On Separation Between Israel, West Bank Palestinians, NPR Deceives

“A separation of the two communities is now complete in almost every way,” reports National Public Radio yesterday about Israelis and Palestinians, completely distorting the porous reality in which Palestinians work, pray and tour in Israel.
Yesterday’s broadcast by Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson on “Morning Edition,” entitled “Is there any empathy left in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?” was premised on the notion that due to the “complete” separation, the two groups have less opportunity to interact and develop empathy, as host Steve Inskeep described it.
While it is true that dating back to even the first Intifada, Israel has placed many restrictions on Palestinian entry into Israel which did not previously exist due to Palestinian violence — Nelson distorts and obscures the particulars concerning the current situation, including the fact that some one million Palestinians reportedly entered Israel one month alone in 2013.
Number of Palestinian Workers in Israel Highest Since 2000
For instance, she intones:
Separation came in the workplace as well. As Israel shut the door on Palestinians, it brought in other foreign workers to do the agricultural and construction work Palestinians once did. Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics shows the 116,000 work permits issued to Palestinians in 1992 dropped to one-tenth that number in 2005.
By referring only to data now nearly a decade out of date, Nelson conceals from readers that number of Palestinians who have permits to work in Israel is now the highest it has been since 2000. As reported last September by Haaretz, a source hardly known to skew in Israel’s favor (“Number of work permits issued to Palestinians highest since second intifada“):

At its weekly meeting last Sunday, the cabinet approved the recommendation to grant 5,000 additional work permits to Palestinians from the West Bank, raising the number of those who have permanent work permits to 48,000. Another 3,000 Palestinians have permission to work temporarily in Israel to help with the olive harvest and 27,000 more Palestinians work in industrial zones in the West Bank and in settlements. According to various estimates, at least another 30,000 residents of the West Bank work in Israel illegally. Thus, about 100,000 Palestinians rely on jobs in Israel for their livelihood.

The number of work permits has soared from 33,000 to 48,000 in less than two years and is now at its highest level since 2000. Israel has also lowered the age of eligibility for receiving a permit to 24-years-old, providing that the applicant has a family of his own. About 5,000 Palestinians have permits to stay in Israel for work-related reasons. Israel’s willingness to take these measures reflects the calm security situation in the territories and the reduced number of attempted terror attacks originating in the West Bank.

Palestinian sources confirm that the number of Palestinian laborers in Israel continues to grow, and is something like ten times greater than the figure that Nelson would have listeners believe. Thus, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics “Labour Force Survey Results First Quarter (January – March 2014)” reports:

The number of employed persons from the West Bank employed in Israel and Israeli settlements increased from 104,700 in the 4th quarter 2013 to 110,300 in the 1st quarter 2014. Of these, 55,500 had a permit, 38,600 worked without a permit and 16,200 employed persons have an Israeli identity card or foreign passport.

Increased the number of employees in Israeli settlements from 18,900 in the 4th quarter 2013 to 23,200 in 1st  quarter 2014.

The related article on NPR’s site attempts to bring the figures more up to date, but grossly understates them. Thus, Nelson’s online article errs:
Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics shows the 116,000 work permits issued to Palestinians in 1992 dropped to 11,500 in 2005.
It did rise somewhat in 2012 — the most recent number available — to 30,000.
No Jerusalem Access for Bethlehem Youngsters?
The broadcast likewise misleads about the question of access for West Bankers to visit Jerusalem. Nelson reports:
So what accounts for the mutual vilification? [Menachem] Klein traces it back to Israel’s policy of separation, which started 23 years ago during the first Palestinian uprising or intifada when Israel started setting up roadblocks and controlled Palestinian movements with a permit system. The segregation intensified during the second intifada a decade ago, leaving Israel, Gaza and the West Bank physically isolated from each other by heavily guarded fences and walls. Big red signs were erected on borders to Palestinian territory warning Israelis that it’s illegal for them to go there, Klein says.
Klein: So for the safety of the Israeli Jews, the regulation came in force. The problem is that it cuts off many connections, personal relations between Israelis and Palestinians.
Nelson: Hind Khoury agrees. She’s a former Palestinian Authority minister of Jerusalem affairs and says most younger Palestinians have never interacted with Israeli Jews other than soldiers, nor have they trave
led to any cities or towns Israel controls the borders to, many of which are only a short drive way, Khoury.
Hind Khoury: I know for a fact that in Bethlehem we have a whole generation of young people who don’t know East Jerusalem, which is seven kilometers away, I mean, who don’t know the holy sites and they study about it in their geography books. And welcome to that kind of absurdity.
From this report, uninformed listeners would reasonably understand that Bethlehem’s youth are denied access to Jerusalem and its holy sites due to Israeli regulations. But they are not. During Ramadan last year and in 2012, for instance, Palestinian children under the age of 12 were permitted to enter Jerusalem even without a permit. Some 85,000 West Bank Palestinians visited Jerusalem on one Friday during the holiday. last year. In 2012, 156,810 Palestinian worshippers visited eastern Jerusalem on July 27. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that last year:
This year, women and girls of all ages, men above 40 and boys below 12 will be allowed to cross into East Jerusalem through one of four Barrier checkpoints around the city on Fridays without permit. Men and women above 60 and children under 12 are allowed to enter every day throughout the Ramadan period, except on Saturdays. Other West Bank ID holders not included in these categories can apply for special permits for the purpose of attending the Friday prayers or for family visits.

Estimates provided by the Israeli authorities indicated that on 12 July (the first Friday of
Ramadan), around 85,000 Palestinian worshippers holding West Bank IDs entered East Jerusalem through the checkpoints around the city. This is more than three times the numbers who crossed on the first Friday of Ramadan in 2012. Despite the crowded conditions, access through the checkpoints generally proceeded without incident.
So if “a whole generation of young people” in Bethlehem haven’t visited Jerusalem it’s not necessarily because of “Israel’s policy of separation.” Those who choose to go, can.
Travel Permits for Youngsters
Moreover, Nelson ignores the fact that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, including school groups and camps, have in recent years received permits to tour Israel. As Haaretz reported in July 2011 (“More than 60,000 Palestinians expected to visit Israel as tourists in 2011“):

More than 60,000 Palestinians are expected to visit Israel as tourists by the end of 2011, at least twice as many as last year, a defense official said.

Israel is planning to double the number of permits issued to Palestinians this year, due to the improved security in the West Bank, the source said. However, if the situation deteriorates in September following the Palestinians’ UN bid for statehood, it will be harder to issue permits, he said.

The permits are not usually issued to individuals or families, but mainly to schools and summer camps wishing to take children to visit beaches and mixed Jewish-Arab cities in Israel.

In 2010 28,000 Palestinians were given permits to visit Israel. The permits are granted specifically for touring, as opposed to other permits given for employment, medical treatment or prisoner visitation.

During the first six months of 2011 the IDF’s Civil Administration issued 31,000 permits, more than in the whole of last year, and expects to issue at least 20,000 more for the summer holiday.

“We want Palestinians, especially young ones, to see another kind of Israeli, not only soldiers and settlers. Anything that can help them blow off steam and relax. Perhaps instead of demonstrating in September they’ll go to the beach,” the source said.

Most of the Palestinians visit Arab and mixed towns such as Haifa, Jaffa and Acre, among other things, because of their beaches.

According to Al Jazeera, Israel issued 200,000 travel permits for Palestinians to tour the Jewish state during Ramadan, in the summer of 2013. The network reported (“Anger Mounts Over Israel’s ‘Ramadan Permits‘”):

Palestinians have expressed anger at the timing of a decision by Israel to issue more than 200,000 entry permits during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which they say is geared towards boosting the Israeli economy.

Store-owners in the West Bank say they will be badly hit as up to one million Palestinians cross the Green Line into Israel during Ramadan and Eid el-Fitr, and believe the decision will cause significant damage to Palestinian businesses losing customers.
A Palestinian girl from Ramallah plays on the Tel Aviv beach during the first day of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, Aug. 8, 2013 (Photo by Camilla Schick/EPA)
According to COGAT, the Israeli authority charged with handling humanitarian affairs with Palestinians, some one million Palestinians entered Israel during Ramadan last August. COGAT reported:

During the month of Ramadan, approximately one million Palestinians entered Israel. On Fridays during Ramadan and on the Laylat al-Qadr and Eid al-Fitr festivals over 600,000 worshipers entered Israel. In addition to this, over 180,000 Palestinians were allowed to e
nter Israel in order to visit first and second degree relatives. Despite the fact that most of those entering Israel did not require a permit, approximately 183,500 permits were given to visit relatives and approximately 29,660 to participate in prayers.

While interpersonal contact between Israelis and Palestinians is down compared to decades ago, the assertion that there is a “complete” separation between the two communities is blatantly false.

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