In a move that will seriously threaten Israel’s national security in the long run, Israel’s current government agreed, as part of the ceasefire agreement with Hamas after Operation Pillar of Defense, to eliminate the “no man’s land” zone along Israel’s southern border fence with Gaza. Israel will soon again have to deal with the same types of weekly riots on its southern border with which it already deals on the Jordan River’s West Bank.
Israel’s security fence along the Gaza border previously had declared a buffer zone about 300 to 1,500 yards wide beyond the fence on the Gaza side — anyone approaching the fence within that zone was considered hostile.
The elimination of this cordon sanitaire, which protects the security fence, and therefore the country, will not only leave Israel more vulnerable to attacks by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists, but also invite “publicity stunts” by adversarial non-governmental organizations under the direction of Hamas leaders, such as, for example, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). The ISM organizes riots and demonstrations, staging them for television cameras to make Israel look as if it is attacking Arabs, when in reality, Israel is responding to Arab attacks — a detail the media usually leave out.
In a game that has gone on for years, the media almost invariably report Israel’s response to rock-throwers as examples of Israelis brutalizing the innocent Arab population. Every week, videos are edited to make it seem as if IDF soldiers are needlessly attacking Arabs, especially children, just peacefully demonstrating. The videos are then distributed over YouTube and the internet. Recently a video was edited that showed a Danish ISM demonstrator being struck by a decorated IDF Lt. Colonel named Eisner — whose finger had been broken earlier by the ISM activist. The ISM “victim” had entered Israel under a false identity. The game requires Israel to expend unnecessary resources to deploy soldiers to disperse the rioters, and it also provides constant propaganda material for the PLO and Hamas with which to de-legitimize Israel both at home and abroad.
Israel has always insisted on a buffer zone on the Hamas-controlled side of the fence to enable IDF soldiers and Border Police to have advance warning of any attempted infiltration into Israel by the Arabs of Gaza. The area was always considered a “no man’s land” where anyone venturing into this buffer zone could be fired upon. The ISM has tried a few times to organize Arabs to approach the southern security fence from the Gaza buffer zone, but they were immediately fired on. One ISM activist claimed to have been shot in the hip; after that incident, the ISM found it more difficult to persuade internationals to sign up — until the new ceasefire agreement, that is.
Presumably, the removal of this buffer zone was included in the ceasefire agreement to show “good faith” during ceasefire negotiations with Hamas. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has not yet stated why this was done.
Now the ISM will be able to descend on this “no man’s land ” by encouraging Arab marchers to storm right up to the fence to demand an end to the “siege” or “occupation,” neither of which in reality exists. It members then begin to riot and throw stones at Israeli soldiers and border guards, or attempt to damage the fence. The British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, refers to the ISM as the “The ‘peace’ group that believes in violence.”
The ISM’s co-founder, Huwaida Arraf, has openly admitted in writing that her organization often works with Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Arraf, an American-born Arab whose father emigrated from Israel to the US, therefore holds dual US-Israeli citizenship. She also leads “training and recruitment sessions” at “Palsolidarity” conferences that the ISM organizes at colleges across the U.S. to recruit “volunteers” to go to the Middle East to try to obstruct the IDF’s actions to counter terrorism.
Since 2002, ISM activists in the West Bank have sent provocateurs every Friday into the mosques in the West Bank to incite Arabs to riot against Israeli Border Police, and, more recently, to attack the West Bank security fence, which was set up to keep suicide bombers and other terrorists from entering the heart of the Jewish state.
The ISM writes press releases (usually cleared by Arraf personally) claiming these are peaceful demonstrations; but as soon as these “internationals,” who work under the direction of plainclothes Palestinian “handlers,” reach the West Bank security fence, they begin inciting Arabs, particularly children, to throw rocks at Israeli soldiers.
Lest anyone think that rock throwing is not lethal — the ISM in its press releases refers to rock throwing as “nonviolent” — slingshots are used which make rocks just as deadly as bullets.
When Arabs, armed with with rocks and wire cutters, arrive at the security fence in the West Bank, the IDF uses tear gas, “skunk” spray and stun grenades, or in worst case scenarios non-lethal rubber bullets, to try to disperse the rioters. ISM activists, however, try to help arrested Arab rioters to escape from the police by pulling the arrested men away.
Nearly every week, the West Bank villages of B’ilin and Nabi Saleh are the scenes of such violence, assisted by the ISM. The group has helped to organize similar riots in East Jerusalem in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, to prevent Jews from moving into their own houses, recently regained after twenty years in court, after Arab squatters had illegally settled in them. The ISM also dispatched a young American, Jeff Pickert, traveling on a false passport under the name of Max Suchan, to arrange similar riots in the village of Saffa. Pickert was deported by Israel after having been revealed to Israel’s internal security service. Pickert, 22 years-old, now tours U.S. colleges for the ISM, railing against the existence of Israel in propaganda events passed off as “educational dialogue.”
The ISM, behind protests against a phony Israeli “siege” on Gaza, has sent caravans of European and American anarchists posing for the media as “peace activists”: the Viva Palestina Tour, for example, and groups such asCode Pink, both of which bring goods and money to aid Hamas. Such aid, classified by U.S. State Department as “material support,” to Hamas, is therefore illegal.
The Gaza Flotillas, of which the ISM has helped organize seven – were another manoeuver. The aim was to reopen sea lanes blocked by Israel to prevent Hamas and Iran using them to smuggle missiles into Gaza. George Galloway, the British MP from Bradford West and the Viva Palestina leader, openly boasted that these flotillas were not really meant to bring humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, but rather to bring aid to Hamas directly.
EVEN WHEN the buffer zone was intact, Hamas infiltrators managed to dig a tunnel 750 yards underground under the southern fence to surprise or kidnap any Israeli soldiers they could find. That operation was organized by Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari, whose assassination by the IDF, after weeks of constant shelling from Gaza into southern Israel, sparked Operation Pillar of Defense.
Now that Hamas will have direct access to the fence along the entire Southern border, the length of a tunnel under the fence can be significantly reduced. Gazans can approach the fence without obstruction any time they wish, and try to to cut through or dismantle it. The government in Jerusalem is more concerned with weapons-smuggling tunnels and missiles coming in from Iran, and rightly so. What it fails to see, however, is that by ending the buffer zone at the southern border fence with Gaza, Israel is leaving the barn door open just a bit wider, whittling away at Israel’s southern border more and more.
Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.Lee Kaplan