Oct. 8, 2014, was a beautiful, sunny day in Michigan, one of those rare days where even the weather seems to be telling you that nothing can go wrong. After my last class I walked from the MLB to the UGLi to finish up some work. However, upon walking through the Diag I was faced by a mock checkpoint supposed to be representing the walls between the Israeli and Gaza borders.
I peacefully approached the makeshift desk and simply asked someone to explain what was being demonstrated. I soon found myself surrounded by pro-Palestinian students, each quickly throwing out arguments one after another to explain why the wall is unfair and a disgrace to human rights. They concluded by claiming that Israel is an “apartheid state,” which was my cue to step in.
The walls stationed in the Diag created the illusion that there is a humongous, thick, impenetrable wall between Israel and Gaza. But, this barrier is actually mostly fence. In fact, less than 5 percent of the barrier is actually concrete wall — the rest being a fence. The less than 5 percent that is concrete was instituted in order to protect civilians from sniper fire, leaving the rest of the barrier to be composed of chain link or barbed wire.
Simply claiming that this security fence is unjust is a blatant disregard of the correlation between the end of suicide bombings and this barrier. As I iterated to the pro-Palestinian students that day, I am not making a blanket statement that all Gazans are dangers to the Israeli society. However, observing the connection between the decrease in suicide bombings and the creation of the barrier is critical. Since the barrier was constructed, suicide bombings in Israel have become incredibly infrequent.
Still, this demonstration in the Diag alludes to the idea that only Israel is so harsh as to implement a barrier on its border. Yet, many borders have barriers, including the very country we live in. The border fence between the United States and Mexico is not nearly as closely scrutinized by the international community, as maintaining a checkpoint where people cross from one country to another is considered a standard practice. The Ceuta border fence between Spain and Morocco exists in order to stop illegal immigration and smuggling. In fact, this fence is composed of barbed wire and watchmen as well. So too, the security fences between Israel and Gaza have helped limit terrorism, drug smuggling and other crimes within Israel. The implementation of the security barrier has directly impacted the decrease in suicide bombings, smuggling and terrorism, which cannot be ignored.
The aspect of my conversation with these students that sticks out the most in my mind is the lie that Israel is an apartheid state. All Israeli citizens are granted equal rights under Israeli law. Actually, there are numerous Palestinians residing in Israel who work there and are properly paid. Israel causes no harm to these Palestinians, and to the contrary, helps them sustain proper lives in Israel. Palestinians are denied many rights in places like Lebanon, and women are denied basic human rights in countries like Saudi Arabia. In fact, 24 percent of Israeli citizens are considered to be Arab, and many of these Arabs serve in the country’s legislature. Arabs are cared for by Israeli hospitals and learn in Arab-Israeli schools because Arabic is considered an official Israeli language. Israeli citizens include whites, Blacks, Arabs, Jews, Muslims, Christians, atheists and more. Each of these people maintain the right to vote and is equally permitted in all public places. To the contrary, since 1997 the Palestinian Authority has declared that selling any amount of Gazan property to an Israeli is considered treason — punishable by death. But, these facts are blatantly ignored in the pro-Palestinian checkpoint demonstration, making Israel seem an unlawful and shameful country.
Additionally, Operations Solomon, Moses and Joshua airlifted approximately 35,000 Ethiopian Jews who were impoverished in other lands to start anew in Israel. The state of Israel maintains a law granting Muslim power Waqf control over Arab holy sites — along with the Jewish Temple Mount, the holiest site for the Jews. Israel is a progressive and liberal democracy, one that allows free press, complete religious freedoms, full rights for women and minorities, recognizes gay marriage and holds free elections.
While I fully support the right of the pro-Palestinian students on this campus to present their side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I felt that these students blurred the lines between Palestine awareness and anti-Israel sentiments. I recognize that this debate is heated and incredibly complex, yet I find it an injustice to a country that I love to enable these falsehoods to be spread effortlessly on my campus.
Lindsay Hurwitz is an LSA sophomore and a CAMERA Fellow.