March 15, 2012

Defending Israeli Security Measures

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There has been much debate and discussion recently about the Cornell-Technion partnership and Israel’s continued oppression of the Palestinian people. As I mentioned in a different letter (The West’s Lack of Understanding on April 18, 2011), I am a proud Israeli and soldier. If you take away one point from this column, understand that I believe that Israel’s occupation must end in order to end this conflict. The current situation cannot continue forever. As humans, we are hard-wired to seek freedom — and the sooner freedom comes to the Palestinian people the better.But the way is long and full of distractions.The proponents of the “Israeli Apartheid Week” are merely trying to draw focus to the plight of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip because of Israeli “security measures.” In the recent Letter to the Editor, “Debating the Technion,” Feb. 23, Students for Justice in Palestine claimed that Israel is committing war crimes. Mr. H. William Fogle, Jr. ’70, in his letter “The Loss of Activism in Academia” March 6, calls Israel an “egregious human rights offender” and thinks that Cornell should seek a “European university from a nation without such reprehensible baggage.” I hope to shed some light on both claims.SJP fails to recognize that Hamas and other terrorist groups in Israel are competent and active — they try to attack every day. Surveillance cameras on the borders can attest to it. Security measures prevent murderers and suicide bombers from successfully attacking — hourly.The notorious separation wall — that Technion got involved in — was not always there. The numerous checkpoints between Palestinian territories were not always in place. The strict frisks — the ones that can delay a Palestinian for several hours each day — were not always enacted.Understand that the wall was first constructed in 2003 after Israel had paid for an open border with the lives of innocent women and children. The wall has caused an extreme reduction in terror attacks — down 80 percent between 2003 and 2006, according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.This past August, taking advantage of the lack of a barrier on the Egyptian-Israeli border, 12 terrorists coordinated an attack near the southern Israeli city of Eilat. Eight people were murdered, and some 30 injured.The checkpoints were not always so intrusive. Terrorists have used ambulances to cover weapons and suicide bombers. In the 2002 Jaffo Road bombing, the suicide bomber worked for the Red Crescent and is thought to have used her credentials and ambulance to clear checkpoints. She injured 156 people — “only” because her charge didn’t go off properly. One-hundred percent of suicide bombers in Israel have been Palestinians, some aided by Israeli-Palestinians.Then Israel built the wall. Then the checkpoints were implemented. Then the intrusive checks were designed.   As opposed to SJP, Mr. Fogle doesn’t seem to focus solely on Israel (SJP’s commitment and target is completely legitimate and understandable) — but he fails to write anything about China or Russia or even Syria. So far, 7,500 people have been killed in Syria, according to The Economist. That is five times the casualties from the 2008 Israeli operation Cast Lead. I suppose Mr. Fogle only has time to write about Israeli transgressions, but I hope he does what he preaches and excludes doing business with companies affiliated with China and Russia — and not only Israel. Raising opposition against Israeli policy is far from being Anti-Semitic; treating Israeli policy and actions differently than others because it is Israel is.  SJP and Mr. Fogle, what is your solution? Should Israel take down the wall completely or move it back? Should Israel get rid of all of the checkpoints or just reduce them? These are questions Israelis debate every day — we know this occupation needs to end. We want this occupation to end. But we will not do so at the cost of our citizens’ lives.Calling out problems is easy. Hanging signs is effortless. Writing opinions — from the warmth of your dorm or office — is a piece of cake. What value do you bring to this discussion if all you do is raise your voice? Start doing something; offer a solution. You challenge Technion because you do not support “Zionist America.” So solve the underlying issue — providing insight into the variables you have taken into account — and then you’ll be qualified to challenge Cornell’s and Israel’s decisions.My email is surely listed accompanying this article. Feel free — if you wish to have an actual discussion — to email me. I would be happy to converse — it is the only way this conflict will end.

Omer Ben-Zur is a senior in the School of Hotel Administration. He may be reached at ob46@cornell.edu. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.

Original Author: Omer Ben-Zur