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ISRAËL, GAZA, Arabes, Fatah. A Comprehensive Response to Anti-Israel Tourist Activism Talking Points, Part I & II

A Comprehensive Response to Anti-Israel Tourist Activism Talking Points, Part I

Geography, Fences and Security

by Robert Harris (July 2016)

Betty Purcell, a member of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, is best known for her former role as a current affairs producer at RTE, Ireland’s public service broadcaster. Purcell is a television producer of longstanding, who wrote a book called Inside RTÉ: A Memoir about her thirty-three year career at the Broadcasting institution, which indicated the extent to which she influenced RTE’s political culture.

Purcell trenchantly advocated against the Jewish State in the mainstream media, in the aftermath of a supposed fact-finding tour of Judea and Samaria/West Bank, organised by the Bethlehem branch of the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association). Purcell’s staunch anti-Zionist claims, as expressed in an Irish Examiner article, letters, and during an RTE interview, echo most of the normative propagandistic talking points found when anti-Israel tourism activists share their insights with the international media. This article uses Purcell’s commentary as a starting point to closely critique these broad talking points.

Of land and settlements

On November 2nd, 2015, the Irish Examiner published an opinion piece by Betty Purcell, entitled ‘A boycott of Israel can help end the injustice’.

Purcell’s screed begins with a description of the appearance of a field of olive trees, near Bethlehem:

“It should be an idyllic scene. But we are with the farmer who owns the field, and his story is tragic.”

Purcell does not name the farmer and his family, upon which several of her claims are based. The absence of an identifying source for Purcell’s claims soon becomes significant. Of the farmer, it is said:

“Coming down the hill towards him is a massive Israeli settlement (illegal under international law, and condemned by the International Court of Justice in 2004).

It has already led to the confiscation of half of his land.”

Numerous invalid claims have been made in the media about the confiscation of land and property that was supposedly owned by Arab-Palestinians. Purcell does not even deem it necessary to name the area where the farmer lives, but it appears to be near the security barrier, in the environs of Bethlehem. It is difficult to deduce the “massive” Jewish settlement that Purcell references. It might be Efrat, or the neighbourhood of Gilo, which Purcell may deem a settlement but it is merely a suburb of East Jerusalem. Purcell describes this settlement as almost a living thing, coming after the unfortunate farmer, but these urban centres typically develop inward rather than outward, and do so at a relatively slow pace due to the controversy that such developments garner internationally.

Arab-Palestinian farmers make use of ‘miri’ land. Most of the contested region is made up of two classes of land: miri and ‘mewat’, the latter of which cannot be cultivated because it is barren or rocky. This legal classification was instituted under the Ottoman Empire, and remained in use throughout the British Mandate and Jordanian periods of rule, up to the present. Miri land is non-urban land capable of cultivation for which private individuals can gain rights of use as long as it is farmed. Such rights expire once the relevant piece of land is no longer being cultivated, without good cause, for three or more years. Many anti-Israel activists and NGOs describe such land as private Arab-Palestinian land, if they have or once held such cultivation rights. These organisations describe Judea and Samaria as occupied, a claim that can be contested. Yet even if Israel is an occupier, it must nonetheless abide by the legal framework of the prior sovereign. Regardless, the Israeli State is entitled to take back abandoned miri land, for tendering to other farmers.

Settlements are not illegal under international law. The region has no prior legitimate sovereign since 135 AD. The League of Nations British Mandate was set up to reconstitute a predominantly Jewish nation and Article Six of the Mandatory text enshrined in law the right for close Jewish habitation in this zone, with and without the British authority’s assistance. The United Nations charter enshrined the capacity of prior international frameworks in Article 80, which affirms that the UN cannot alter prior legal arrangements made by international bodies, unless the parties involved agree to alter their status.

Israel’s opponents assert that the presence of such Jewish neighbourhoods is contrary to international law, with respect to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. This assertion is dubious because it relates to the mass transfer of peoples into and/or out of a sovereign nation during a time of war. Said Jewish people moved into a region that has not been held by a legitimate sovereign in millennia, and did so over five decades, in a voluntary gradual manner. They did so for religious and cultural reasons, given the zone constitutes the heartland of ancient Israel, from which their ancestors were ethnically cleansed, in both ancient and quite recent times. This activity has not displaced extant local populaces.

The 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was merely an “advisory” opinion. The ICJ revealed a substantive bias, by claiming that the security barrier was a political move, rather than an act of necessary security. The assertion is an absurdity, given the death of 900 Israeli citizens, and the wounding of at least 6,000 others, in a matter of a few years. At a fundamental level, however, the ICJ ruling is factually invalid because it conflates (point 70) the ‘Class A’ League of Nations status of the Syrian and Iraqi Mandates, with that of the Palestine Mandate, which has no designated status. ‘Class A’ status designated the readiness for a given region to achieve national independence, with the short-term development of parliamentary democracy. By contrast, the authority of the Palestine Mandate is solely vested in the Mandatory power, and a national agency, with the sole purpose of reconstructing “the Jewish National Home”. In effect, the ICJ sought to dispossess the British Mandate – an instrument of international law – of its original intent: to reconstruct a nation, minimally from the Western-side of the Jordan River, including Judea and Samaria/West Bank. Article 25 states only the Eastern-side of the river can be designated for alternate purposes, leading to Jordan’s creation.

The judgement also attempted to re-write prior international agreements. The Armistice Line reflects the location of two armies in 1949, after Jordan’s invasion. Article VI of the Armistice deal affirms the Line must not be a basis for permanent boundaries. Of the fifteen-member panel, there was dissenting opinion by Rosalyn Higgins, Pieter H. Kooijmans, and Justice Thomas Buergenthal. Buergenthal criticised the contention Israel does not have a right of self defense under the United Nations Charter. He asserted that the ICJ rebutted Israel’s claims of security requirements without validation, failed to examine some issues in-depth, and largely ignored the summaries of Israel’s position provided by the United Nations, which suggests that the ICJ was intentionally selective in the material relied upon for its ruling. Notably, the ICJ excludes Israel from permanent membership.

Later in the same article, Purcell demonises the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria/West Bank:

“We went to Hebron, a Palestinian town of 45,000 people, which has become a ghost town since the “settling” of 500 Israelis there.”

The “ghost town” claim is difficult to reconcile with reality. In 1967, shortly after taking Hebron in a defensive war against Jordan, a small number of Jewish people took up residence against the wishes of Israel’s military. The community remained relatively small, and merely takes up a small portion of the city itself, which has a population that is three and a half times larger than Purcell indicates, presumably to reinforce her “ghost town” narrative. In 1997, as part of the Oslo process, Israel signed a withdrawal deal with Yasser Arafat. Thus, 80% of the city is under Palestinian Authority control. H1 is a largest section of the town which has a solely Arab-Palestinian populace of over 120,000, while H2 has a smaller Arab-Palestinian populace as well as the Jewish populace. Purcell likely refers to H2 which disingenuously ignores H1. She adds:

“Under the guise of “security considerations”, many streets have been emptied of Palestinian families, and in the Old Town, the Palestinian shopkeepers have had their market stalls closed.”

Purcell repeatedly uses scare quotes to dismiss the concerns of the Israeli authorities, with respect to security, terrorism and other forms of violence. Hebron has been a flashpoint for violence for a protracted period of time.

“Meanwhile, the settlements, which Israel has been repeatedly asked to dismantle by the UN, are growing apace. On every piece of high land, initially a few mobile homes appear. This is a settlement outpost.

Then the army moves in to support house-building.

Next nearby houses and farms are cleared for “security reasons”. And then the settlement grows, and is linked by special road to the settlement on the next hill.”

Purcell describes a scenario that is wholly incommensurate with the facts. The Israeli State has repeatedly dismantled settlement outposts, since the government deems their habitation illegal, and destroys the structures they contain. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) often clashes with Jewish settlers when dismantling their outposts. The IDF suppresses price-tag incidents and defends anti-Israel activists who attempt to confront settlers, with some organisations, such as Tayush attempting to disrupt economic life. There was particular controversy several years ago when the Israeli authorities destroyed outposts and buildings all over Judea and Samaria/West Bank, where Jewish occupants have individually and repeatedly bought the land that they are claiming.

As noted by the representative of the Israeli Embassy, processes have not been instigated by Israel, to begin the process of recognising new Jewish settlements, since the 1990s era of the Oslo II peace talks. Three settlements were given formal recognition in 2012, to finalise legal processes dating back to the 1980s and 1990s. Formal recognition were held up by the Jewish State but was reversed as a punitive measure, after the Palestinian Authority walked away from initiatory peace talks in Amman.

It can be argued that Israel’s longstanding refusal to recognise all outposts is an unacceptable, and illegal attack on the rights of Jewish residents to live in an elemental part of the mandated territory for the ‘Jewish National Home’, but it does at least demonstrate Israel’s good faith when attempting to come to a land-for-peace solution with the Arab-Palestinian community.

Purcell suggests that the Jewish residential areas of Judea and Samaria/West Bank are growing at an alarming rate but notable anti-Israel sources affirm that actual settlements take up relatively little space, circa 1% of the region. Senior Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat also stated that settlements constitute 1.1% of the region.

Purcell goes on to cite settler violence. She claims that the presence of settlers makes peace impossible:

“There are now 700,000 Israeli settlers in the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem.

They become “facts on the ground”, making a two-state solution a practical impossibility.”

It is nonsense to suggest the presence of Jewish neighbourhoods and towns in Judea and Samaria/West Bank, represent an impediment to a two-state solution. It is an established fact that the PLO walked out of talks in Camp David, Taba, etc., despite substantive concessions on territory, so this is not the substantive fact holding back a solution. Almost all major Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria/West Bank, are close to the Armistice/Green Line, and it has long been accepted by both parties, within the process, that there would be some degree of land-swapping. Settlement development has not greatly increased since the 1990s so it is entirely feasible to see most remain in a two-state solution that gives a prospective second Arab-Palestinian state much of Judea and Samaria/West Bank, in a sustainable arrangement that will be contiguous even with development of the E1 area.

The “Separation Wall”

Purcell took aim at the security barrier, which she artfully called the “Separation Wall”:

“His freedom of movement is curtailed by roadblocks and the Israeli-built Separation Wall, which snakes across the land, and divides him from his neighbours and friends. Then he smiles the warmest smile.”

When naming the security barrier the “Separation Wall”, Purcell demonstrates a clear propagandistic intent. The term evokes the notion of apartheid and negates the historic circumstance in which the development occurred, namely the Second Intifada, in which the civilian Israeli populace was subjected to approximately four years of terrorism, that largely originated in Judea and Samaria/West Bank. It led to the death of nearly a thousand Israelis, the majority of which were Jewish civilians, along with many thousands of non-fatal casualties.

Purcell’s article introduced a rather extraordinary claim:

“The Wall is built in the West Bank, and when it is completed will annex a further 47% of West Bank territory.”

This claim was challenged by a representative of Dublin’s Israeli Embassy:

“Ms Purcell states that the separation wall, when it is completed, will gobble up 47% of Palestinian territory. This is a lie; the wall is expected to take up about nine per cent of the territory. Ms Purcell does not explain why it was built in the first place: to keep potential terrorists out of Israel.”

However, Purcell stood by the charge in a letter of response:

“…there are varying estimates as to the amount of West Bank land the Separation Wall will seize. The YMCA for instance predicts the incursion will be 47%.”

If there are varying estimates, then why did Purcell choose to go with the most extreme estimate in her article? Purcell’s 47% claim is so absurd that the reader might be forgiven for thinking that she has never seen a map of Judea and Samaria/West Bank! If effectively half of Judea and Samaria/West Bank is to be taken in by the security barrier (or perhaps more since she describes it as a “a further 47%”), then it would have to absorb all or most of the large population centres close to the 1949-67 Armistice (Green) Line: Ramallah, Bethlehem in its entirety, and very likely Hebron and Nablus. Yet from Purcell’s own account, we only hear of the security barrier impacting a region that she describes as being “near Bethlehem”. To the West, the greater Bethlehem area effectively meets East Jerusalem’s neighbourhoods, for example Bethlehem’s Beit Jalla Christian enclave neighbour’s Jerusalem’s Gilo. The security barrier places an obstacle between the two, and with good reason. Beit Jalla was widely used to launch attacks on Gilo – some Jewish residents were also shot in their very homes by sniper fire. It is for this reason parts of the barrier feature a high wall structure, while over 90% uses fencing.

Other egregiously false claims have been made by anti-Israel groups about the security barrier. For example, many anti-Israel activists have claimed that the security barrier completely encircles Bethlehem, thereby turning the town into a prison. However, the barrier merely passes by the Western-most side of the town. The Security Barrier is a widely used anti-Israel propaganda motif, one that is commonly directed at the West’s Christian audiences. This is also a feature of Purcell’s article.

Despite Purcell insisting that the 47% claim is correct, she still finds the 9% assertion a “revelation”:

“Mr O’Flynn’s contention that it will take up 9% of the territory is an interesting revelation.

If the Irish Republic were to move our border posts 9% into the territory of Northern Ireland, we would, at a minimum, gobble up Newry and Derry! This is hardly a way to build neighbourly relations.”

Aside from Purcell’s fanciful assumption that a security barrier taking in 9% of Northern Ireland would necessarily swallow up those two geographically diverse population centres, she presented the security barrier as an ongoing attempt to “annex” a goodly portion of Judea and Samaria/West Bank. Following the dictates of propaganda, anti-Israel activists normatively use the word “wall”, when it is widely known that more than 9/10 of the barrier is fencing. The word is used to evoke a notion of permanence.

Israel’s Ministry of Defense has affirmed that “The sole purpose of the Security Fence, as stated in the Israeli Government decision of July 23rd 2001, is to provide security.” It has been reported that Ariel Sharon had latterly envisaged taking approximately a tenth of the region, to encompass larger Jewish settlements, while withdrawing entirely from the rest of the zone, to allow the formation of an Arab-Palestinian State. However, this plan never evolved. His successor, Ehud Olmert, offered the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, almost all of the PA’s territorial demands, with mutually agreed land-swaps. Far from keeping to the line demarked by the security barrier, Olmert’s plan designated 6.3% of the territory, which would be exchanged for 5.8% of Israeli territory behind the Green Line. Abbas walked away, although he would later make favourable remarks about the plan.

Moreover, the two-state solutions, being so envisaged as ‘two states for two peoples’, planned that Israel would still possess a portion of Judea and Samaria/West Bank. This is in keeping with UN Security Council Resolution 242, which, as noted by one of its authors, Eugene W. Rostow, was not designed to force Israel back “to the “fragile” and “vulnerable” Armistice Demarcation Lines, but should retire once peace was made to what Resolution 242 called “secure and recognized” boundaries, agreed to by the parties”. It was never a pre-requisite of the substantive peace-processes, involving both parties, that every inch of Judea and Samaria/West Bank would be ceded to a second prospective Arab-Palestinian state. Professor Gerald Adler has noted that to have built the security barrier on the 1949-67 Armistice (Green) Line would have unduly pre-empted Final Status negotiations on a substantive number of issues, as envisaged in the Oslo Accords. Placing the barrier at the old Armistice Line would also negate Israel’s right to a secure border, as per Resolution 242, because much of the Armistice Line follows vulnerable low-lying areas. Policing a barrier on the old Line would thus pose a very substantive long-term risk, and so undermine its very reason d’etre.

After being criticised by the Israeli Embassy for failing to advise that the security barrier was built to stop terrorist attacks, Purcell stuck to her guns, and refused to acknowledge there are any security risks to Israel. It is however a fact that Israel suffered a dramatic escalation in terrorism during the Second Intifada, for which the barrier played a substantive role in bringing to an end, especially with respect to suicide bombing. Israel’s enemies agree. Islamic Jihad’s leader, Ramadan Abdallah Salah, admitted in March 2008 that Israel “built a separation fence in the West Bank. We do not deny that it limits the ability of the resistance [terrorist groups] to arrive deep within [Israeli territory] to carry out suicide bombing attacks, but the resistance has not surrendered…” Similarly, in June 2007, Ikhwan Online reported a statement by Hamas’ Mousa Abu Marzouq: “[carrying out] such attacks is made difficult by the security fence and the gates surrounding West Bank residents”.

The route of the security barrier was originally intended to cover 12% of Judea and Samaria/West Bank, but has been re-routed by the Israeli military in reaction to rulings by the Israeli Supreme Court, in 2004 and 2005. The Court was petitioned by NGOs representing Arab-Palestinian issues. Whilst rejecting the ICJ position that the barrier was illegal, the Supreme Court nonetheless affirmed that security measures must be proportionate to the welfare of the local populace so affected. Consequently, the barrier now covers approximately eight percent of the disputed region.

Could the security barrier be good for progress?

Arab-Palestinian society prospered during the Oslo-era process, but improvements came abruptly to an end with the Second Intifada. It is a fact that the security barrier played a fundamental role in bringing about the end of a phase of unprecedented violence originating from Judea and Samaria/West Bank.

Ultimately, in conflict situations, choices need to be made between greater or lesser evils. Such moral complexity is afforded no space in the simplified propagandistic narratives of the anti-Israel movement.

Whilst the barrier would inconvenience local residents to a varying degree, it also affords these people a far greater degree of safety, particularly in residential areas like Bethlehem, from which many Arab-Palestinians initiated attacks. The land taken for the purposes of the separation barrier is appropriated for military purposes. Of course these actions are very disruptive, but such land remains the property of owners. The owners are compensated for land usage, and for property damage. In truth, better security also facilitates economic progress, particularly with regard to tourism, an industry essential to Bethlehem, which can only flourish in times of peace. Moreover, Israel reduced its road blocks since the Intifada, and granted a greater number of permits for work within Israel. It can thus be argued that the barrier, after a period of intense strife, has had a largely positive impact for Arab-Palestinians. Those who wish to continue with conditions of strife, and especially a programme of Intifada-esque violence, are the most discommoded.

Anti-Israel propagandists like to contend that Israel’s security efforts are actually designed to harm Arab-Palestinian interests. The stance may not be convincing unless presenting a highly-distorted form of reality, in which there is no actual conflict, other than with respect to the supposed wrongful acts of the Jewish State. Purcell’s silence on the trenchant terrorism of the Second Intifada leads to a question: Does she want the waves of terror to return, which not only caused substantive suffering to the Jewish populace within Israel’s old 1949-67 Line, but also extended to Arab casualties within the areas of Judea and Samaria/West Bank she visited, because the barrier causes inconvenience in these regions?

Of roads and apartheid

Purcell attempts to assert that Apartheid motivates Israel’s policy of travel restriction into the State:

“Freedom of movement is seriously compromised for Palestinians. None of the family I stayed with were free to travel to Jerusalem, just 10km down the road. (Given that they were Palestinian Christians, they would have really enjoyed seeing the historic sites of old Jerusalem…)”

Sovereign states have a right to control access onto their territory by non-nationals. There is no inherent right of access into the State for tourists and migrants, and none should be expected particularly in the aftermath of the Second Intifada, which was possible because access was so porous. Arab-Palestinian movement into Israel is curtailed, but otherwise is quite free. Rather ironically, Purcell complains about a supposed annexation of parts of Judea and Samaria/West Bank with the security barrier, and then complains about limited access into Israel external to the barrier, as if Judea and Samaria/West Bank is an inherent part of Israel, where citizenship rights would naturally extend to Arab-Palestinians. The Jewish State has not annexed the region, and in all likelihood will only take a small portion in a future peace deal. Other anti-Israel activists, such as Peter Beinart, make similarly flawed leaps of argument. Purcell continues:

“A friend of our family worked as a labourer in Jerusalem. He left at 3.30 in the morning to get to the checkpoint, leaving himself three hours waiting time.

Sometimes he got through more quickly, but he had to be sure…”

Checkpoints during times of societal and sectarian strife are typically slow due to security risks. The process is no doubt a considerable inconvenience but this person no doubt makes the effort to work in Israel because wages are substantially higher than within Judea and Samaria/West Bank. During the Second Intifada, Israel stopped issuing work permits due to security risks. This decision was changed in the aftermath of that era, but levels of violence has ebbed and flowed since that time, requiring continued vigilance. Ironically, Purcell objects to the very thing that helps limit the risk of terrorist attacks. Israel would likely be compelled to revoke the permits, if the scale of terror were to rise again.

In a letter, Purcell raises another old propaganda stroke: “the issue of Apartheid roads, which allow settlers unique and speedy access to all parts of the West Bank and into Israel”, adding in her article:

“…the settlers have their own roads and distinctive yellow number plates, which allow them to zip quickly into Jerusalem in 15 minutes.

The Palestinians, with their white number plates are restricted to circuitous, road blocked roads, which can be closed off at any time by the military for ‘security reasons’.”

Purcell rehashes a long-discredited libel that there are separate roads solely for Jews. Although not using the same demographic identifier, which she substitutes with ‘Israeli’ and ‘Palestinian’, the ‘apartheid roads’ claim only makes sense in this context where a given critic is referring to a discriminatory policy directed at Arab people. The dedicated roads are available for all Israeli citizens, which includes Arabs of any religious persuasion. At 20% of Israel’s populace, Arabs constitute one of the nation’s biggest demographic groupings.

Purcell refers to roads between nearby Jewish neighbourhoods and Jerusalem. These roads bypass Arab-Palestinian neighbourhoods because very many terrorist attacks originated in these areas, and attacks often targeted Israeli-registered cars to lethal effect during the successive Intifadas.

Purcell incorrectly declares that these “apartheid roads” allow access to “all parts of the West Bank”. In actual fact much of the road infrastructure in the region forbids access to Israeli-registered cars, due to the danger it would pose to passengers if they ended up in Arab neighbourhoods. Indeed some roadblocks exist to prevent the access of Israeli citizens into the Arab areas of the region. This is a policy based on the preservation of life rather than discrimination. Even today, attacks, quite often perpetuated by Arab-Palestinian children, cause substantive casualties on a daily basis. Rather than a reflection on Israeli-Jewish intolerance, this is a reaction to Arab-Palestinian sectarianism over successive generations.

“The only West Bank Palestinians who have permission to go there [Israel], are people with work permits which allow them access, like South African black people under apartheid, who similarly were allowed permits for work, but not to live in certain parts of the city.”

The claim that Israel echoes Apartheid-era South Africa often relies an argument that Arab-Palestinians live in isolated ‘bantustans’, a type of township to which Black South African people were deported from areas that were designated solely for white habitation. Black people were deemed citizens of these townships. The South African ‘Pass Laws’ required a kind of passport to merely travel outside these zones to their place of work. These ‘passports’ often included remarkably invasive information. Purcell’s parallel is a nonsense, in part because there no meaningful comparison between the two Nations. Secondly, Israel has long-accepted the principle of an independent and contiguous Arab-Palestinian nation in substantive peace negotiations.

If there was truth to the apartheid charge, based on ethno-religious lines, there would be segregation in Israel for the 20% of its Arabs. However, the minority mix freely, worship freely, have no proscription on employment, and vote and stand for election. Arabic is one of Israel’s two official languages. The evidence is plentiful: Israeli Arabs serve on the Supreme Court, command ranks in the army and have political grouping in the State legislature. An Israeli-Arab man is the Nation’s deputy police commissioner. Attempts to blacken Israel ultimately make light of the suffering visited upon the indigenous people of South Africa

Jewish and Arab populaces in Judea and Samaria/West Bank operate under different legal frameworks. This fact is also cited in attempts to justify the apartheid charge. It is invalid however. Efforts to impose internal Israeli law throughout the region would be vigorously opposed by the International Community, in part because it is normative to utilise preceding legal frameworks where there is some form of military occupation. Moreover, the PA rules 97% of the Arab-Palestinian populace, for which it writes and administers law.

It is absurd to denounce Israel for supposedly attempting to annex Judea and Samaria/West Bank, but to then demand the State treat Arab-Palestinians from the region as Israeli nationals. The Arab-Palestinians of the region are not nationals of Israel, and a majority would resist efforts at naturalisation if they were given the option, as previously seen in East Jerusalem, which was annexed in 1980.


Robert Harris contributes articles to several websites on contentious political issues (not to be confused with the popular English novelist (1957-) of the same name). He also blogs at eirael.blogspot.com and lives in Ireland.

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A Comprehensive Response to Anti-Israel Tourist Activism Talking Points, Part II

Behind the selective criticism: Boycott advocacy for a one-state solution

by Robert Harris (August 2016)

This article addresses the propagandistic talking points of tourist activism, so designed to undermine the international standing of Israel. The anti-Israel commentaries by former RTE producer, Betty Purcell, in the aftermath of a 2015 visit to Judea and Samaria/West Bank, organised by the Bethlehem branch of the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association), in which she toured and lived with a Christian family, are utilised as a starting point for the arguments of rebuttal featured in this essay. Part One of this series addresses other topics of contention.

The water libel

Purcell echoes the “water apartheid” charge, which many anti-Israel NGOs have advanced. Some NGOs go as far as to use the libel to foster claims that the Israeli State is engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing. Purcell waxes lyrical on the supposed inequality of it all:

“Sewage water is polluting his [a farmer in Bethlehem] remaining fields. He points to the shrunken, dehydrated olives with tears in his eyes. He has no water for irrigating the fields, and his whole village exists in a threatened zone.” […]

Staying with Palestinian families, the first thing you notice is the rationing of water.

Palestinian houses only have their water supplied for three days a month, and they try to fill water cannisters on their roofs for the other days.

Water is at a premium, although we are told to shower as often as we need to. We try to splash quickly and dry off. I am therefore amazed, when we are taken to an Israeli settlement, to discover water in abundance there.

There are sprinklers on the gardens, and even an aqua park. Water is available 24/7. International organisations state that one Israeli uses as much water as eight Palestinians.”

Prima facie, some readers may find it difficult to accept the notion that a team of YMCA sponsored tourists, staying as guests in the family homes of locals so afflicted, would be encouraged to liberally avail of showers in an arid environment where there is such a degree of water poverty. Water would effectively be a life-or-death resource for a farmer with fields to irrigate. Be that as it may, Purcell does not state whether the water is supplied through water infrastructure or by tankers. A few percent of homes in the region are not connected to water-mains supplies.

A representative of the Israeli Embassy took issue with her claim that Israeli people have a tendency to use as much as eight times more water than that of Arab-Palestinian people:

“Ms Purcell repeats the old canard that Jews are stealing the water of the West Bank. In fact, since the Oslo Accords in the mid-1990’s Israel has far exceeded its pledge to increase water resources to the Palestinian Authority; currently, the availability of fresh water to West Bank Arabs is more than two-thirds per capita to that of Jews living there and the gap is narrowing.

Moreover, the Palestinian Authority has not helped itself by doing nothing to repair water infrastructure under its own control or to recycle water for irrigation, despite international funding.”

Purcell was unmoved by the reply, claiming that the representative:

“…inadvertently admits to the Apartheid system that exists in the West Bank, when he argues that the water Israel allows to them is two thirds that available to Israeli settlers.”

Purcell goes on to argue that the representative:

“does not contradict the limitation I saw on water to three days a month, or my observation that the settlers had 24/7 access for their sprinklers and water parks.”

Purcell fails to observe an effective rebuttal, with the claim of a water supply constituting “more than two-thirds per capita” going to Arab-Palestinians, because it is wholly incompatible with her claim that Arab-Palestinians only have water for a few days of the month. Purcell uses omissions as validations of her point of view. As a media professional, she must be aware that newspapers rarely publish lengthy letters so the representative of the Israeli Embassy cannot be expected to rebut every facet of her claims.

It is impossible to claim that an “apartheid system” exists when asserting that Jewish residents have a huge abundance of water, whilst affirming the views of the representative of the Israeli Embassy, that Arab-Palestinians obtain more than two-thirds the same water per capita, which is somehow leading to immense hardship. Secondly, Purcell’s acceptance of the Embassy’s claim leads to the inadvertent acknowledgement that Israel supplies Judea and Samaria/West Bank with a lot of water, rather than the State stealing water from the region – a normative charge made against the Jewish State by anti-Israel NGOs. Thirdly, Israel does not somehow “allow” Arab-Palestinians to have water – PA water production is largely independent of the State of Israel, as mutually agreed in the Oslo peace process.

From the 1970s, many Arab-Palestinian communities were first connected to a mains water supply, the Israeli National Water Carrier, which allowed water consumption to effectively double that of the period under Jordanian control. The improvement of such infrastructure greatly improved the health of these communities, with a reduction in infant mortality rates, and a dramatic increase in life expectancy – indicators markedly better than many Arab nations even during the Second Intifada.

Israel recognised Arab-Palestinian water rights at the Oslo talks, which resulted in the Jewish State loosing substantive control of a large portion of its water resources – a major issue which has led to the development of highly efficient drip-irrigation techniques, and the substitution of fresh water with recycled water for agriculture usage.

Today, the Palestinian Authority run their own water supply, and access their own water sources so it is quite absurd to suggest Israel is purposely starving the PA of water resources. Israel provides a significant portion of the Palestinian Authority’s water supply which, as noted, more than exceeds their responsibilities under Oslo II. Yet this is somehow a validation of the existence of an “Apartheid system.”

The Palestinian Authority’s water supply has continued to grow, with nearly 100% of all homes now having access to the mains. An eminent hydrologist, Prof. Haim Gvirtzman, who worked in the co-ordinated effort to establish the PA’s water supply, authored a study that notes, in depth, the damage that the Palestinian Authority has caused to the supply. He notes that there are problems with the supply, even though Israeli citizens pay more for their water to subsidise the supply of water to the PA at discount prices. The Palestinian Authority has rejected the use of advanced water conservation techniques, and has failed to maintain water infrastructure to a reasonable standard. It continues to drill water wells without authorisation from the Israel-PA Joint Water Committee, which has compromised water quality.

Purcell blames Israel for the presence of sewage on farms, echoing the claims of anti-Israel activists that Jewish neighbourhoods purposely poison Arab-Palestinian water supplies with sewage. She neglects to mention that the PA controls such infrastructure in Areas A and B. The governing body is remiss in failing to build sewage treatment plants, with the co-operation of the Sewage Committee, allows sewage to flow untreated into waterways, and has refused to co-operate with Israel in sewage treatment projects. In recent years the sewage has compromised Israel’s more low-lying water supply, which has led to substantive public health concerns, and regional inoculation programmes.

A free pass for Arab-Palestinian elites

Purcell said she felt depressed at the level of the “hardship and oppression” Arab-Palestinians endured:

“But that would not do justice to the brave and kind Palestinian families we were honoured to meet on our trip.

They deserve nothing less than equal treatment in a fair democratic society.

Only the international community can deliver that for them, by supporting their call for the isolation and boycott of Israel, until it agrees to a settlement that is fair and just for all.”

Purcell’s absurdly one-sided notion of injustice is rendered ever more fanciful for blithely ignoring the wrongdoing of the Palestinian Authority. Purcell complains about a deficit of freedom, fairness and democracy, but says nothing of the PA’s increasingly autocratic rule, which impacts upon basic rights taken for granted in the West. The capacity for Arab-Palestinians to criticise the ever-corrupt PA, the capacity to strike as an employment right, and even the right to vote, with a decade since the last elections, are all curtained. Prime-minister Rami Hamdallah acknowledged in an interview that torture occurs in PA administered prisons.

A few months before Purcell visited the region, Israeli Christian, Druze and Bedouin leaders met in Nazareth to discuss the threat of Islamism to the Middle East’s ancient Christian community, and Israel’s protections of religious minorities. Purcell focused on Christian welfare but has ignored an increasing number who have spoken out in support of Israel, at considerable risk. Many feel they have no future in the Islamic Middle East. Some speak out at the Palestinian Authority’s treatment of religious minorities. Indeed the Constitution for the prospective Arab-Palestinian nation affirms that Shariah Law shall be the basis for its legislation (Article Seven), which may in time reduce the rights of Christians to that of Dhimma status.

Protest tourism at its ugliest

Anti-Israel advocates often begin personal accounts of the genesis of their activism, from a standpoint that seeks to obtain a level of understanding and sympathy with their audience. Such moves assist in quelling concern about the extremism of their stance. Purcell conforms to this standard when asserting:

“My interest is in the human rights area, as a member of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. What we are all sharing is a profound sense of shock at the effect of the Israeli military occupation on ordinary Palestinian’s lives.”

Such narratives are strengthened by claims that a given advocate once supported Israel. This theme is regularly invoked with Jewish activists, who supposedly had a revelation, leading to a disenchantment with Zionism. The “meme of the “disaffected Jew” can often be little more than a rhetorical device, with some activists pretending to be Jewish to adopt this posture. There is an equivalent narrative for non-Jewish advocates who claim to have once supported Israel. In a letter Purcell added the revelation that:

“As a teenager, I planned to go and work on a kibbutz, believing that Israel was building an equal and fair society. My recent experience in Palestine has horrified me, seeing what that society has become.”

However, Purcell’s assertions, that she experienced “shock” and horror, appear to be unconvincing. Purcell comes from a hard-left political background, which would have exposed her to decades of the most intemperate criticism of the Jewish State. She has a record for anti-Israel advocacy, for example, she chaired ‘Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign’ talks in 2014. Such activism suggests that Purcell had a far from impartial stance before visiting the region.

Purcell described the contingent of fellow Christian tourists from various parts of Europe and the US:

“We are a group of international visitors from 13 countries around the globe who have come on a fact finding trip with the Bethlehem YMCA…”

The contingent stayed with Christian Arab-Palestinian families in Bethlehem, and travelled to other parts of Judea and Samaria/West Bank, under the auspices of the YMCA. It suggests a pre-existent bias in her choices. In view of her activism, her choice may have been knowing, because the YMCA has declared itself to be an explicitly anti-Israel organisation.

The one-sided advocacy of the visit was all too evident in the words of Purcell’s host: “Thank you for coming here to talk to us. We won’t ever give up, while there are good people in the world supporting us.” Little wonder Purcell could only afford critical words for Israel, which apparently has no reason to protect its citizens from terrorism. Individual Arab-Palestinians are referenced but Purcell just offers a demonising collective caricature of the Jewish residents, who appear to have no business living there.

In recent years, there has been a boom in the trade of anti-Zionist tourism, to Judea and Samaria, which is sponsored by a whole host of anti-Israel NGOs. In 2013, Ardie Geldman, a nearby resident of Efrat, wrote an all too rare rebuttal of this tourist activism. The article is of particular relevance because it references several areas that Purcell also visited, going on to describe how privileged tourists from the West receptively absorb deceptive narratives – describing the information provided as ‘half-truths’ would be an understatement:

“When a stopover in Efrat follows a visit to Dheisheh or Aida, the questions the visitors ask convey the mistaken assumption that the state of Israel created these camps… and that Israel remains responsible for the camps’ continued existence and their current squalid conditions…

[UNWRA] has been resisting any contraction of its operations, never took any steps to fold up, and to date, service responsibilities were never transferred to the legitimate Palestinian Authority. UNRWA continues to act as a ‘non-territorial government’ competing with the elected Palestinian Authority for funds and responsibilities […]

the western edge of the Dheisheh refugee camp lies directly across the road from Ducha, a section of the Palestinian town of Beit Ja’alah. Ducha is noted for its large and ornate homes, not a few with expensive cars parked in their driveways. Years ago, some residents of Dheisheh began building homes in Ducha while retaining their homes in Dheisheh. The camp home, typically a small slum… is the only home belonging to refugees that foreign visitors are taken to see.”

The Road to Jenin, a documentary by Pierre Rehov addresses the falsified “Jenin Massacre” narrative, where it was claimed that the IDF killed 500 civilians in the Jenin Arab-Palestinian camp in 2002. However, it was subsequently discovered that 47 died, most of which were terrorists. The documentary includes remarks by Dalry Jones, an Australian Christian, who volunteered for various humanitarian endeavours, much as Purcell describes her compatriots on the YMCA visit. Jones visited during the Second Intifada. She was initially convinced by anti-Israel propaganda, including claims that Israeli forces were torturing innocent Arab-Palestinians with the utmost savagery. However, she witnessed the gruesome horror of an Arab-Palestinian child-bomber explode, leading to the realisation that the supposed images of torture were a result of suicide bombing.

Anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian?

The contrasting way in which Purcell addresses violence by a subset of the Jewish people of the region, and that of Arab-Palestinians, presents as a normative dichotomy within the anti-Israel movement:

“These settlers are aggressive and heavily armed. In Hebron, they throw rubbish down on the Palestinian street sellers who have managed to remain open.”

This singular thematic narrative leads many commentators to question the motives of the anti-Israel movement, for it seeks to downplay the substantive violence directed at Jewish people, whilst egregiously overstating the level of violence from Jewish sources.

Thus, we have “aggressive and heavily armed” Jews in Hebron, but no mention of the fact that Hebron has been cleansed of its Jewish populace, by genocidal methods, in successive eras. Unfortunately, Purcell did not mention the more recent violence that gripped Hebron during the Second Intifada, or ongoing violence in the concurrent quasi-Intifada. Purcell chose instead to relate an alleged assault on a British woman, by Jewish settlers.

Purcell describes Hebron as a “Palestinian town.” She describes Judea and Samaria/West Bank, and Old Jerusalem, as “Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem.” These normative anti-Israel assertions intentionally deny the elementally Jewish features of these regions. Would Old Jerusalem be remotely the city it is without its Jewish heritage? We can ask the same question of Hebron, which is the second most important city within the Jewish faith, due to its associations and shrines. The effort to wash away Jewish culture and history in these areas, and to promote the exclusion of Jewish people from these regions, must necessarily give raise to questions of anti-Semitic intent within the anti-Israel movement.

Purcell’s hostility toward Israel is exemplified by her failure to mention Arab-Palestinian wrongdoing whatsoever. She claims that Israel’s security barrier, and the restrictions on people entering from Judea and Samaria/West Bank, are not the kind of actions of “a state which genuinely wishes to live in peace with its neighbours.” The security barrier was built during the Second Intifada, a rather un-neighbourly episode, and a time when Israel had repeatedly tried to compromise with Yasser Arafat. Settlements were not the issue – Arafat walked out of the negotiations at Camp David in 2000, partly due to shared sovereignty of the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif, and again at Taba in 2001, despite improved terms.

Arafat’s intransigence was in keeping with the past. Almost every relevant Arab leader rejected every possible solution out of hand. A tiny Jewish state on 1/8th of the original mandate lands was rejected in 1947. They even rejected a tiny 5% state-let, proposed by the British in a 1938 proposal. They rejected the returning of almost all of the lands taken by Israel in 1967, when they issued the ‘Three Nos’ at the Arab League’s Khartoum conference of 1967. Egypt was expelled from the Arab League for making peace with Israel in 1978/79. More recently, Mahmoud Abbas rejected John Kerry’s 2014 framework proposal to bring an end to the conflict. At contention is the very existence of a predominantly Jewish Nation, as Abbas has noted.

Purcell was interviewed on RTE Radio One’s Marian Finucane show (44 minutes into the show) about her visit. When challenged that Israel suffered from terrorism, and hostile neighbours, Purcell asserted that Israel had come to an “accommodation with all of the Arab States.” Most Arab states have not recognised Israel, other than Jordan and Egypt, which maintain a rather icy peace. Other nations that attacked the Jewish State since 1948, remain overtly hostile, albeit to a varying extent.

Purcell presented Israel as facing no threat that would justify the security restrictions, and stated that Arab-Palestinians were “stymied in every aspect of their lives” through Judea and Samaria/West Bank.

Purcell reiterated the falsehoods of her written descriptions of the visit, almost verbatim, wrongfully stating, for example, that “those with settler number plates never get stopped.” She also justified the violence and terrorism of the 2015 quasi-Intifada, which in October alone resulted in some 620 attacks, of which all but four are of Arab-Palestinian origin.

“Marian I have to say, I read a bit before I went, I was absolutely shocked by what I saw. I mean, really whats there is a system of apartheid, and I’m not surprised that in the news headlines what we’re getting is an escalation in the violence in the region.”

The host responded by arguing that Jewish people didn’t “feel” safe, a point which Purcell rejected, stating:

“But this isn’t even in the Jewish State. This isn’t even in Israel. This is in the Palestinian part if you like, the West Bank. […]

There are no security threats because they are in the West Bank. They’ve no access to Israel.”

The above stance might be described as a “cake and eat it” line of argumentation. There are of course fewer terror threats (rather than none) originating from the Judea and Samaria/West Bank region, as a consequence of the very security barrier, and associated security restrictions, to which Purcell most trenchantly objects.

Purcell’s article similarly describes the presence of the IDF in a melodramatically malign fashion:

“From the moment they wake up, until they close their eyes at night, every man, woman and child in the West Bank of Palestine is under the control of the Israeli army and government.”

The claim is extraordinary, given that the Palestinian Authority rules 97% of the Arab-Palestinian populace, in Areas A and B. The PA has full security control over Area A, with Israeli oversight in B.

Objectively speaking, can it be said that Israel would have anything to fear from a full military withdrawal from the region? During the last two decades, Israel has withdrawn its troops from various regions, but reaction in each instance was an increase in terrorist attacks. Israel withdrew from the majority of Hebron in 1997, but was rewarded with substantive attacks during the Second Intifada, and latterly during the time of Purcell’s own visit. Israel withdrew from Lebanon (2000), which led to indiscriminate rocket attacks on Northern Israel’s civilian populace, temporarily displacing several hundred thousand people. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, and guaranteed access to Israel for Gaza’s people and goods. Yet the electorate would soon vote to empower a terrorist group, which in turn would intensify its campaign of belligerency.

During the interview, Purcell justified the recent spate of terrorism, by claiming that this violence was a reaction to the living conditions of the attackers. She inaccurately claimed that Israel had, by that time, killed 50 Arab-Palestinians in demonstrations, and that eight Israelis were killed subsequently. Her account is incorrect. Purcell’s misleading timeline infers that the violence was a reaction to killings by the Israeli authorities. During this period, around half of Arab-Palestinian deaths were attributed to the reaction of the Israeli security services during terrorist attacks. Other deaths were attributed to clashes during violent riotous incidents, which Purcell misleadingly describes as “demonstrations.”

Advocating a one-state solution

Purcell would write in a letter about her visit, that:

“Children in Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, (where we did a cookery lesson), have to go through the Separation Wall to get to school, enduring queuing and military searches like their parents.”

There are a significant number of schools in the Bethlehem area, as well as within the UNRWA camps. As of 2005-06, there are 135 schools in the Bethlehem area while the Aida refugee camp features two schools. The crossings always carry a degree of tension due to the prospect of terrorist attacks, so it is quite a peculiarity for parents to elect to send their children to schools not within their own locales.

In the article, Purcell draws attention to what she feels are additional double-standards. She blames Israel because local “Palestinian women are limited to the Bethlehem maternity hospital” while Jewish people “have quick and easy access to the modern hospitals of Jerusalem.” The Palestinian Authority receives a substantial amount of donor aid from internationals sources, while access to health care medicines and technologies is unrestricted. How is it Israel’s fault if PA health care is not up to the standards of Israel? Why is Israel not allowed restrict access to its sovereign territory to non-nationals? Perhaps the Palestinian Authority should spend less rewarding terrorists a overly generous salary and spend a little more on essential services, such as health care?

After Purcell lambasts Israel for such supposed double-standards, she states that the Arab-Palestinian people she met “deserve nothing less than equal treatment in a fair democratic society.” Although she does not explicitly call for a one-state solution, there can be no mistake that her article is an advocacy for that very concept, because it gives unusual focus to Israel’s supposed wrongs with respect to Arab-Palestinian access to Israel, whilst wholly ignoring the role of the PA in the provision of such services and employment. It would seem that the desired objective of “equal treatment in a fair democratic society” refers to all of the region’s Arab-Palestinians and Jews, due to her use of the grammatically singular, when speaking of diverse peoples and politically distinctive regions.

One-state solution advocates must necessarily ignore the widespread intensive sectarian incitement against Jewish people, including blood-libel, the genocidal intent expressed by terrorist groups, the celebration of terrorist atrocities against Jewish civilians in the public sphere, and the militant anti-Semitism endorsed by the highest religious authorities in the region. Hence, this form of proposal is sometimes termed the “Rwandan Solution.”

If one-state advocates are sincere in their quest for peace, then they ought to remonstrate with Mahmoud Abbas for insisting that Jewish people would be unwelcome in a prospective Arab-Palestinian state. A look at the Palestinian Authority’s attitude toward the prospect of Jewish people living in their midst, was recently illustrated by the behaviour of several Palestinian Authority officials, when they realised that Jewish settlers were invited to a Samaritan festival. The PA governor of Nablus, General Akram Rajoub, a VIP guest at the ceremony, rapidly withdrew, stating:

“we can’t accept the presence of settlers at the ceremony. Even worse, these settlers were given the privilege to speak at the ceremony, which is why we had to boycott the official event and leave the hall. We’re not prepared to talk to Jewish settlers because we don’t accept their presence among us.”

Towards boycott

Purcell advocates a boycott of Israel to bring an end to the purported “injustice.” It has often been remarked that those involved with the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” movement (BDS) obsessively focus on the supposed Israeli oppression of Arab-Palestinians, whilst ignoring the overt discrimination of Arab-Palestinians living in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, where laws explicitly discriminate against the grouping, to restrict the allowance of citizenship, and to pursue better conditions of employment. Similarly, Purcell only affords space for criticism of Israel, and labels it an “apartheid” state, despite the wrongdoing of these other nations being more redolent of the formal legal structures of apartheid South Africa.

Critics of the BDS campaign argue that the movement’s ultimate intent is to facilitate the destruction of the Jewish State. Such claims may be cast as pro-Israel propaganda, but criticism of the movement is also voiced from sources quite unsympathetic to the Jewish State. The vice-chair of ‘Americans for Peace Now’ has asserted that “BDS’s prime motivation, if their messaging is to be believed, is not to end the occupation at all; rather, it is to end Israel.” BDS’ core policy constitutes the demand for the so-called “Right of Return” for the descendants of one subset of the people displaced by the 1948/9 War of Independence, which follows the old PLO policy of destroying of the sole Jewish State in existence by way of demographic encroachment. The entire stance betrays the policy of two states for two peoples.

It is quite bizarre for activists to complain about the length of time it takes for Arab-Palestinian workers to enter Israel, whilst advocating for a boycott of the very economy that offers such workers better employment terms than they get at home. Forbes points out that boycotts cause far greater economic harm to the Arab-Palestinian populace of Judea and Samaria/West Bank than to the State of Israel. Israel purchases 81% of Arab-Palestinian exports, while two-thirds of imports into the Arab-Palestinian economy are from Israel. Boycott advocates complain about poor conditions in the largely PA-controlled areas for the local people, but then forcefully advocate for policies that will make their conditions dramatically worse.

Purcell advocates for a political movement that harms Arab-Palestinian interests and undermines the already dim prospects for peace, between the respective peoples. This would suggest her advocacy is not motivated by a desire to right such supposed wrongs, as indicated by the rigid insistence that Israel providing substantive amounts of water to the Palestinian Authority, as well as a belligerent Hamas, somehow amounts to “apartheid.”

The boycott movement effectively closed SodaStream’s factory in Judea and Samaria/West Bank, despite providing an economic model for greater co-operation, philosophically akin to the steel and coal treaties between France and Germany, which lent a hand in bringing a meaningful long-term peace to Western Europe. Indeed, some within the boycott movement express a blithe disregard when their campaigns cause difficulties for the very people that they purport to support. Mahmoud Nawajaa, a senior member of the movement in Judea and Samaria/West Bank, described the loss of employment at the Sodastream plant as “part of the price that should be paid in the process of ending occupation.”

A lack of concern for the welfare of the Arab-Palestinian populace is perhaps unsurprising, given BDS’ unsavoury background. Testimony at a US Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, by former US Treasury terror-analyst Jonathan Schanzer, revealed there are established links between the supposedly non-violent BDS movement and Hamas. Schanzer is the vice-president of research for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

The Irish Examiner

The Irish Examiner’s November 2nd, 2015 opinion piece by Betty Purcell, would not read as a balanced piece of journalism that tried to address the widely divergent perspectives on the conflict, as indicated by the title “A boycott of Israel can help end the injustice.”

The Examiner presented the piece as an opinion-based article. By definition, opinion-pieces (op-eds) are intended to express certain views on a given issue, so represent a form of advocacy that should contrast with news reportage. However, op-eds do not represent a carte blanche opportunity to freely express unsubstantiated claims by politicised activists. Not only did the Examiner fail with respect to basic due-diligence, it went further by actually endorsing Purcell’s claims in an introductory paragraph:

“On a recent visit to Palestine, Betty Purcell witnessed the terrible conditions locals are forced to endure, with so many aspects of their daily lives under Israeli control.”

The conditions of such a visit, which was arranged by an anti-Israel organisation, would surely lead to substantive concerns about balance. Purcell would also cite politically-partial sources like the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme (EAPPI), without advising of their pointed activism. The EAPPI, under the auspices of the World Council of Churches, has promoted a narrative that delegitimises Israel’s right to exist, ignores the oppression of Christians in the Middle East, and presents an apologia for Israel’s foes. The organisation proclaims to bear “witness” to this particular Middle-Eastern conflict, by accompanying Arab-Palestinians through their daily lives. As such, the very intent of the programme is to demonise the Israeli forces and Jewish people living in the region. The WCC’s related organisation, the PIEF, has promoted anti-Semitic replacement theology, as per the Kairos Palestinian Decument, which also legitimises Arab-Palestinian terrorism as “resistance.”

Op-eds should transparently declare any interests that authors may possess. Purcell’s prior anti-Israel advocacy was not noted, nor the politicised nature of the organisation that facilitated her visit to Judea and Samaria/West Bank or the NGOs she cited. Such groups campaign on openly anti-Israel platforms.

The account Purcell gave of her visit to the territory provided an insight into the trenchant political culture found at RTE, because it is so comprehensively one-sided, and unashamedly propagandistic in nature. Purcell found no time to criticise Arab-Islamic society, which is determined to deny all Jewish independence on their homeland, nor the religious-sectarian extremism that motivates indiscriminate violence, both at an individuated level and within ruling terror organisations, against Jewish civilians.


Robert Harris contributes articles to several websites on contentious political issues (not to be confused with the popular English novelist (1957-) of the same name). He also blogs at eirael.blogspot.com and lives in Ireland.

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