Column: Human Rights Watch Report Spews Up The Usual Omissions And Distortions

Palestinian society paints itself into a corner for more than seven decades, and then their friends liken Israel to an apartheid state.

I pored through the first several pages of the Human Rights Watch report accusing Israel of apartheid-like abuses so I could review examples of the nation’s supposed insidious behavior; I also skimmed several pages beyond it. I found nothing new and figured I would find more of the same if I continued to the end.

The portion of the report I saw is part interpretation, part distortion, part omission. The HRW talks as if the Palestinians own the land, and Israel possesses few rights here.

Granted, Israel takes steps that are misguided or questionable, but the Palestinians and their advocates have no standing to condemn Israeli leaders. Israel is a sovereign state which controls the territories it has tried to gift to the Palestinians, who in turn would not accept it.

Just look back to 1967 when the Arabs used the territories as a launching pad to invade Israel, and Israel responded by capturing Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Fast-forward to 2000 when then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat 93 percent of the West Bank and all of the other territories. Arafat turned down Barak and followed up his rejection with an on-and-off state of war and terrorist acts. Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, has failed to accept the same deal.

So what should Israel have done in the intervening two decades? Almost anything it wants. Israel is a sovereign nation and the Palestinian leadership has refused to accept this land, placing Israel in charge of it.

This is not to say, necessarily, that Israel’s actions are always wise or appropriate, but it has a right and often a need to take many of its actions.

I should stress my belief that Israel’s settlement-building process in the West Bank was a serious mistake. The program has meant making civilians and soldiers vulnerable to terrorists, and many have already died. Those Israelis who want Israel to annex the West Bank and exert full control will pay a huge price in blood to accomplish it.

Conversely, Palestinians who seek all the land “between the river and the sea” can only achieve that goal through violence.

For these reasons, I have for long opposed creation of the settlements and certainly any plans of the Palestinians to seize control of the state of Israel. The two sides can only satisfy each other’s credible needs through compromise.

All the same, Israel has the right to build settlements because the Palestinians effectively ceded control to Israel once Arafat rejected Barak’s offer.

From the outset, three of HRW’s complaints are grounded in security demands. Israel’s checkpoints throughout the West Bank were set up to detect terroristic activities. Israeli officials have pointed out that some Palestinians carry weapons and related devices from one town to the next in plotting attacks.

Travel from Gaza to Israel is limited considering that terrorists have passed through the borders to kill Israelis. A woman admitted that she plotted to blow up a hospital – where she was previously treated – after border guards found a bomb strapped to her body.

Other terrorists have entered settlements and murdered Israelis inside their homes. The HRW report includes a gripe that Palestinians cannot enter settlements. Is it so hard for them to understand why?

HRW is upset that Israel and Egypt restrict Gaza’s trade by cutting off avenues outside its borders. Israel does allow supplies to flow into Gaza after these are inspected to prevent weapons-smuggling.

At the same time, an activist claimed that Israel delays transport of fruits, causing the food to spoil.

One would think that rulers of an entity that must depend on its neighbors for business access would be friendly. Instead, Hamas, which controls Gaza, persists in calling for Israel’s destruction. Why should Israel help them?

HRW also whines that Israel welcomes Jews to live there, but bars descendants of refugees from moving in. The fact that Israel was created as a refuge for Jews passes over their heads. Most refugees were reported to flee Israel on their own volition, yet their Arab brethren has done little to resettle them. Why should Israel permit the descendants move there?

The report raises fair questions about Israeli military attacks on Gaza residents, and even there the Palestinians created situations that may have prodded overreaction. HRW states that Israeli military “offenses have included apparently deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure and killed well over 2,000 civilians.”

“Apparently deliberate?” Who knows? However, these assaults are rooted in military confrontations started by Palestinian terrorists. In addition, these terrorists infiltrate civilian areas where they do their fighting, which threatens the lives of civilians.

The report specifies a conflict at the Israel/Gaza border, stating, “Israeli forces have regularly fired on Palestinian demonstrators and others who have approached fences separating Gaza and Israel in circumstances when they did not pose an imminent threat to life, killing 214 demonstrators in 2018 and 2019 alone and maiming thousands.”

The demonstrators did more than “approach” the fences, they tried to bust through them. No threat to life? Israeli citizens live on the other side of those fences, and the military could only presume Palestinians who got through would kill them.

Ideally, questionable acts of both Israel and Palestinians should be investigated, but it is plainly inherent that neither side trusts the other to conduct a fair investigation.

The report charges that Israel denies housing permits to Palestinians in east Jerusalem and the West Bank to reduce the Arab population. Such action may be wrong, but that might not be happening had the Palestinians accepted Barak’s offer of an independent state two decades ago, which is what the Palestinians have always clamored for. That opened up a void which Israeli leaders have filled.

While I have doubts that a two-state solution will work, any deal will probably include east Jerusalem as part of a Palestinian state while prohibiting a right of return for descendants of refugees. Both provisions will charge opposition from many Israelis and Palestinians.

What we can find really cute is the reason given by the Palestinians for acquiring east Jerusalem: They want to install their capital there. What’s wrong with Ramallah or Nablus? I wish Philadelphia would secede from Pennsylvania and join New Jersey. I often pass through Trenton, anyway, which is 20 miles from my residence, and rarely take the 100-mile schlep to Harrisburg.

The Palestinians must be pressed to justify their need for east Jerusalem. So far, their arguments have not been convincing.

About Bruce Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker, who writes from Philadelphia, also blogs for The San Diego Jewish World and Smirking Chimp and previously for the suspended Philadelphia Jewish Voice. He was previously a reporter and copy editor for daily newspapers in eastern Pennsylvania.

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