Press Release – 14 November 2008

Myths and Facts about Israel’s anti-terrorist barrier:
Fences don’t kill, suicide bombers and terrorists do

Israel’s anti-terrorist barrier will be the subject of a demonstration by Australians for Palestine today in Melbourne’s city centre. What should be a discussion about how to change a reality where a security barrier is an essential act of self-defence, has in recent times, been twisted and distorted into claims of apartheid and racism. These claims have no factual basis and deflect from the real issue –sustained Palestinian terror and violence against Israel as a means to achieve political gain. It is time to clarify the realities of the fence that Israel had to build in order to protect her citizens from unrelenting terror.

The international media and the Australians for Palestine group publish images of a tall concrete wall. In reality, more than 97% of the barrier is no more than a chain link fence, hooked up to an early warning system to detect attacks and infiltrations.

The concrete sections are the only prevention against terrorist snipers shooting at Israeli drivers on highways and have been placed strategically in areas where such actions were commonplace.

As Dr Danny Lamm, President of the Zionist Council of Victoria points out “The fence is a way to directly prevent violence and it has worked: in those areas where the barrier has already been completed, attempted terrorist acts have been thwarted, and countless lives saved.”

In recent years, Jerusalem was the target of 24 Palestinian suicide bomb attacks carried out by Palestinians entering from Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus, Ramallah and villages across the West Bank. It was therefore decided that the barrier would be built to protect Jerusalem residents as well.

“This is where the geography of the fence is complex”, says Lamm, “Jews and Arabs live in such close proximity to one another in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas that the fence has often been re- routed and building delayed to accommodate Palestinian humanitarian concerns and legal petitions. Palestinians have petitioned Israel’s High Court and been granted the legal right to have the fence moved.”

In June 2004, in the first and most influential court ruling, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that a 30km stretch of the proposed fence should be re-routed in an area north of Jerusalem, to meet the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian population. While the court supported Israel’s right to build the security fence to protect Israeli citizens, the court also required Israel to take into account Palestinian rights.

More court rulings to move the barrier’s location followed in 2004 and 2005, all examples of successful Palestinian recourse to the Israeli legal system and authorities.

Furthermore, Israel has replanted 68,000 fruit and olive trees uprooted because of the fence, in locations chosen by Palestinian farmers and built more than 40 gates for the farmers to reach their fields.

Israel’s anti-terrorist fence has no ideological or territorial rationale. The governing Kadima party has repeatedly stated its wish to withdraw from territory, not annex it. The fences’ purpose was always to prevent Palestinian terrorists from the West Bank from attacking Israeli civilians and that will not change. “The status of the territory enclosed by the fence will be resolved in a negotiated peace agreement” notes Dr Lamm.

These examples expose why the accusation that Israel’s building of the anti-terrorist barrier is racist and apartheid is so wrong. Apartheid was a system of legal racial segregation enforced by the government of South Africa over a period of more than 40 years. Israel, a multi-ethnic, multi-racial society, in which the Arabs have democratic rights and are represented in Parliament, has built a barrier to protect all its citizens from terror, a legitimate right for any nation.

Critics claim that Israel’s security fence is discriminatory and disrupts Palestinian daily life. “Yes” says Dr Lamm, “the barrier is ugly, inconvenient, and a symbol of conflict.  But responsibility for the fence lies with the Palestinian terror groups which compelled Israel to build it.”

Terrorism in almost every Israeli city has “disrupted” Israeli life. The fence is not the inevitable result of Israeli policy, but the inevitable result of Palestinian actions which have targeted, killed, injured and traumatised Israeli civilians and others.

Dr Lamm notes that you cannot argue the effects of the fence without recognizing that it was built to safeguard Israeli lives, Jewish and Arab. “The fence is a last-resort measure which Israel reluctantly began building to protect all its citizens against continued Palestinian terror, terror that doesn’t discriminate between religion and nationality”, he says.

“When talking about human rights, we must keep in mind more than 1,100 Israeli citizens murdered by Palestinian terrorists since September 2000. Thousands more have been injured and maimed. The terrorists infiltrated Israeli cities and towns mostly from Palestinian areas in the West Bank, sometimes within walking distance. Terror attacks – often suicide bombings – perpetrated on buses, in restaurants, shopping centres and even private homes. The Palestinian leadership does nothing to stop the terror, they even encourage it. No other democracy in the world had before this time faced such intense and sustained attacks against it”, Dr Lamm states.

Unfortunately, even with the rejuvenation of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Palestinian incitement to terror and its horrific results remain the real obstacles to peace. The Palestinian people continue to be exposed to images of violence and incitement by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas-controlled media; school children are still learning from official textbooks that advocate for the annihilation of Israel and go to summer camps to train for future suicide bombings.

Clearly, if the terror stopped, support in Israel for the barrier would quickly reduce and public opinion would shift from a consensus for the fence to a demand for its deconstruction.

An end to violence could mean the end of the fence. “There would have to be a long-term cessation in violence, not just a tactical pause, for Israel to stop building the fence” says Dr Lamm. “With a comprehensive peace agreement, the fence could be dismantled” Dr Lamm hopes. ”The reality is a long way off but if it is achievable, it certainly gives great hope for the futures of Israelis and Palestinians”.

Israel’s security fence creates some inconvenience, and temporary hardships to some Palestinians but it also saves the lives of Israeli civilians, Arab and Jewish, which otherwise would have been destroyed by unjustifiable terror. Inconvenience can be reversed; death cannot.

For more information contact:
ZCV Acting President, Sam Salcman 9272 5544
ZCV Director of Public Affairs, Elly Shalev 9272 5519, 0400 313197

The Zionist Council of Victoria leads and encourages Jewish and Zionist activity and expression within Victoria, to represent the Jewish community, to promote and communicate Israel’s interests within the broader Victorian community and to promote Victoria’s relationship with Israel.

For more information, please visit the Zionist Council of Victoria website www.szcvic.org