By Megan Specia and Rick Gladstone
May 16, 2018
A snaking metal fence that divides the Gaza Strip from Israel has become the latest focal point in a generations-long conflict between Arabs and Jews in the area.
It was along this fence that at least 60 Palestinians were killed and many hundreds wounded on Monday as thousands converged to protest what they call an arbitrarily enforced demarcation line by an occupier. As protesters rushed toward the fence, some throwing rocks or homemade fire bombs, Israeli soldiers fired live bullets, which the Israeli military said was done as a last resort.
What are the fence’s origins and purpose in separating Gaza, a 25-mile-long, five-mile-wide Mediterranean coastal enclave where nearly two million Palestinians live? Is the fence recognized as an international border? And how has Israel justified deadly force to stop mostly unarmed Palestinians from breaching it? Here are the basics:
TEL AVIV — It’s been obvious to me for some time that the Israeli-Arab conflict is to wider global geopolitical trends what Off Broadway is to Broadway. If you want a hint of what’s coming to a geopolitical theater near you, study this region. You can see it all here in miniature. That certainly applies to what’s becoming the most destabilizing and morally wrenching geopolitical divide on the planet today — the divide between what I call the “World of Order” and the “World of Disorder.”
And Israel is right on the seam — which is why the last major fence Israel built was not to keep West Bank Palestinians from crossing into Israel but to keep more Africans from walking from their homes in Africa, across the Sinai Desert, into Israel.
So many new nations that were created in the last century are failing or falling apart under the stresses of population explosions, climate change, corruption, tribalism and unemployment. As these states deteriorate, they’re hemorrhaging millions of people — more refugees and migrants are on the road today than at any other time since World War II — people trying to get out of the violent and unstable World of Disorder and into the World of Order.
The Broadway versions are the vast number of migrants from failing states in Central America trying to get into the U.S. and from the Arab world and Africa trying to get into Europe. The Off Broadway version is playing out in Israel, to which, since 2012, roughly 60,000 Africans from Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia have trekked — not to find kosher food, Al Aqsa Mosque or the Via Dolorosa, but stability and a job.
Yes, yes yes. Ugh. Tom Friedman asks the right difficult questions.
I recommended the two most popular comments:
I’m contemplating writing a book on the first year of President Trump’s foreign policy, and I already know the name: “The Art of the Giveaway.”
In nearly 30 years of covering United States foreign policy, I’ve never seen a president give up so much to so many for so little, starting with China and Israel. In both the Middle Kingdom and in the Land of Israel, Christmas came early this year. The Chinese and the Jews are both whispering to their kids: “There really is a Santa Claus.”
And his name is Donald Trump.
Who can blame them? Let’s start with Israel, every Israeli government since its founding has craved United States recognition of Jerusalem as its capital. And every United States government has refrained from doing that, arguing that such a recognition should come only in the wake of an agreed final status peace accord between Israelis and Palestinians — until now.
Today, Trump just gave it away — for free. Such a deal! Why in the world would you just give this away for free and not even use it as a lever to advance the prospect of an Israeli-Palestinian deal?
Trump could have said two things to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. First, he could have said: “Bibi, you keep asking me to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. O.K., I will do that. But I want a deal. Here’s what I want from you in return: You will declare an end to all Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, outside of the existing settlement bloc that everyone expects to be part of Israel in any two-state solution.”
David Linday Jr: Thank you Tom Friedman. What terrible losses this oaf is causing for the United States. Here is comment that I endorse:
Your point that Trump does not see himself as president of the United States but only of those who elected him is so true. It is why, as you rightly point out, that he pursues policies that are not in the national interest, but which only serve to whip up sentiment among the shrinking group of folks who support him– increasingly the far right or alt-right. He will or should soon lose the support of those working class people who bet on him– destroying NAFTA, TPP and now passing this windfall tax bill for the rich, should disabuse them of the idea he ever was interesting in anyones welfare other than his own. The news from the US gets worse every day.
“The Zionist Organization of America feted Stephen K. Bannon at a gala dinner in New York on Sunday night. What a disgrace.
What a mistake, too.
It’s a disgrace because no organization that purports to represent the interests of the Jewish people should ever embrace anyone who embraces anti-Semites. Jews have enemies enough. To provide those enemies with moral cover for the sake of political convenience or ideology corroborates the worst anti-Semitic stereotypes and strengthens the hand of those who mean us harm.”
Complicated. I liked the top comment, about how some terrorists are OK, if they are on your side. Overall, Stephens has a point, Bannon is bad on many counts.
There was one critical comment that caught my perspective pretty well”
“Simply put, support for Israel is a necessary but not sufficient condition for being a friend to Jews.”
Simply? I guess it depends upon what you mean by “support”. I consider myself to be a friend to Jews. I see no quibble or hedge in my heart when I say that. I support the right of Israel to exist. And yet, I can’t support Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine.
Somehow, alone among nations, supporting Israel seems to boils down to supporting everything Israel does. Personally, I can’t extend that level of support to any nation.
“In June 1967 Arab leaders declared their intention to annihilate the Jewish state, and the Jews decided they wouldn’t sit still for it. For the crime of self-preservation, Israel remains a nation unforgiven.Unforgiven, Israel’s milder critics say, because the Six-Day War, even if justified at the time, does not justify 50 years of occupation. They argue, also, that Israel can rely on its own strength as well as international guarantees to take risks for peace. This is a historic nonsense.”
Here again, the comments make one smarter. Stevens seems to make good points, until someone pokes holes in them. I found this top comment more informative than the op-ed itself.
Stephens repeats many of the tired cliches used to justify Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian land. Most notable is the assertion that Yasser Arafat rejected a reasonable offer for a Palestinian state at Camp David. There is ample evidence that the offer made by Ehud Barak at Camp David could not have been accepted by Arafat — the West Bank was cut up into a patchwork of bantustans by settlement blocs, bypass roads and zones of “temporary Israeli control”. Israel would have controlled all border crossings. The Israeli offer was improved considerably at Taba later in 2000, but by that time Barak had lost the election; time ran out. Then there’s the cliche that Israel turned Gaza over to the Palestinians, who ungratefully responded with attacks against Israel. But the people of Gaza have never been free from Israeli control; Israel has tight control over everything entering and leaving the strip (including building material needed to rebuild after Israeli bombs reduce much of Gaza to rubble).
The greatest problem in Stephens’ piece is his confusion of cause and effect. He admits that settlement growth outside the historically recognized blocs was a “mistake” made by Israel, but doesn’t seem to see the connection between this ubiquitous — and growing — symbol of domination and the Palestinian resistance. He certainly doesn’t explain how any Palestinian behavior necessitates the continual construction of more Israeli settlements.
“HEBRON, West Bank — Last week, Israel’s Parliament passed a controversial bill that allows the government to retroactively authorize contested West Bank Jewish communities by compensating previous Palestinian land claimants. Opposition parties warn that this law could open Israel to prosecution at The Hague, and the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said, “Israel’s Parliament has just approved a law to legalize theft of Palestinian land.”
This theme has been echoed recently at the Paris peace conference, in a United Nations Security Council resolution and by a major policy speech by then Secretary of State John Kerry, which all condemned settlements.”
Here is the other side. I like the following critical comment:
“Wow, it’s so simple. The Palestinians actually have no right to the land they’ve thought was theirs for generations, because Jews always had a claim on it. We don’t have to discuss whether there is any competition between the claims.
And we can achieve a satisfactory solution by democratic means — although that “democracy” will not include freedom of religion, because only those who acknowledge the primacy of the Jewish character of the state will be considered to have full rights. And we don’t have to mention the strongly anti-democratic turn Israel has already taken. That proponents of the plans Mr. Fleisher mentions have made virulently racist statements is somehow ignorable in evaluating what their real effects are likely to be.
No. There really is a problem. The settlers’ view is fundamentally based on a grossly distorted, one-sided view of history, and a fundamentally dishonest representation that the kind of state they will envision will be democratic. They know full well that their conception of the future will not involve full rights for the Palestinians, and they are trying to avoid criticism over this. In fact, John Kerry was completely correct.”
“Dear President Trump:
These are the moments that make or break a presidency.
First you were tested by a rival — Russia — and utterly failed to appreciate the corrosive impact on our democracy of your indulgence of Russia’s hacking our election. And on Wednesday you’re going to be tested by a friend — Israel — and its prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu. Can you appreciate the corrosive impact on Israel’s democracy of what it’s now doing in the West Bank? I ask because you may be the last man standing between Israel and a complete, self-inflicted disaster for the Jewish state and the Jewish people.
Let me explain it in terms you’ll appreciate: golf. . . . . ”
Excellent op-ed Thomas Friedman. I am with you. “Don’t let the bastards get you down.”
I remain humbled by the complexities of these problems.
I still do not understand, and therefore oppose, our 3.8 billion USD subsidy to Israel, every year for ten years. Can you explain why it makes sense to share our treasure with this Israeli government? Wouldn’t it make Americans safer if we stopped supporting Jews over Muslims in Israel? China has announced that it will or is investing 350 billion USD in sustainable energy systems. Don’t we have better investments that we should be making, to stay competitive with the growing giant of Asia?
David Lindsay, blogs at OnVietnamAndtheWorld.wordpress.com
“HAIFA, Israel — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is expected to visit Washington this week to meet with President Trump, presumably to discuss the political philosophy they share: power through hate and fear. A government that bars refugees and Muslims from entering the United States has much in common with one that permits Israeli settlers to steal land from Palestinians, as a new law that Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition pushed through Parliament last week did.
Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Netanyahu used blatant race-baiting tactics to win his last election, in 2015. Since then, he has made discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel central to his agenda. This takes many forms; a particularly painful one is his government’s racist, unjust land use and housing policies.
Arabs make up one-fifth of Israel’s population, yet only 2.5 percent of the state’s land is under Arab jurisdiction. And since the founding of the state, more than 700 new towns and cities have been built for Jews, while no new cities have been built for Arabs.”
“Issa Amro, a native of the city of Hebron and a prominent Palestinian advocate of nonviolent resistance, has been waiting now for nearly two months to find out when he can expect to face trial in an Israeli military courtroom. He has been accused of a series of offenses ranging from demonstrating without a permit to “insulting a soldier.
”The two most serious charges are for assaulting a pair of soldiers and a settlement security coordinator. In both instances, one in 2010 and the other in 2013, the military claims that Mr. Amro pushed his antagonists.Mr. Amro denies the allegations and points out that in both instances it was he who suffered physical injury. The charge of insulting a soldier includes an incident in which a border policeman took Mr. Amro’s ID. Mr. Amro says he told the officer: “I want my ID back, I am not wanted, and if you had called to check you would know this. But you have not called, I know, I am not stupid.” The officer, however, insists that Mr. Amro called him stupid and said that “he could not arrest him.” “
“For many years, substantial assistance was warranted in recognition of Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt and its need to defend against hostile Arab states. There is a compelling need for the United States’ continued commitment to Israel’s security, which includes the sharing of advanced technologies. But it is worth asking whether the ever-increasing aid levels make sense, especially in the face of America’s other pressing domestic and overseas obligations.”
$38 Billion over 10 years in military aid to Israel is over the top. I’ve lost track, what is in it for us? Since our governments disagree about their policy of building illegal settlements in Palestinian lands, we should stop all aid to Israel, until they actually give peace a chance.