I was listening to the show “Reveal — From the Center for Investigative Reporting Up Against the Wall” last Saturday, March 4, 2017.
The show wanted, as it is stated on Reveal’s web page, “to explore the political, logistical and geographic barriers that could get in the way of President Donald Trump’s plan for a border wall.”
At minute 23 the host, Al Letson, informed us that “other countries have put up similar barriers” and reporter Emily Harris (who spent three years as a foreign correspondent in Israel) has an “up close look at the Israeli wall” that becomes the focus of a large part of the show.
There are several disturbing parallels, omissions, twisted facts that are delivered in this show relating to human rights, which are worrisome considering that the Center for Investigative Reporting (responsible for this show) is presented on Reveal’s site as “among the most innovative, credible and relevant media organizations in the country” and “our award-winning journalists hold the powerful accountable and reveal government fraud and waste of taxpayer funds, human rights violations, environmental degradation and threats to public safety”.
I will try to touch on each and every one of these disturbing blatant distortions of facts/omissions/twisted parallels.
First, you compare the wall President Trump intends to build along the Mexican border, routed along an internationally recognized border, to a wall that Israel has built almost entirely on Palestinian land, outside of its internationally recognized borders. The former is a legitimate, legal, though absurd, plan to seal the border between two nations, along an international border. The latter is an illegal operation, condemned and declared illegal by the International Court of Justice (see the advisory opinion of 2004) and by a document published by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. This operation is clearly meant to steal land from the Palestinian people, incorporate illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem within the borders of Israel and obstruct the free circulation of Palestinian citizens inside their own region and from one town to another.
None of these grave violations of international law and human rights were cited in the show.
Later in the show, Ms. Harris informed us, ”Israel’s best-known wall is part of about 300 miles of barrier that twists between Israel and the West Bank.” Except that even just “a glance at a map detailing the separation wall’s route quickly reveals that the vast majority of it—85 percent —is, or is planned to be, built within the West Bank, not along the Green Line or the 1949 Armistice Line, the border between Israel and the Palestinian West Bank recognized by the international community,” journalist William Parry wrote in Al Jazeera in January, continuing, “The purpose of its meandering deviation from Israel’s border, and into the West Bank, is to unilaterally annex the land on which the majority of Israel’s illegal settlements and outposts have been built.”
In other words, the wall doesn’t “twist between Israel and the West Bank”, as reported on your program. The wall almost entirely twists inside the West Bank, which is outside of the internationally recognized borders of Israel, separating Palestinian villages and towns and annexing, de facto, 10 percent of the West Bank, including prime agricultural land and strategic water reserves.
At times, Ms. Harris seemed to touch on the controversial issues raised by the construction of the Israeli wall, but her words minimized the flagrant violation of international law. She reported that the wall “often cuts deep into the land that Palestinians claim for a future country of their own.”
Land that “Palestinians claim,” is not the same as land that is outside of the international borders of Israel and that is illegally occupied by the Israeli army, as stated by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and is explicitly designated by the ICJ as “occupied Palestinian territory.”
In the show, Ms. Harris also made no reference to the 250 Israeli settlements and illegal outposts built on Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem where nearly 600,000 Israelis now live, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
These settlers are under the protection of Israeli soldiers inside of the West Bank.
South African lawyer John Dugard, a United Nations expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, wrote in a 2006 report to the UN Commission on Human Rights that the Israeli “settlers are able to terrorize Palestinians and destroy their trees and crops with impunity.”
Ms. Harris also says that “Armed Israeli security forces work both sides of the barrier”. This is a very strange way to describe an occupation and it seems to give the impression that the presence of foreign occupying troops in Palestine are part of a regular, normal, legal security routine (like the regular controls performed by the border patrol along the U.S. borders), and not the manifestation of a brutal, violent, illegal occupation.
“Most Israelis say that the West Bank barrier has helped lower the number of Palestinian terrorist attacks done inside Israel,” Ms. Harris added. But if Israel wanted to “lower the number of Palestinian terror attacks done inside Israel,” it could simply have built the wall on its internationally recognized border. If it chose instead to build the wall inside occupied Palestinian territory, it was manifestly not to stop Palestinian terror attacks “inside Israel,” but to steal Palestinian land.
An earlier version of this letter was sent to the Center for Investigative Reporting and Emily Harris.