NYT Interactive Feature Used as Teaching Tool Distorts Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

A New York Times website interactive feature is currently being used as a teaching tool about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in some U.S. public schools.

The documentary, “Challenges in Defining an Israeli-Palestinian Border,” is comprised of 5 short films (each under 10 minutes) about the conflict. Its underlying premise is that the key to peace between neighboring Palestinian and Jewish states is to establish a permanent border between the two sides along the 1949 Armistice lines and that the failure to do so forms the crux of the conflict.

But this notion disregards the history of the Arab-Israeli struggle: It fails to consider the issue that has motivated and fueled the dispute from the 1917 Balfour Declaration calling for “a national home for the Jewish people” until today – namely, the steadfast refusal by Arab and Palestinian leaders to accept a permanent Jewish state in the region, within any borders at all.

It is not just the most extreme leaders who reject a Jewish state. All Palestinian leaders – including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is considered a moderate – consistently and clearly articulate their rejection of a Jewish state of any size in the region. Indeed, Abbas is now planning a lawsuit against Great Britain over the Balfour Declaration on the grounds that it led to what the Palestinians call their Naqba, or “catastrophe” in Arabic, referring to the establishment of the State of Israel and subsequent war. 

By ignoring this metaphorical “elephant in the room,” the feature misdirects the audience away from the essence of the conflict.

Nor does the series address any of the other fundamental facts and essential context – the “why’s” – of the situation. It presents a skewed view of the conflict that focuses solely on Palestinian stated “goals” and Israeli actions that impede them. Strikingly absent from the entire series –arguably its fatal flaw – is any discussion or examination of Palestinian/Arab actions that prevent peace.

Below is a detailed critique of the series.


Part I: The Key Issues Explained (2:47)

The starting point is that “Palestinians want to create a new state using the 1949 armistice lines that ended the first Arab-Israeli war.” The explanation is that during the Six-Day War, “Israel took over the West Bank from Jordan and have controlled it ever since.” And the overview focuses on what Israel has done since then to allegedly make the Palestinians’ goal difficult to achieve. For example:

1) “Negotiators would have to deal with a proposed 460-mile border that Israel has been building since 2002…”

2) “Underscoring the problems that negotiators would face, Israel currently holds full authority and security control over 60% of the West Bank and will want to maintain a military presence in the Jordan valley.”

3) “In addition, Israelis have established settlements throughout the West Bank, some with more than 40,000 people, which Israel will insist on including on its side of the border.”

4) “Negotiators will also have a difficult task in sorting out how to divide or share Jerusalem. While the Green Line runs through the center of the city, Israelis have been building homes on the Arab side since 1967.”

Beyond ignoring the overarching question of the Palestinian/Arab role, the series does not address the fundamental questions and answers that are directly pertinent to the subject.

The Unasked and Unanswered Questions

1) What is the background and significance of the 1949 Armistice line, or “green” line?

Both terms refer to the armistice demarcation line established on April 3, 1949 by Article III of the Israel-Jordan Armistice Agreement.

A year and a half earlier, the United Nations General Assembly had adopted Resolution 181 to partition the territory controlled by the British-run Palestine Mandate into two separate states – one Jewish and one Arab. The Jewish Agency, representing the Jewish residents of the Palestine Mandate, accepted this arrangement, while the Arab Higher Committee, representing the Palestinians, rejected it, voting against the resolution and threatening war. The Arabs and Palestinians violated and thus nullified the resolution by carrying through on their threat to declare war on the newly declared State of Israel. The Jews, although outnumbered, fought a war for the survival of the Jewish state and won that war. The armistice lines – or ceasefire lines – were intended only as temporary boundaries until such time as the parties would negotiate final borders to be recognized internationally. The agreement specified:

The Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in articles V and VI of this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.

2) What prevented a peace agreement based on these lines before 1967?

The war of aggression launched by the Arab states to eradicate the newly-established Jewish state violated the UN Charter and Resolution 181. Had they not initiated this war of aggression, there would have been a recognized Palestinian state decades ago. Even after launching the war, the Arab leadership rejected UN General Assembly Resolution 194 calling for the establishment of a Conciliation Commission

and the establishment of contact between the parties themselves and the Commission at the earliest possible date … to seek agreement by negotiations [and thereby reach] a final settlement of all questions between them. (paragraphs 4 and 5)

Voting against the resolution, refusing to recognize Israel or meet with its leaders to negotiate a peaceful settlement, the Arab leaders insisted on complete repatriation within the territory of Israel of all Arab refugees (those who fled and those who were urged by their leaders to leave their homes during the fighting) without accepting Israel’s right to exist.

Throughout the years, and through multiple attacks and wars on Israeli sovereignty, Palestinians have refused to recognize the right of a Jewish state to exist in the Middle East and have continued to demand a return of Arab refugees and all their descendants (millions of people ) into the territory on Israel’s side of the armistice lines. As Arab-Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh writes:

The Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership continues to give false hope to Palestinians regarding the “right of return” to their former villages and towns in Israel, as do the leaderships of most Arab countries.

This is what the Arab and Palestinian leaders have been doing since the establishment of Israel in 1948 — and why millions of Palestinians continue to live in refugee camps throughout the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. Instead of helping the refugees and encouraging them to move on with their lives, Arab and Palestinian leaders continue to ask them to stay where they are because, they will are told, they will return to the homes of their grandfathers and great grandfathers inside Israel…They are even more afraid of admitting to the refugees that Arab and Palestinian leaders have been lying to them since 1948 by asking them to stay in their camps because one day they will return to non-existent villages and homes.

3) How and why did Israel “take over” the West Bank from Jordan in 1967?

In 1967, Israel fought another self-defensive war against neighboring Arab states– the third major Arab-Israeli conflict – that was essentially a continuation of the previous wars.

Threatening once again to destroy Israel, Egypt expelled UN troops from the Sinai peninsula and blockaded Israel’s Port of Eilat, a casus belli (act of war) under international law. Jordan and Egypt signed a mutual defense pact with Egypt jointly commanding the Jordanian army. Iraq joined a military alliance with Syria, Egypt and Jordan. Leaders of these states, as well as local Palestinian leaders threatened, in no uncertain terms, to “wipe Israel off the map,” “blot out [Israel’s] presence on our holy lands,” “destroy Israel and its inhabitants,” “explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland,” and ” wipe out the ignominy [referring to the State of Israel] which has been with us since 1948.”

Israel sent a message of peace through the UN promising Jordan that it “would suffer no consequences” (i.e. Israel would not attack Jordan), if it did not intervene in the fighting. As Jordan’s leader, King Hussein, later regretted (as recorded in his memoir, Hussein of Jordan: My “War” with Israel), he did not heed this message and his army launched an air offensive against Israeli troops. Still, Israel did not initially respond until Jordanian troops intensified their offensive, crossing the armistice lines to take over UN headquarters in the no-man’s land between the two countries. This direct threat to Israeli residents finally provoked a counter-attack by Israel. 

After three days of heavy battles, especially in and around Jerusalem, Israeli forces defeated the Jordanians and gained control of all of Jerusalem as well as the West Bank, the historical heartland of the Jewish people known to Israelis as Judea and Samaria, which Jordan had previously occupied for 19 years. (See The Six-Day War

4) What does the narrator mean by the “Arab side of the line”of Jerusalem?

Narrator/filmmaker Stephen Farrell refers to the part of Jerusalem that Jordan occupied for period between 1948 and 1967. Before that, Jerusalem had been a single, unified city, with Jews and Arabs living in both the eastern and western parts, and with Jews constituting the largest group of the city’s residents. The 1949 Armistice Line divided Jerusalem’s residents along ceasefire lines into two armed camps separated by barbed wire, concrete walls, minefields and bunkers. In 1950, Jordan annexed eastern Jerusalem, in a move considered illegal by the international community (except Pakistan, which supported Jordan). Jordan’s occupation of the eastern part of the city lasted a scant 19 years, paling in comparison to the thousands of years of unification before the Jordanian occupation and the 49 years subsequently.

5) What are the concerns about placing the holy sites under Arab/Palestinian/Muslim sovereignty?

Historically, under Jordanian occupation, fifty-eight synagogues—some hundreds of years old—were destroyed, their contents looted and desecrated. Some Jewish religious sites were turned into chicken coops or animal stalls. The Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, where Jews had been burying their dead for over 2500 years, was ransacked; graves were desecrated; thousands of tombstones were smashed and used as building material, paving stones or for latrines in Arab Legion army camps. The Intercontinental Hotel was built on top of the cemetery and graves were demolished.

In direct contravention of Article VIII of the 1949 armistice agreements, Jordan did not permit Jews access to their holy sites or to the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives. Israeli Arabs, too, were denied access to the Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Christians, although allowed access to their holy sites, also faced restrictions under Jordanian law. Limits were placed on the numbers of Christian pilgrims permitted into the Old City and Bethlehem during Christmas and Easter.

This changed when Israel gained control over the holy sites. A law passed in the Israeli Knesset, the Protection of Holy Places Law, grants special legal status to the Holy Sites and makes it a criminal offence to desecrate or violate them, or to impede freedom of access to them.

However, since 1967 there has been an increasing attempt by Arabs/Muslims to deny the historical record and usurp Jewish holy sites. The most recent attempt was to draft a joint Palestinian-Jordanian draft resolution to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, calling for a return of the Temple Mount to its alleged “historic” status quo before 1967 — i.e. during Jordan’s 19-year occupation of eastern Jerusalem.

Parties such as the Jordanian Waqf (the Islamic religious trust that manages the Muslim mosques on the Temple Mount), Turkish Islamists, Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority and Fatah party, Hamas, Sheikh Raed Salah’s Northern Islamic Movement, and Hizb ut-Tahri (the Islamic Liberation Party) all vie with each other for supremacy over the site, while at the same time denying non-Muslim connections and freedom of worship in the area. Hizb ut-Tahrir, the dominant force on the Temple Mount, was founded as an anti-Hashemite party opposing Jordan’s authority over Al-Aqsa. Its goals are to establish a global Islamic caliphate to be proclaimed from the Temple Mount. Those preaching from the Al-Aqsa Mosque agitate for war not only against Jews, but against all non-Muslims and the West.

6) Has the Palestinian/Arab leadership changed its classic position rejecting the existence of a neighboring Jewish state?

It has not. Hamas leaders and the Hamas Charter still pledge to kill the Jews, destroy Israel and replace it with a Muslim caliphate. While Fatah leaders, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are considered more moderate, they too have repeatedly vowed never to accept Israel as a neighboring Jewish state.


Part II: The Battle of the Barrier (6:26)

The title, focus and starting point is the battle over Israel’s construction of its “highly controversial” West Bank barrier, but it implicitly accepts the Palestinian claim that the barrier constitutes a land grab by portraying the issue primarily as a battle over settlement expansion.

1) What prompted the building of such a barrier?

Rather than fully and clearly addressing this fundamental question, narrator/filmmaker Stephen Farrel presents an Israeli “claim” followed by a Palestinian counterclaim:

Claim:  “Israel claims it is a security measure which has largely succeeded in reducing suicide attacks from the West Bank…”

Counterclaim: “But Palestinians argue that the barrier is a lock down intended to stop them ever having a viable state of their own….”

The film omits or downplays the facts and statistics that support Israel’s claim and instead tries to bolster the Palestinian counterclaim.

What information is missing or downplayed?

1) An Israeli military spokesman is shown saying that “the main purpose of the security fence is to stop the free flow of terrorism from Palestinian cities to Israeli cities.” He mentions that “just a few years ago, we had horrible terror attacks, horrific terror attacks. Men, women and children were killed as a result of them.” But there is no hint of the fact that these were not simply attacks by random terrorists but part of a coordinated intifada, a relentless campaign of suicide bombings and other deadly attacks by such Palestinian terror organizations as Hamas; Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ); the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP); as well as the Tanzim and Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade military offshoots of the governing Fatah party, which included many of whom also served in the Palestinian security forces.

2) Nor is there any mention of the fact that construction of the barrier was only begun after nearly two years of this terror campaign.

3) There is no mention of the Israeli claim that the barrier is not meant to establish any borders and was planned as a temporary and reversible measure against Palestinian terrorism.

4) The film similarly ignores Israel’s position that were the Palestinian Authority to clamp down on terrorism and dismantle its infrastructure, as was called for in previous peace plans (the Oslo Accords and Road Map), the barrier would become unnecessary and would be dismantled.

5) The fact that the security barrier has resulted in a sharp reduction of murders of Israeli citizens is more than just a “claim” by Israel. It is supported by statistics. Between the start of the Palestinian terror campaign in September 2000 and the completion of the first phase of construction of the barrier in July 2003, 293 Israeli civilians were murdered and nearly 2000 wounded in 73 suicide attacks by terrorists from the northern part of the West Bank. In the year following that attack, only three attacks originating from the same area succeeded, resulting in the deaths of 26 Israeli civilians. In the years since, the number of attacks against Israelis by terrorists originating in the area beyond the barrier has steadily decreased. This is in large part attributed to the construction of the barrier. 

Bolstering the counterclaims of the Palestinians

Narrator Stephen Farrel emphasizes Palestinian claims:

That historic line [Green Line] is now all but invisible on the ground but has enduring political and psychological significance for those who see it as the only basis for a long-term solution. Any such solution would become harder if the Green Line disappears underneath concrete and razor wire, say Palestinians and their supporters.  

Unchallenged quote by Palestinian activist Mohammad Khatib:

…[the security barrier] is just a piece of metal. It is not worth anything. It is not secure. It’s not anything. And still the Israelis are willing to shoot and to kill someone just to show that they are the boss, that they are the occupation…

Quote by pro-Palestinian Israeli activist underscoring Palestinian claim

Part of Israel’s charge in building the wall is to unilaterally erase the Green Line and secure as much control over Palestinians and Palestinian land, ensuring that as many settlers and settlements are on the western side of the wall under Israeli control.

While filmmaker Stephen Farrell attributes to the “Israeli military” the claim that the barrier was constructed along security, rather than political lines, and questions a soldier who responds that the Green Line was not a significant factor in determining the route of the barrier, he avoids quoting Israeli officials to directly refute the activist’s claim, for example, those who point out that the barrier is meant as a temporary measure and would be dismantled if and when bilateral negotiations determine a final border or if and when the Palestinian leadership dismantles the terrorist infrastructure.

Presenting the barrier debate as a battle over settlement expansion

Much of the discussion centres on Modiin Ilit, called “the largest settlement in the West Bank” that “gets bigger by day and is unlikely ever to be evacuated, even if Palestinians achieve their goal of a state beyond the Green Line.”


Part III: The Settlement Issue (7:32)

The issue of settlements is not presented as an issue to be examined from all aspects of a land dispute, but as a problem to blame on Israel. The film, therefore, does not address the legal arguments on both sides.

Its theme is much more simplistic, blaming settlement building alone for perpetuating the Arab-Israeli conflict. And to prop up this theme, the filmmakers use a cunning but dishonest ploy whereby they cherry-pick a short film excerpt removed from its context.

Narrator/filmmaker Stephen Farrell declares that “President Obama has singled out continued settlement expansion as a key factor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” to intimate that it is not only the filmmakers, but the President himself who is singling out Israel for disapprobation. This is directly followed by the truncated remarks of the president, saying:

Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks. The world looks at a conflict that has grinded on and on and on, and sees nothing but stalemate.

What part of that speech was omitted?

Avoiding anything that might inculpate the Palestinian leadership, the film does not mention that in his remarks, President Obama had apportioned blame to both sides for the stalemate. What is not shown is the president’s rebuke of the Palestinians for their “efforts to delegitimize Israel,” for pursuing “symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September,” and for “denying the right of Israel to exist.” 

In fact, the film rationalizes Palestinian actions, blaming them on Israeli settlements. The narrator cites the Palestinian leadership’s own justification for the decision to bypass negotiations and use the UN to isolate Israel without any challenge (including by President Obama):

Palestinian leaders cite continued settlement building for their loss of faith in negotiations with Israel and their decision to try the United Nations for an alternative pathway to statehood.

What other information is omitted?

1) There is nothing about the Palestinian refusal to negotiate for most of the time that Israel froze construction of settlements in the West Bank.

From the time President Obama started urging the Israelis and Palestinians to engage in direct peace negotiations to decide upon final borders, Palestinians demanded that Israel must freeze all construction in the West Bank before they would consider joining negotiations. Israel insisted on negotiating without any preconditions and with everything on the table. Nonetheless, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to a 10-month moratorium on building in the West Bank, starting in November 2009.

For almost the entire period of the moratorium, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refused to come to the table, dismissing Netanyahu’s construction freeze as inadequate because it did not include neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem. When, under intense pressure from the U.S. and Europe, he did finally agree to negotiate, there were just a few weeks left to the moratorium. And when they were up, Abbas abandoned the talks again and refused to negotiate unless the freeze were extended.

2) There is no mention of the Palestinian leadership’s consistent refusal to accept an end to the conflict based on neighboring Palestinian and Jewish nation states.

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his willingness to extend the moratorium if President Abbas accepted the legitimacy of a Jewish state alongside the Palestinian one. Abbas refused, saying he would would never accept Israel as a Jewish state.

As  Israeli-Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh has explained:

 Israel as a Jewish state remains anathema to the Palestinian community. This is a top-down attitude, communicated on a constant basis by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.

 The Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is based on the argument that such a move would mean giving up the “right of return” for millions of “refugees” into Israel. This refusal is also based on the continued denial of any historic Jewish connection to the land…

 ..The Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is one of the main obstacles to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Settlement construction complaints are nothing more than a Palestinian Authority smokescreen.


Part IV: Sharing Jerusalem (8:10)

While the film conveys that the city is significant to both Jews and Arabs, an erroneous presumption underlying the film is that Jerusalem was traditionally divided into Arab (eastern) and Jewish (western) sectors until Israel captured it from Jordan and annexed it. The narrator implies this in his description of the light rail running through the city:

From Damascus Gate, the new train passes along and then through the Green Line, the all-but-invisible political fort line that separates western Jerusalem from the eastern half of the city which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war and has occupied ever since.

Another erroneous presumption is that Jewish settlers have stolen Palestinian homes, as implied by the narrator’s incomplete description of an eastern Jerusalem neighborhood (the Shimon HaTzakik neighborhood):

This is one of the neighborhoods where Palestinians have lost their homes to Jewish settlers.

What background is missing?

1) There is no hint that for most of its existence, Jerusalem was a single, unified city with both Jewish and Arab residents living interspersed. The area was only exclusively Arab for the 19 year-period between 1948 and 1967 when Jordan occupied eastern Jerusalem.

2) Nor is there any reference to Jews having constituted the largest ethnic group in Jerusalem since 1820.

According to Yehoshua Ben-Arieh, “In the second half of the nineteenth century and at the end of that century, Jews comprised the majority of the population of the Old City …” (Jerusalem in the Nineteenth Century). Martin Gilbert reports that 6,000 Jews resided in Jerusalem in 1838, compared to 5,000 Muslims and 3,000 Christians (Jerusalem: Rebirth of a City). Encyclopaedia Britannica of 1853 “assessed the Jewish population of Jerusalem in 1844 at 7,120, making them the biggest single religious group in the city.” (Terence Prittie, Whose Jerusalem?). And others estimated the number of Jewish residents of Jerusalem at the time as even higher.

3) Nothing is mentioned about the fact that until 1860, Jerusalem’s residents lived almost exclusively in eastern Jerusalem, and that subsequent to that, Jews and Arabs lived in both eastern and western Jerusalem.

4) There is no reference to the fact that Palestinian religious and political leaders increasingly deny Judaism’s historical and religious ties to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

5) Although the narrator states that “the settlers, with equal conviction assert the Jewish people’s heritage here from antiquity,” this is not simply a claim by “the settlers.”

Historians too have described Israel’s long history in eastern Jerusalem, from 1004 BCE, when King David established Jerusalem as the capital of his kingdom. The history of the “Shimon HaTzadik” neighborhood shown and discussed in the film has been well documented. Former Ha’aretz columnist and Jerusalem historian Nadav Shragai, describes its history in an article for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs:

The mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah-Shimon HaTzadik has for decades been a vital corridor to Mt. Scopus, home for 80 years of Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital. For hundreds of years the Jewish presence in the area centered around the tomb of Shimon HaTzadik (Simon the Righteous), one of the last members of the Great Assembly (HaKnesset HaGedolah), the governing body of the Jewish people during the Second Jewish Commonwealth, after the Babylonian Exile..

For years Jews have made pilgrimages to his grave to light candles and pray, as documented in many reports by pilgrims and travelers. While the property was owned by Arabs for many years, in 1876 the cave and the nearby field were purchased by Jews, involving a plot of 18 dunams (about 4.5 acres) that included 80 ancient olive trees.10 The property was purchased for 15,000 francs and was transferred to the owner through the Majlis al-Idara, the seat of the Turkish Pasha and the chief justice. According to the contract, the buyers (the committee of the Sephardic community and the Ashkenazi Assembly of Israel) divided the area between them equally, including the cave on the edge of the plot.

Dozens of Jewish families built homes on the property. On the eve of the Arab Revolt in 1936 there were hundreds of Jews living there. When the disturbances began they fled, but returned a few months later and lived there until 1948. When the Jordanians captured the area, the Jews were evacuated and for nineteen years were barred from visiting either their former homes or the cave of Shimon HaTzadik.

6) The narrator implies with an incomplete description of the neighborhood that settlers stole Palestinian homes, but there is more to the story that is omitted.

In the mid-1950’s, Jordan and UNRWA settled 28 Arab families on property that was subsequently disputed. The Arab families argue that Jordan promised them full ownership, but the houses were never formally registered in their names. After Israel gained control of eastern Jerusalem, the Sephardic community began a legal process to re-assert their claim to the land and re-register it with the Israeli Land Administration, based on 19th-century Ottoman-era documents. The Arab families living there were considered “protected tenants” as long as they continued to pay rent. However, many of the families rejected the court’s ruling and stopped paying rent, losing their “protected” status. They were given eviction notices and the cases were argued in court for years before finally finally being forced to move. In the absence of this information, the implication is that Israeli settlers arbitrarily stole their homes.


Part V: Lines in the Sand (6:58)

Nowhere is the coverup of Palestinian negative actions more apparent than in this last film, the conclusion of the series. The omission of relevant information seems directed toward portraying the Palestinians as blameless victims of Israel by concealing anything that might suggest the contrary.

Filmmaker Stephen Farrell states:

The issues of borders centers on Gaza and the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the 1967 war.

While noting that Israel pulled out all its settlers and soldiers from the Palestinian strip in 2005, Farrell immediately adds a “but”:

But Israel controls all the access from the north and east and from the sea to the west.

This is followed with a long quote from a Gazan fisherman who blames Israel completely for the Gazan people’s “situation” (poverty).

What information is missing?

1) There is no mention of the fact that the governing Hamas is considered a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. and the E.U. and other western countries.

2) There is no hint that the terrorist group violently seized control of Gaza from Fatah following Israel’s withdrawal.

3) There is nothing about Gaza’s Hamas government calling for the destruction of Israel, both in the movement’s charter and repeatedly by its leaders.

4) There is nothing about Hamas’ smuggling of weapons by sea or of the threat Israel faces from Palestinian maritime terrorism

3) There is no mention of the statistics showing how the evacuated Gaza strip was turned into a launching pad for rocket attacks into Israeli territory within the Green Line after the latter’s 2005 withdrawal. See, for example the distribution of rocket attacks from Gaza before and after the withdrawal.

4) With the series so dated (2012), there is nothing about Egypt’s increasing shutdown of its border with the Hamas-governed territory since the 2013 ouster of Egyptian President Morsi, a Hamas ally. There is nothing about Egypt’s destruction of Hamas tunnels. Nor is there anything about the reasons for the shutdown of the border and destruction of tunnels – i.e. the Egyptian government’s accusations that Hamas is exporting its jihadist terrorism into Egypt’s borders.

5) There is no mention of Hamas’ use of Gazan children in building its smuggling and terror tunnels, or reference to the deaths of so many Palestinian child and adult laborers used by Hamas in this dangerous enterprise.

6) Indeed, there is nothing at all about Hamas’ construction of a terror tunnel network. Nothing about its use of one such tunnel in 2005 to infiltrate into the Israeli side of the armistice lines, ambush and kill Israeli soldiers, and kidnap Corporal Gilad Shalit—who was held captive for five years. Nothing about the discovery of tunnels leading into Israeli towns and kibbutzim intended for large-scale terror attacks that were thwarted. And nothing about Israel’s Defense Forces destroying 32 such tunnels during the last Hamas-Israel war.

Whitewashing Hamas tunnels

The issue of Hamas’ tunnels is whitewashed with a single reference to tunnels used for “smuggling between Gaza and Egypt.” And the only suggestion of the danger posed to Israel by Hamas comes indirectly, as an Israeli allegation to justify their reluctance to agree to further withdrawals. Farrell says:

Israelis living near Gaza protest that this insecure southern route [between the Gaza Strip and Egypt] allows Palestinian militants to smuggle in rockets that are fired at Israeli border towns. And they use this as cautionary tale against Israel doing a similar pullout from the West Bank.

The struggle over borders is reduced to one over the Palestinian request for a viable state with water resources, rich farmland, and free access to the rest of the Arab world vs. Israel’s demand for secure and defensible borders. But by ignoring the Palestinian threat to Israel – through Hamas’ development of terror infrastructure, networks and threats to annihilate the State of Israel or through the Palestinian Authority’s encouragement, glorification and promotion of violence and terrorism against Israelis – the film deprives its audience of the information needed to understand Israel’s demands as valid and justified.

While the filmmaker concludes that borders are irrelevant to “diehards on both sides” who “want all the land,” he never once acknowledges a far more basic truth – that borders are equally irrelevant to those who do not acknowledge the legitimacy of the other side’s right to self-determination in any borders.

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