Ignorance and Confusion in Aspen

Paul Anderson

Writing in the Aspen Times, columnist Paul Andersen demonstrates a distinct lack of understanding of Israel and the Palestinians. Describing a cycling trip in the West Bank he comes to some confused conclusions:

Seeing herdsmen with sheep and goats was not a novelty, but seeing women in full burqas shepherding the flocks told us we were in a different world. After 100 kilometers, we passed another checkpoint and felt a noted sense of relief leaving Palestine behind.

This bothered me because it gave credence to the comment I read later by John Kerry stating that Israel is on the verge of becoming an apartheid state as defined by racial segregation and discrimination against Palestinians.

Kerry hit a raw nerve with his unguarded gaff, but what he said deserves serious consideration. Clearly there is inequality for Palestinians in Israel. It isn’t as pernicious as apartheid in South Africa, where the expression was coined, until you look at the Palestinian refugee camps fenced, gated and lorded over by Israeli troops and curfews.

While Andersen notes the glaring economic differences between Israel and the Palestinian areas, he then claims that “there is inequality for Palestinians in Israel.” Is Andersen referring to Arab citizens of Israel or to Palestinians living under the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank? He doesn’t seem able to tell the difference.

As for a description of Palestinian refugee camps that conjures images of Nazi concentration camps, Andersen is evidently relying on his own imagination rather than facts. For the refugee camps (which are more accurately akin to towns rather than “camps”) are not “fenced” or “gated” and are not guarded by Israeli troops. Nor are they subject to curfews. Where refugee camps are located in Palestinian cities such as Jenin or Nablus, Israel withdrew its forces from these areas many years ago under the Oslo Accords.

Andersen has also misinterpreted John Kerry’s remarks. Kerry did not state that Israel is “on the verge of becoming an apartheid state.” While Kerry himself admitted that he should not have employed such incendiary and inappropriate language, he warned that “a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens — or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.”

Andersen also writes:

Meanwhile, more settlements are planned in occupied territories in an imperialistic manipulation that has been a historic part of Israel long before it became a state in 1948. Taking Palestinian land is a long-standing, controversial tradition.

References to imperialism and “taking Palestinian land” falsely implies that in Andersen’s mind that Jews are colonialists without any legitimate rights in the region as well as trumpeting a mistaken belief that a sovereign Palestinian state existed before 1948, which, of course, it did not.

Andersen continues:

Israel is a powerhouse of military strength, but that cannot offer lasting protection in a dualistic, militant state, especially if the youth of Israeli lose their stomach for repression and war.

A “militant state”? Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East and is certainly not “militant.” And the implication that Israeli youth are somehow in favor of “repression and war” is simply insulting to a population that has consistently expressed its desire for peace.

Andersen concludes:

It would be prudent to resolve the Palestinian issue before apartheid solidifies global sympathy and fuels Arab unity against Israel. Perhaps China and Russia need to step in as the next big players on this tumultuous stage.

While a hatred of Israel is perhaps the only thing uniting much of the Arab world, Andersen’s suggestion that China and Russia, neither of which are exactly examples of international virtue, need to lead peacemaking efforts, is quite simply out of the ball park. Much like Andersen’s column.

You can send your considered comments to the Aspen Times letters page through its online form.


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