|Geography of Israel (source: PikiWiki)
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.
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.
“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.
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."
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.”
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’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 Document, 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.
Published at the New English Review.