Monday, July 5, 2010

Nicholas D. Kristof On The West Bank And Gaza

Columnist Nicholas D. Kristof visited the West Bank and Gaza and composed two insightful columns. In "The Two Sides of a Barbed-Wire Fence," he noted, in the company of Israeli human rights activists, the inequities between Israeli settlements and Palestinian villages:

On one side of a barbed-wire fence here in the southern Hebron hills is the Bedouin village of Umm al-Kheir, where Palestinians live in ramshackle tents and huts. They aren’t allowed to connect to the electrical grid, and Israel won’t permit them to build homes, barns for their animals or even toilets. When the villagers build permanent structures, the Israeli authorities come and demolish them, according to villagers and Israeli human rights organizations.

On the other side of the barbed wire is the Jewish settlement of Karmel, a lovely green oasis that looks like an American suburb. It has lush gardens, kids riding bikes and air-conditioned homes. It also has a gleaming, electrified poultry barn that it runs as a business.

Elad Orian, an Israeli human rights activist, nodded toward the poultry barn and noted: “Those chickens get more electricity and water than all the Palestinians around here.”

In "Burrowing Through a Blockade," Kristof focuses on the counterproductive nature of Israel's blockade of Gaza, which has strengthened Hamas and weakened Palestinian moderates:

...Some 4,000 businesses have closed in Gaza, according to Omar Shaban, an economist here. He warns that the business community, which preached moderation and peace and had close ties to Israel, has been nearly destroyed. Its place in society has been taken over, he said, by tunnel operators — who benefit from instability and may be tempted to lob missiles at Israel if peace threatens to break out.

...“When people lose their jobs, they hate Israel all the more,” [factory owner Mohammed] Telbani said. “They don’t blame Hamas. They blame Israel.”

Sari Bashi, the executive director of Gisha, an Israeli human rights organization that monitors Gaza, says that the siege has probably strengthened Hamas. Partly that’s because Hamas taxes goods smuggled in tunnels and partly because it has become a more important source of jobs and welfare with the collapse of private businesses.

It’s crucial, Ms. Bashi said, that the relaxation of the siege empower businesses by allowing them to bring in raw materials and then export finished goods. Otherwise, she warned, the blockade will simply continue “killing the moderates.”


Charles said...

Brilliant in its simplicity. Our blind endorsement of this policy is in the top two or three problems with our country.

But I should be careful how loud I say that lest I be labeled an anti-Semite.

Good read. Thanks.


Jeff Tone said...

You're welcome. I believe that there are many Israelis, including two quoted in this article, and American Jews, including this blogger, with a more even-handed view of this conflict who would not use that label.

Charles said...

Kudos. This is one area in which I Am hopeful about obama's presidency. much more so than I would have been about a Clinton presidency or a McCain administration. I think Obama brings a viewpoint to the table that, while not objective, is certainly MORE objective than what we have seen.

Although I can't for the life of me predict what the actual fix will be over there... At times it seems so completely hopeless.


Jeff Tone said...

I believe that Clinton did the best he could. I blame Arafat for rejecting the proposal of Barak without making a counter offer. That was after Barak went further than any Israeli leader previously. Now I believe that Israel should appreciate Abbas as a viable negotiating partner. I would like to see Netanyahu make the settlement freeze permanent, not temporary.

Regarding your feeling of hopelessness: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is frustrating because the parameters of a two-state solution, the only viable solution, are so obvious. One major problem is the potent mixture of religion with politics. I often believe that it is the religious fanatics of both sides who mainly keep the conflict going. How can you compromise if you believe that God is telling you not to?