Why I won’t join Machsom Watch

A prevalent attitude that drives and strings together much anti-Israeli fervor and misplaced support for extremism is, at its core, a direct result of a sense of patronization displayed toward the Palestinians. This is coupled with the blatant racism of “low expectations,” where little is truly demanded and behavioral responsibilities are minuscule.

Operating through a binary lens where the angelic, virtuous, unimpeachable and eternally impeccant Palestinians need urgent Western attention of their plight, a strictly utopian image of the Palestinians is formed and is heavily occupied by (these) self-professed “human rights” activists. This is a patronization wherein the educated “Western” mindset allows for a self-nominated role as protector, savior and godfather of the hopeless, eternally victimized Palestinians.

This issue is indeed highlighted by some individuals zealously acting/being more Palestinian than the Palestinians; in an attempt to ostensibly promote their cause, they hijack legitimate issues and concerns. This effects negative change on those issues — for both sides — by driving away the very people who would be able to induce change.

This was brilliantly highlighted on a recent trip to Israel with StandwithUs-UK, in which I participated to get a real grasp of the dynamics that fuel this convoluted conflict. As part of the trip, I partook in an early morning tour of the Bethlehem checkpoint to gain a firsthand understanding of the process in place to facilitate the estimated 130,000 Palestinians who pass through Israeli checkpoints each day to gain entry into Israel.

The group offering the tour was Machsom Watch.

Now, it is thoroughly indisputable that the level of terrorism emanating from the West Bank dropped significantly as a result of the security fence and checkpoint system: from the Second Intifada, beginning in 2000, until the completion of the first segment of the fence in 2003, there were 73 suicide bombings that killed 293 Israelis and injured over 1,900; but since then, the number of terror deaths from the West Bank has been estimated at around 45. Nonetheless, the issue and conversation around the checkpoints and methods employed is a legitimate one and should be facilitated so that all that can possibly be done should be realized, to ease the passage through.

I looked forward to a thoroughly nuanced conversation on the challenges this unfortunate reality generates and the steps that can be taken to ease conditions. What greeted me, though, was a regurgitated polemic laced with inaccuracies, half-truths and pure fantasy. Terms like “apartheid,” “cages” and “enclaves” were rather liberally tossed around, and little attempt was made to hide the insidious agenda they represented. A legitimate justification of restrictions with a comparison to chemotherapy treatment equipment with a deadly dual usage was met with a shameless scoff devoid of even the basic exercise in intelligence. A laughable and rather infantile position was constantly and dogmatically expressed, advocating that a removal of all checkpoints and accordingly the fence would consequence a halting of terrorism.

I endeavored to understand the radical diversion of position taken on security checks in a classic airport environment where they are seen as a justifiable vexation. When I did indeed express that very thought, I was coldly and brazenly “informed” in a supremely patronizing fashion that I was a non-thinker.

A day prior, I was taken for a three-hour tour of the security fence by the chief architect of the fence, Col. (res) Dr. Danny Tirza, and we discussed at length the reasoning, deliberations and considerations that went into each stage of the path the fence took. I later narrowed in on the distinct difference between the 95% comprised of fence material and the remaining 5% built with concrete slabs, noting that furthermore, this seemed to take place uniquely in residential areas.

He outlined three reasons for this particular judgment.

First, that the sophistication of the fence requires a larger tract of land to facilitate the multi-layered security implementation that includes a sand path with footprint detection, and most crucially, a buffer zone to assist with containment if a breach is indeed detected. These few extra minutes gained are absolutely pivotal to the success of warding off a potential brutal terrorist attack. Now, in order to avoid encroaching on built-up land, the decision was taken to use concrete slabs in residential areas to minimize the required usage of valuable real estate space.

Second was the concern that a touch-sensitive fence in a residential area would undoubtedly be triggered maliciously to provoke a response and reaction, thus dragging the IDF into constant conflict with residents with probable explosive outcomes.

Third was the fair concern that the fence would be a constant target for vandals and resultantly would rack up exorbitant fees in constant repairs.

I conveyed these strong points of view to a Machsom Watch activist, only to — predictably I should add — meet with an uptight response that she had not thought of it that way, expressed with an unmistakable air of indifference. Her stance displayed complete disregard toward any attempt to employ basic elementary levels of logic.

Prior to the conversation, she mentioned offhandedly that it was simply a matter of concrete being cheaper than fence, completely oblivious to the fact that following this logic would demand that more than a paltry 5% be constructed from concrete slabs. But alas, logic, reasonableness and intellectual honesty take a back seat while being driven into the abyss fueled by ego, dogma, egregious lies with a healthy dose of historic revisionism and good old feigned childish innocence and naiveté.

It’s high time for crucial human rights issues to be reclaimed from parties nourished by propagation of distortion and disinformation and recast in an arena where responsible individuals engage in genuine action to further the noble cause of human rights.

About the Author
Shlomie Liberow is a Fellow at StandwithUs UK and a student at Goldsmiths, University of London