An open letter to Rep. Rashida Tlaib

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib cried at a recent press conference after Israel banned her and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar from entering Israel because of their support for the movement to boycott Israel. Tlaib wiped away tears as she described the “dehumanizing” experience her mother went through while having to go through checkpoints to enter Israel. She said that had her delegation been allowed into Israel they “would have seen firsthand why walls are destructive…and do psychological damage that lasts forever.”

The Congresswoman omitted important facts about the security barrier which misled the public and I felt it was necessary to reply with this video. I elaborate in an open letter to the Congresswoman:

Dear Congresswoman Tlaib,

In your press conference, you talked with great emotion as you described the struggles your mother experienced while having to go through Israeli checkpoints. You also talked about the psychological damage caused by walls and described this as damage which “lasts forever.”

However, you omitted the fact that before Israel constructed the security barrier, Israelis were dying in very high numbers. Can there be any damage more lasting than that?

Please allow me to explain.

Prior to the construction of the security barrier, an invisible boundary separated the West Bank from Israel proper. In 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinian leadership close to all of what they were asking for. Chairman of the Palestinian Authority Yassir Arafat rejected the Israeli offer and unleashed the Second Intifada against Israel. Between 2000 and 2004, Palestinian terrorists entered Israel proper from the West Bank and killed or injured more than 8,000 innocent Israelis including suicide bombings on busses and cafes, and shootings.

By the end of 2004, Palestinian terrorists had carried out 138 suicide attacks including:

  • June 1, 2001 — Palestinian terrorist Saeed Hotari, crossed into Israel from the West Bank city of Qalqilya, and blew himself up in the Dolphinarium night club in Tel Aviv, killing 21 Israeli teenagers and injured 140 more.
  • August 9, 2001 — Palestinian terrorist Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri crossed into Israel from the West Bank town of Aqabah and blew himself up in the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem, killing 15 Israelis and inuring 140 more.
  • March 27, 2002 — Palestinian terrorist Abdel-Basset Odeh crossed into Israel from the West Bank town of Tulkarm and blew himself in the Park Hotel (Netanya) dining room during the festive Passover seder, killing 30 Israelis and injuring 150 more.
  • October 4, 2003 — Palestinian terrorist Hanadi Jaradat crossed into Israel from the West Bank town of Jenin and blew himself up in the Maxim restaurant in Haifa, killing 21 people, including six children (one was a two-month old baby)and injuring 60.

In June 2002, after seeing its citizens slaughtered in this manner, the Israeli government decided to begin construction of a security fence to stop Palestinian terrorists from entering Israeli cities and murdering or injuring innocent civilians. The focus was on an area called “the Jerusalem envelope” from where 75% of the Palestinian terrorists crossed over into Israel proper.

The international community, including you, Congresswoman Tlaib, describe the security barrier as a “wall” trapping and suffocating the Palestinians. They will always show pictures of a huge, ugly, concrete wall. This, however, is a distortion and here are the facts: Of the 465 kilometers of the security barrier currently built, only 70 kilometers is a concrete wall. Just 70 out of 465 kilometers are an actual wall! The wall was constructed for the most challenging areas where most fo the Palestinian terrorists entered Israel – Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Qalqiliyah and Tulkarm.

The rest of the security barrier is a clear electronically wired fence that notifies the IDF when it detects someone trying to cross illegally. The barrier also includes ditches and barbed wire to impede crossings, and paved roads for border police patrol vehicles.

Israel has spent massive amounts of money from its very limited resources to construct this security barrier. Every kilometer of the fence costs approximately $2 million and Israel has spent even more than that – to date, more than $2 billion on its construction. Israel had no choice but to spend this money in order to save Israeli lives.

And Congresswoman, despite your implication to the contrary during your press conference, the security barrier has not cut the West Bank off from Israel. More than 80,000 Palestinians go through a security check and then enter Israel daily for work, education and medical care.

It is true that that the security barrier has been costly for the Palestinians and that is truly unfortunate. It has led to the closure of 5,000 small businesses in East Jerusalem due to loss of clients. It is also more difficult for Palestinians living outside the security barrier to enter Israel to work and visit family. In addition, the security considerations and the topography made it impossible for Israel to build the security barrier in a manner which would keep all Jerusalem residents inside the fence and an estimated 80,000 Palestinians who hold Jerusalem residency live outside the barrier.

Israel most certainly regrets these inconveniences. But since Israel built this barrier, the number of terror attacks carried out by Palestinian terrorists has decreased by 90%! In 2002, before there was a security barrier 457 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists. By 2009, in the wake of the construction of the fence, only 8 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists.

Quite remarkably, a Palestinian terrorist revealed the effectiveness of the security fence. Ramadan Salah, leader of Islamic Jihad, an organization which tries to send Palestinian terrorists to cross into Israel to blow themselves up in order to kill Israelis, told Hezobollah’s Al-Manar TV in 2006 that “in the West Bank, there’s the separation wall, which is an obstacle for the resistance [terror]. If it did not exist, the situation would be completely different.”

Congresswoman Tlaib, I have to assume that you are against the murder of innocent civilians. I also have to assume that you agree that every country has the right to defend itself from those who seek to murder its civilians.

The security barrier has accomplished just that for Israel . It has successfully prevented Palestinian terror attacks against its citizens. Here is my promise to you. If you convince the Palestinian leadership to accept the existence of a Jewish state, stop paying terrorists to kill Israelis, and to lay down their arms, Israel will happily take down the security barrier.

Do we have a deal?

Sincerely,

Dov Lipman

Member of the 19th Knesset

About the Author
Dov Lipman was elected to the 19th Knesset in January 2013. He is the author of seven books about Judaism and Israel, and holds rabbinic ordination from Ner Israel Rabbinical College and a masters in education from Johns Hopkins University. He has been at the forefront of combating religious extremism in Israel and is a leader in efforts to create Jewish unity both in Israel and around the world. Former MK Lipman is invited to speak on behalf of the Jewish state both in Israel and around the world and serves as a political commentator for i24 News and ILTV. He currently serves as Senior Manager - Community Outreach for Honest Reporting.
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