestinian territories, the methods used by the Palestinians are being imitated by terrorist groups in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Over several decades, Palestinian violence has played a major role in the development of ever more dangerous forms of terrorism. It was the Palestinians who pioneered the use of terrorist hijackings. Palestinians may not have invented suicide bombers, but they have refined the technique, creating a cult of martyrdom that promotes more suicide bombings. On the other hand, the Palestinians are adopting techniques used by other terrorist organizations, especially the Hizbullah.
Evidence of international involvement in the Palestinian cause can be found in Iran’s role in the conflict. Iran’s control of Hizbullah – its arming, training and financing of this terrorist organization that not only has attacked Israel, but threatens the stability of Lebanon – is but one aspect of its involvement in the conflict. Iran is also closely allied with Hamas, a terrorist organization that continues to attack Israel despite its political gains in the Palestinian arena.
The Arab-Israeli conflict has been used by many in the Middle East to excuse their anti-American, and ultimately anti-Western, activities. Terrorism, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere, often targets democratic societies. Studies of suicide terrorism have shown that it is not motivated by despair – rather it is almost always conducted as part of an organized campaign to obtain political or military objectives. Al-Qaeda’s attacks on the U.S. were an assault on the ideals of freedom that the United States represents. They were part of bin Laden’s plans for a jihad aimed at reshaping the world in accordance with his extremist interpretation of Islam. Although bin Laden’s basic goals are unrelated to Israel, attacks on the American people have been exploited by anti-Israeli elements to advance their agenda in the Middle East.
In the ideological sphere, Palestinian propaganda blurs the difference between acts of terror that target innocents and defensive countermeasures aimed at stopping terrorists. It is important to realize that justifying any terrorist attack harms the worldwide effort to delegitimize terror and its sponsors.
Palestinian terrorism must not be allowed to succeed. To do so would not only encourage further acts of violence against innocent civilians in Israel, but also increase the chances that the scourge of terrorism will continue to proliferate and increasingly endanger democratic states throughout the world. Denying suicide terrorists their goals is an important step towards stopping the phenomenon of terrorism as a whole.
Any political gains made by the Palestinians through the use of terrorist violence will contribute to the proliferation of terrorism across the globe. Rewarding terrorism serves only to invite others in the Middle East and elsewhere to use similar tactics. The success of Palestinian terrorism would also encourage the further radicalization of Arab and Muslim populations made all too vulnerable to extremism by failed socio-economic conditions within their own states and ideologies that encourage hatred and violence.
Rewarding Palestinian terrorism would not only endanger Israel, but would threaten the stability of the region and the safety of the democratic world. Rewarding terrorism only breeds more terrorism.
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t Were targeted operations justified?
As long as the Palestinian leadership did nothing to stop the terrorist attacks, Israel had no choice but to act to prevent them, including by means of targeted counter-terrorism operations. Under international law, individuals who actively take part in hostilities are legitimate military targets.
In its signed agreements with Israel, the Palestinian Authority undertook to stop all violence, arrest terrorists, dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, collect illegal weapons and end incitement to violence. Yet in the years after the 1993 Oslo Accords, the PA did nothing to fulfill its obligation, but instead actively encouraged and supported terrorism. This terrorism has deliberately targeted civilians for murder. The inaction of the Palestinian leadership in the face of widespread terrorist activity in the areas under its control, coupled with its active support of this violence, left Israel with no alternative but to take itself the necessary action to prevent terrorist attacks.
Still, over the past years, Israel’s security forces have been faced with an untenable dilemma – how to uphold Israel’s democratic values and the rules of armed warfare while fighting terrorists who are willing to violate every norm of civilized behavior. Israel has desperately searched for ways to effectively stop terrorists, who are hiding among the Palestinian population, without harming innocent Palestinians.
Whenever possible, Israeli operations are directed toward apprehending terrorists and their accomplices, and bringing them to justice. In a small minority of cases, arrests are impossible, primarily due to the fact that the terrorist operatives and their ringleaders are given refuge in the heart of Palestinian controlled areas. When this happens and when there is a clear terrorist threat, Israel has had to undertake preventive measures, including targeted counter-terrorism operations aimed at stopping terrorists from perpetrating attacks.
International law, in general, and the law of armed conflict, in particular, recognize that individuals who directly take part in hostilities cannot then claim immunity. By initiating and participating in armed attacks, such individuals have designated themselves as combatants and have forfeited such legal protection. In many terrorist organizations, there is no true division between the so-called political arm and the military arm – leaders from all parts of the organization are actively involved in ordering and planning terrorist attacks, and, therefore, can be considered legitimate military targets. By the same token, an individual who becomes a combatant is considered to remain a combatant until hostilities come to an end and not merely during that exact instant when they are carrying out an attack.
Since September 2000, Israeli civilians and soldiers alike have had to face thousands of organized, violent and life-threatening attacks, only a small percentage of which have been reported in the media. These attacks have included suicide bombings, shootings, violent riots, lynchings, fire-bombings, roadside ambushes, mortar barrages, and car bombs directed at civilian targets. The Palestinians have also attempted – but fortunately failed – to carry out acts of "mega-terrorism," including attempted attacks on the Pi Glilot gas and fuel storage facility near Tel Aviv and the truck bombing of Tel Aviv’s largest skyscrapers. To date, over 1,100 Israelis have been killed and many thousands more wounded as a result of this violence.
Under these difficult conditions, the Israel Defense Forces have acted with the greatest possible restraint, taking action only when inaction by Israel would have resulted in the loss of innocent lives. Israel always strives to use the minimum force necessary to prevent terrorism, acting in compliance with the principles and practice of armed conflict. It takes care to target only those responsible for the violence, and makes every effort to avoid the involvement of innocent civilians.
In contrast, Palestinian terrorists deliberately target innocent civilians and use weapons designed to cause the greatest possible injury and death.
The Israeli government regrets the loss of any life, whether Jewish or Arab, in the present wave of violence. Terrorist attacks have both taken innocent lives and gravely wounded the peace process. Terrorism remains the primary obstacle to peace and it is imperative that the violence ends so that both parties can return to constructive negotiations. A just and sustainable solution can be found only through dialogue, not armed conflict. However, while the terrorism continues, Israel has an indisputable responsibility to act in self-defense and protect its citizens.
In the final analysis, responsibility for all the casualties lies with the Palestinian leadership, which has initiated the violence and refuses to bring it to an end. Were Palestinian violence and terrorism to end, Israel would have no reason to take preventive countermeasures.
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April 17, 2006 – Eleven people were killed and over 60 wounded in a suicide bombing at the Rosh Ha’ir shawarma stand, near the old central bus station in Tel Aviv.
Sderot child with fragment of rocket that hit a kindergarden – August 21, 2007 (Photo by Rafael Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye)
The wave of terrorism that began in September 2000 is the direct result of a strategic Palestinian decision to use violence – rather than negotiation – as the primary means to advance their agenda. GovXParagraph4
• Why is Israel building the anti-terrorist fence?
• How could the Palestinian Authority have avoided the building of the anti-terrorist fence?
• Is it a "wall" or a "fence"?
• Is the fence taking into proper consideration the needs of the Palestinian population?
• Is the anti-terrorist fence not establishing permanent facts on the ground?
• Why is the anti-terrorist fence not being built only along the pre-June 1967 lines?
• Is the anti-terrorist fence not an obstacle to peace?
• Is the anti-terrorist fence not intensifying hostility and hatred towards Israel?
• Has the partially completed anti-terrorist fence succeeded in reducing the number of terrorist attacks?
• Is the anti-terrorist fence not a manifestation of apartheid and racism?
• Is the anti-terrorist fence not another "Berlin Wall"?
• Is the anti-terrorist fence not creating "ghettos"?
t Why is Israel building the anti-terrorist fence?
More than 1,100 people have been murdered in attacks carried out by Palestinian terrorists since September 2000. Thousands more Israelis have been injured, many maimed for life. The terrorists infiltrated Israeli cities and towns and carried out attacks – often in the form of suicide bombings – on buses, in restaurants, shopping malls, and even private homes. No other democracy in the world had before this time faced such an intense wave of terror, especially in the form of suicide bombings.
In almost all of the cases, the terrorists came from Palestinian areas in the West Bank. The absence of a barrier there had make infiltration into Israel communities a relatively easy task for terrorists. Often, Israeli communities are located only a short walking distance from Palestinian centers of terrorism. The Palestinian leadership was doing nothing to stop them and has even encouraged them.
Israel’s decision to erect a physical barrier against terrorism was taken only after other options were tried, but failed to halt the deadly attacks. Public opinion in Israel pushed for building a fence that would block the terrorists from entering Israeli population centers. It should be noted that for many years, no terrorists infiltrated into Israel from the Gaza Strip, because an electronic anti-terrorist fence already existed there.
The Government of Israel has an obligation to defend its citizens against terrorism. This right of self-defense is anchored in international law. The anti-terrorist fence is an act of self-defense that saves lives. Until the Palestinians act to stop terrorism, Israel must take the necessary actions to protect itself.
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t How could the Palestinians have avoided the building of the anti-terrorist fence?
The Palestinians have only themselves to blame for the anti-terrorist fence. The decision to build the anti-terrorist fence was taken only after other options were tried, but failed to stop the deadly terrorist attacks.
The Palestinian Authority had not fulfilled the commitments it made to fight terrorism. Those obligations were contained in the Oslo Accords and subsequent agreements, as well as in the Roadmap that was presented to the sides in May 2003. While terrorism is not allowed under these agreements and is outlawed under international law, the use of defensive measures, such as the fence, is permitted.
The Palestinians seek to blame Israel, the victim of terrorism that is taking a purely defensive measure. The Palestinians ignore the innocent victims murdered by Palestinian terrorism emanating from the West Bank.
Had there been no terrorism, Israel would not have been compelled to build a fence to protect its citizens. The Palestinians need to dismantle the terrorist organizations, confiscate weapons, arrest the planners and perpetrators of terrorist acts, stop incitement and resume security cooperation with Israel – all these steps are required by the commitments undertaken by the Palestinians.
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t Is it a "wall" or a "fence"?
Despite the many pictures being shown in the international media of a tall concrete wall, more than 92% of the currently built anti-terrorist fence consists of a chain-link fence system.
Most of the anti-terrorist fence consists of a strip approximately the width of a four-lane highway. At its center is the chain-link fence that supports an intrusion detection system. This technologically advanced system is designed to warn against infiltrations, as are the dirt "tracking" path and other observation tools.
Less than 8% of the fence will be constructed of concrete. The short concrete sections are intended not only to stop terrorists from infiltrating, but also to block them from shooting at Israeli vehicles traveling on main highways alongside the pre-1967 line, at nearby Jewish residential areas, and at other targets. In a few cases, because of topographical considerations or the density of housing and other construction in the area, the building of a fence is impossible and, therefore, a concrete barrier becomes necessary.
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t Is the fence taking into proper consideration the needs of the Palestinian population?
In addition to its efforts to ensure the security of its citizens, Israel attaches considerable importance to the interests of the local Palestinian residents. Israel recognizes the necessity of finding an appropriate balance between the imperative need to defend its citizens, and the humanitarian needs of local Palestinian residents.
Israel has made the use of public lands a priority in building the anti-terrorist fence, in order to avoid, as much as possible, the use of private lands. If this is not possible, then private land is requisitioned, not confiscated, and it remains the property of the owner. Legal procedures allow every owner to file an objection to the use of their land. When private lands are used, owners are offered full compensation, in accordance with the law; this compensation is given both as a lump sum and also on a monthly basis.
Most Palestinians will be on the eastern (West Bank) side of the fence. They will have access to their commercial and urban centers. No Palestinians will have to relocate. Israel will make every effort to avoid causing hardship and interference with their daily lives. In fact, once completed, the fence will enable Israel to remove a number of the roadblocks currently in place to prevent terrorists from getting through.
Dozens of crossing points have been set up to enable the movement of people and goods. The anti-terrorist fence was located, to the greatest possible degree, on unused land to avoid harming agriculture. Palestinian farmers will have access to their fields and will reach them through special gates that are being built into the fence. Trees affected by the construction will be replanted.
There would have been no need for an anti-terrorist fence had there not been an orchestrated campaign of terrorism that targets Israeli men, women and children for death. Death is permanent. It is irreversible. The inconvenience caused to Palestinians by the anti-terrorist fence is temporary. It is reversible, once terrorism stops and peace is achieved.
Freedom of movement is important. But it is not more important than the right to live. Having said this, Israel will do all it can to reduce hardship and inconvenience for the Palestinians who are affected by the fence.
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t Is the anti-terrorist fence not establishing permanent facts on the ground?
The route of the fence has been determined on the basis of security needs and topographical considerations.
The anti-terrorist fence will not annex Palestinian lands nor change the legal status of Palestinians residents. The anti-terrorist fence is a temporary, defensive measure – not a border: the border is to be determined by direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians
The fence is being built in such a way that, if necessary, the relevant parts can be moved to different locations. In this context, it will be remembered that when Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, in fulfillment of UN Security Council Resolution 425, the UN delineated the border between Israel and Lebanon. Israel moved its anti-terrorist fence, sometimes only a meter or less, to comply with the new border. Similarly, Israel’s experience with Egypt and Jordan has shown that fences have never blocked political agreements and peace treaties; where necessary, the fences were moved.
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t Why is the anti-terrorist fence not being built only along the pre-June 1967 lines?
The sole purpose for the fence is security and it is being built wherever this is needed to prevent terrorists from infiltrating into Israeli population centers. Building the fence only along the pre-June 1967 lines (the former "Green Line") would be a purely political act, having nothing to do with the security needs of Israel’s citizens.
The former "Green Line" was the armistice line between Israel and Jordan during the years 1949-1967. It was not the final border, which was to be determined in peace negotiations. The "Green Line" ceased to exist following the Arab threat to Israel’s existence in the spring of 1967 which led to the Six Day War in June of that year. The drafters of UN Security Council Resolution 242 in November 1967 recognized that the pre-June 1967 lines were not secure and would have to be re-delineated.
While the final border between Israel and the Palestinians has to be determined in negotiations, the route of the anti-terrorism fence is determined solely by the immediate and pressing need to save Israeli lives by preventing Palestinian terrorists from reaching the Israeli populations. Thus, the fence is being built wherever this can be achieved most effectively. To put it arbitrarily anywhere else, such as along the pre-June 1967 lines, would have nothing to do with security and, therefore, nothing to do with the purpose of the fence.
In those cases where the route of the fence meets Israel’s security needs within the former "Green Line," it is being built there. Indeed parts of the fence are being built within the pre-1967 lines, in keeping with the required security requirements on the ground.
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t Is the anti-terrorist fence not an obstacle to peace?
Terrorism is a deadly obstacle to peace. The fence is a defensive obstacle to terrorism.
The purpose of the fence is to keep the terrorists out and, thereby, save the lives of Israel’s citizens, Jews and Arabs alike.
By serving as a temporary, passive and effective barrier to terrorism, the fence will help restore calm to the region and thereby increase the chances of achieving peace. The wave of terrorism which has murdered over 1,100 Israelis since September 2000 has undermined the peace process and led to deadlock. Reducing terrorism, including by the anti-terrorist fence, will make an important contribution to the renewal of peace efforts.
Already, the as yet uncompleted anti-terrorist fence has shown initial successes in thwarting terrorist efforts and reducing the overall number of successful terrorist attacks. Some planned terror attacks were stopped because the terrorists were unable to bypass the fence. Once the fence will be completed, the terrorists will find conditions much more difficult for carrying out their murderous intentions. This can only help the cause of peace.
Once terrorism ends and peace is achieved, the fence can be moved.
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t Is the anti-terrorist fence not intensifying hostility and hatred towards Israel?
Incitement from the Palestinians and the Arab world is the cause of hostility and hatred towards Israel. The intensification of this hostility and hatred is due to the continuation of the incitement, and not due to the anti-terrorist fence which is designed to prevent terrorist attacks – a deadly product of the hate campaign against Israel.
In a number of Arab countries and in Palestinian society the struggle against Israel takes center stage, and the call to destroy Israel has been at the core of their social-cultural-political ethos. In some Arab societies, this situation prevails to this very day. The Palestinians’ vehement anti-Israel rhetoric has had a crippling impact throughout the region on efforts for peace. The intense coverage of the Palestinian perspective of events and incitement from Palestinian spokespersons have enflamed anti-Israeli sentiments in Arab countries, even influencing many pro-peace Arab states to downgrade their ties with Israel. Palestinian incitement causes violence in the short term, while in the long term it reduces the chances for peace and reconciliation between Israel and its neighbors.
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t Has the partially completed anti-terrorist fence succeeded in reducing the number of terrorist attacks?
Data reveals a clear correlation between the construction of the fence and a drop in the number of terrorist attacks from those areas adjacent to the parts of the fence that have been completed.
In the early stages of the building, statistical data indicated a 30% drop in the number of terrorist attacks that took place in 2003 compared to 2002. Similarly, there has been a 50% decrease in the number of victims murdered by terrorists in 2003 compared to the previous year.
There were 17 suicide bomber attacks inside Israel that emanated from the northern part (Samaria) of the West Bank during the months April-December 2002. In contrast, since construction began on the anti-terrorist fence, throughout all of 2003 only 5 suicide bomber attacks emanated from the same area. From that area where construction of the anti-terrorist fence had not yet begun, namely the southern part (Judea) of the West Bank, no decrease in the number of terrorist attacks was noted. As More of the fence has been completed, there has been an almost total reduction in the number of successful terrorist attacks emanating from the West Bank.
Once the construction of the anti-terrorist fence will be completed, the overall number of terrorist attacks against Israeli population centers is expected to decrease immensely.
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t Is the anti-terrorist fence not a manifestation of apartheid and racism?
Almost every Palestinian claim attaches the term "apartheid" to the fence. But the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is nothing like the situation that existed in South Africa, and Israel’s anti-terrorist fence has nothing to do with racial separation, but with the need to prevent terrorism.
Apartheid was a system of racial segregation, designed to preserve the status quo and oppress black South Africans, who were denied all rights, while mingling between the ethnic groups was strictly forbidden.
Palestinian propaganda utterly ignores the fact that the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis is not a racial one, but, in fact, a national-territorial conflict between two distinct peoples. The fence was not designed to separate the peoples according to their race or religion, but rather to separate the perpetrators of terrorism from their victims. It will allow both Israelis and Palestinians to live side-by-side in peace, free from the conflict caused by terrorism.
Israel is basically interested in contacts between Israelis and Palestinians. The only reason that Palestinians have in recent years been restricted from entering into Israel is because of their terrorist attacks against Israelis, attacks that escalated every time Israel tried to relax restrictions.
Despite Israel’s desires for peaceful contacts with their neighbors, the Palestinians have no legal right to enter the State of Israel. They are not citizens of Israel. At the same time, Israeli Arabs (who constitute nearly 20% of Israel’s population) are citizens, and they have equal rights under Israeli law.
The attempt to depict the building of the anti-terrorist fence by Israel as somehow related to "apartheid" is ridiculous. What Palestinian propaganda purposefully omits is that the sole reason for the building of the fence by Israel is Palestinian terrorism.
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t Is the anti-terrorist fence not another "Berlin Wall"?
The Palestinian attempt to draw a parallel between Israel’s anti-terrorist fence and the Berlin Wall that was built by the Communist East German regime is nothing more than cheap propaganda that plays fast and loose with historical facts.
The Berlin Wall was designed by the Communist regime of East Germany to solidify and perpetuate the division of the city by keeping the citizens of East Germany – who sought only freedom and contacts with their brethren in West Germany – locked in. The Berlin Wall was built during the height of the Cold War by a totalitarian regime in its struggle against the democracy that thrived in the western sections of the city and in the Federal Republic of Germany.
In stark contrast, Israel is building the anti-terrorist fence for only one purpose – to keep Palestinian terrorists, who wish to murder and maim Israeli citizens, out. Israel, a democratic society, is building the fence to protect its citizens from deadly attack, not from peaceful contacts with the other side. It is Palestinian terrorism – backed by an authoritarian regime and supported by the most dangerous terrorist organizations and terrorist-sponsoring states in the Middle East – that is the threat and the instigator of conflict. Terrorism has forced Israel to take the defensive step of building an anti-terrorist fence.
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t Is the anti-terrorist fence not creating "ghettos"?
In referring to the building of the anti-terrorist fence by misusing the term "ghettos", Palestinian propaganda is cynically manipulating history and reality. Anti-terrorist measures, such as the fence, have no connection whatsoever with "ghettos".
In misusing the term "ghetto" the Palestinians choose to manipulate a word linked to the darkest, most painful periods of Jewish history, especially the Holocaust. In this manner, the Palestinians are seeking another means to once again smear the name of Israel. This is a classic example of the new antisemitism, which uses an outright lie for the purpose of rewriting and falsifying history and transforming the victim into the perpetrator. The Jews were forced into ghettos to persecute them, to discriminate against them, and to isolate them, and ultimately, during the Holocaust, to kill them. Israel is not forcing the Palestinians to live where they are, but is being forced to build the security fence to keep the Palestinians terrorists away from Israeli communities.
Israel is not seeking to isolate the Palestinians. Israel would like nothing more than to see contacts and cooperation flourish with its Palestinian neighbors and the Arab world. This, however, cannot be said about the Palestinian and Arab world’s approach to Israel.
The Palestinians and the Arab states have systematically over the decades tried every means imaginable to isolate Israel, in effect building a "wall’ around Israel in order to eventually destroy it. They have tried to do this through economic boycott and diplomatic assaults in the international arena. They have taken action in order to prevent Israel from participating in cultural and sports events. They have kept Israel from participating in Middle Eastern and Asian related events, even though Israel is part of the Middle East and the Asian continent. They have used the same kind of antisemitic diatribes against Israel that were used against the Jewish people during the times in history when Jews were forced into ghettos. If anyone is trying to build ghettos, it is the Palestinians and the Arab world that are guilty of trying to do this against Israel.
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Photo: Ministry of Defense
Israel’s decision to erect a physical barrier against terrorism was taken only after other options were tried, but failed to halt the deadly terror attacks resulting from infiltration from Palestinian terror centers in the West Bank. GovXParagraph5
• Why did Israel disengage from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria?
• What was the human cost to Israel of the disengagement from Gaza and northern Samaria?
• What is the post-disengagement situation in Gaza?
• How have Israeli citizens been endangered since the withdrawal from Gaza?
t Why did Israel disengage from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria?
In August 2005 Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria (the northern West Bank), ending its 38-year civilian presence and military rule there. Israel hoped this move would lead to a more stable, less violent reality with its Palestinian neighbors, and ultimately to a comprehensive Middle East peace agreement. Israel viewed this goal as so vital, that it was willing to take big risks, make major concessions, and even face a national trauma to pursue it.
This withdrawal was supposed to be only the first phase of what could have been a new era of progress toward peace, as the focus shifted from Israel’s presence to what the Palestinians were willing and able to do with the territory that came under their full control.
Both sides shared a common interest in ending the violence, improving their peoples’ security and living standards, and living peacefully side-by-side in two democratic states. Israel was confident that, when faced with the new reality in Gaza, the logic of cooperation would be self-evident to the Palestinian leadership.
Unfortunately, the Palestinians again chose to pursue the path of violence. Instead of using the Gaza Strip as a jumping off point for their goal of a state, they used it as a launching pad for terrorist attacks, particularly Kassam attacks on the Israeli town of Sderot.
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t What was the human cost to Israel of the disengagement from Gaza and northern Samaria?
Reaching a democratic decision to implement disengagement – even one overwhelmingly supported by national public opinion – demanded finding answers to some extremely difficult questions. Could Israel leave Gaza without seeming to signal this was a victory for terrorism? Was the country ready to uproot citizens who had lived in the area for decades? Did redeployment mean giving up a negotiating asset without getting anything in return? Despite the highly emotional issues involved, the public debate was predominately peaceful, even with demonstrations involving tens of thousands of Israelis on both sides of the issue.
Israel’s watershed disengagement initiative was a demonstration of faith in the eventual attainment of peace. With reciprocation from the Palestinians, it could have served as a breakthrough toward this goal.
The disengagement from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria (northern West Bank) clearly demonstrated that Israel backs its words with action and is willing to pay a major price for peace.
Establishing peace is a fundamental goal of Jewish tradition and the declared policy of the State of Israel. Israel has long sought peace with its Arab neighbors and particularly with the Palestinians. The great challenge in making peace is that it is a process that hopefully does not end just with the cessation of hostilities between former enemies, but with the beginning of a new relationship of coexistence. Israel’s ultimate goal is to establish good neighborly relations with a Palestinian state.
Against the background of more than four years of terrorist bloodshed, Israel initiated its Disengagement Plan in the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria, both to enhance its security and to put the peace process with the Palestinians back in motion. For it to have a chance to work, the plan requires a considerable sacrifice on the part of some 1,700 settlers and their families, or about 8,000 people who had to leave the homes and livelihoods they have built over the course of decades.
In the short term, it is these settlers who are paying the greatest part of the price for peace. It is they who were encouraged by previous governments to settle barren land and turn it into homes, gardens, and farms, in the same pioneering spirit that built the State of Israel. They were then asked to relinquish these accomplishments for the greater good.
Many of these pioneers came to the Gaza Strip, for example, as young couples – and then had to face the trauma of leaving their homes with their children and grandchildren, for whom Gaza has been their only home. The communities that they had nurtured were broken up, at great personal loss and great national cost.
Removing the Jewish communities from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria meant that:
- 42 day-care centers, 36 kindergartens, seven elementary schools, and three high schools were closed;
- 5,000 schoolchildren had to find new schools;
- 38 synagogues were closed;
- 166 Israeli farmers lost their livelihoods – plus some 5,000 of their Palestinian workers;
- 48 graves in the Gush Katif Cemetery, including those of six residents murdered by terrorists, were exhumed and moved to Israel.
Disengagement was estimated to cost Israel billions of dollars. The cost of family relocation alone is estimated at the time of the disengagement to be nearly $1 billion. In addition, the IDF had to spend hundreds of millions to remove military bases and equipment from the Gaza Strip.
Despite all these monies and efforts, many families from Gaza have still not found their permanent homes.
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t What is the post-disengagement situation in Gaza?
Following disengagement, four critical issues had to be addressed: diplomacy, security, economic development, and international assistance.
In the diplomatic process: A key element of the Roadmap to Peace is the Palestinian commitment to end terrorism, including dismantling the terrorist infrastructure and ending the incitement that encourages violence. As the Palestinian Authority assumed full responsibility for the Gaza Strip, it had the chance to demonstrate its ability to govern and fulfill its commitments. If it had done so, rapid progress and a bright future for all people of the area would have been achievable.
Regarding security: If the Palestinians had fulfilled their commitments under the Roadmap plan to stop terrorist attacks on Israel, then peace would have prevailed.
As for economic development: Israel recognizes that it has a vested interest in showing the Palestinians they are better off under conditions of peace rather than continued violence. For this reason, Israel made every effort to facilitate aid, economic cooperation, and the free movement of goods, services, and labor.
Finally, the international community had a role to play by providing vital assistance to ensure the success of disengagement by empowering moderate forces and weakening extremists. Israel also hoped its neighbors in the region would seize this opportunity to build with it a region of peace, stability, and cooperation. Achieving comprehensive peace between Israel and the Arab world is no less vital than doing so between Israelis and Palestinians.
Israel hoped that the Palestinians would use the incredible opportunity presented by the disengagement to embark on the path towards peace were quickly dashed. Instead of building the foundations of a peaceful society, the Palestinians allowed Gaza to slide into anarchy. Kassam rockets continued to be fired into Israel; weapons, ammunitions and monies were smuggled into the Gaza Strip in enormous amounts; terrorist activities of every variety were allowed to be carried out freely; and Hamas, a terrorist organization dedicated to Israel’s destruction, was elected to lead the Palestinian government.
These activities peaked on 25 June 2006 with the unprovoked attack on Israeli soil in which two IDF soldiers were killed and a third, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, was kidnapped. This was followed by Hamas violent takeover of the Gaza Strip.
Even though most of the rockets aimed at Israel’s civilians have fortunately not resulted in loss of life or serious property damage, no country in the world could tolerate any such attacks on its civilian population forever.
The inaccuracy of the Kassam rockets has somehow resulted in their being under-reported in the international media and thereby having little impact on public opinion. As a result, some global decision-makers have come to treat the issue with an undeserved lack of seriousness. For this reason, if Israel is forced to respond, it is liable to find itself accused of "aggressiveness" or of using "disproportionate force" to meet a very real threat that few have heard about.
When Israel left the Gaza Strip in 2005, it did so with no intention of returning. Unfortunately, the Palestinians have continued to use the Gaza Strip to launch attacks upon Israel.
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t How have Israeli citizens been endangered since the withdrawal from Gaza?
Since Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, Palestinian terrorist organizations based there have increased their rocket attacks on Israeli communities in the Western Negev. In addition, the terrorists have stepped up their arms smuggling operations via tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip, bringing in tens of tons of high explosives. This wholesale smuggling has only intensified since Hamas’ violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.
Between Israel’s disengagement from Gaza August 2005 and the Annapolis Conference in November 2007, over 1,800 Kassam artillery rockets have hit Israel from the Gaza Strip. These rockets include improved, long-range weapons which can reach the Israeli port city of Ashkelon, more than 13 km. (8 miles) from the Gaza border. The firing of these deadly missiles grew more prevalent since the Hamas June 2007 takeover of Gaza, when from that time until Annapolis, more than 300 Kassams and nearly 500 mortar bombs were launched.
Following Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Palestinian terrorist groups continued their attempts to carry out large-scale attacks against Israeli population centers. One tactic used is to exploit Israel’s humanitarianism by infiltrating terrorists pretending to be Palestinians entering Israel to receive medical treatment. Another tactic being used is the exploitation of the peaceful border between Israel and Egypt in the Sinai in order to infiltrate terrorists from Gaza into Israel for suicide attacks.
In addition to their cynical tactic of using Palestinian civilians as human shields by firing rockets from densely populated areas, Palestinian terrorists are now increasingly mobilizing civilians in order to protect themselves from Israeli counterterrorist operations.
One such event occurred on November 18, 2006, after the IDF warned residents of Beit Lahiya that a counterterrorist strike was about to be carried out against the home of Muhammad Baroud, commander of the PRC’s Kassam rocket operations. The IDF issued the warning to prevent civilian casualties during the impending operation. Baroud quickly summoned hundreds of Palestinians, including women and children, and had them surround the building. The IDF counterterrorist operation had to be cancelled due to the proximity of the civilians – demonstrating vividly that the Palestinians know that Israel values their lives more than the Palestinian terrorists do.
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Destroying Israeli homes in Ganei Tal in the Gaza Strip (IDF Spokesman)
In August 2005 Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria, ending its 38-year civilian presence and military rule there, hoping this would lead to a more stable, less violent reality with its Palestinian neighbors.