With the current action taken by the Yale Students for Justice in Palestine, our own Cross Campus has become a focal point for an argument about an abstract principle. The principle in question is whether or not a nation has the right to defend itself from terrorist attacks that continually disrupt the lives of its civilians. The portrayal of the fence as a territorial land-grab motivated by a desire to create “facts on the ground” seems ambiguous. After all, if this fence were built solely for the purpose of territorial acquisition, why has the Israeli government waited for so long? It seems more plausible to suggest that thousands of innocent Israeli casualties over the last three years have brought the Israeli people to the realization that preventive measures are necessary to combat terrorism.
As of now, Israeli intelligence forces are bombarded by over 100 credible tips every week regarding imminent suicide attacks. Furthermore, the standard terrorist profile has become increasingly obsolete, as Palestinian women and children as young as 14 have taken the lives of innocent people in reprehensible suicide attacks. With the continued incitement of the Palestinian people propagated by the Palestinian media and government, and the unwillingness or inability of the Palestinian Authority to provide a stable, sustainable leadership, it has become evident that the prospect of reaching a political solution in the near future is slim to none. When given with the option of ending the Israeli occupation and securing a Palestinian state in 1999, Arafat chose a path of terror. The Palestinian people have continually demonstrated an eagerness to follow Arafat, with membership in radical terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad consistently increasing over the last three years. In this time period, 873 Israelis have been killed, including 622 civilians. The latest violence has paralyzed the Israeli economy, eroded the average Israeli’s sense of security, and continually demonstrated the willingness of Palestinian terrorists to indiscriminately kill civilians and soldiers alike.
In order to address this situation, the Israeli government has decided, after three years of civilian casualties, to erect a physical barrier between the West Bank and Israel. The belief that this barrier will have a positive effect on the security of Israeli civilians is reinforced by the fact that only two of the suicide bombers in the last three years have come out of the Gaza Strip, where such a fence is already in place. Furthermore, it is important to note that because of the minimal distances between the West Bank and major Israeli towns (the Palestinian city of Qalqilya is within a 15-minute walk from my hometown of Ra’anana), prevention of continued attacks without physical separation is impossible.
There is no disputing the fact that this fence will cause hardships for some Palestinians. However, regardless of nationality or ethnicity, it seems plausible to suggest that the preservation of innocent human life provides ample justification for such a measure. Furthermore, the Israeli government has already begun debating the magnitude and nature of the compensation packages to be distributed to Palestinians harmed by the construction of the fence, despite the fact that only a small minority are Israeli citizens. Finally, it is important once again to reinforce the fact that this fence is meant to be a temporary measure, despite the allegation that this is impossible because of its high cost. In the case of a sustainable political solution between the two sides, it is quite clear that outside funding will shoulder part of the burden of removing such “barriers” to peace.
The fence is not a perfect solution. It creates problems for the Palestinian population, it is expensive, and it is not guaranteed to be 100 percent effective. It is important to note, however, that the decision to construct this fence has come after a prolonged period of conflict, and after all other measures taken to resolve the conflict have failed. With the nature of current Palestinian terrorism, the lack of a foreseeable political solution, and legitimate Israeli security concerns, it remains the only option available. As stated before, the question here is a simple one: Are nations entitled to defend themselves from indiscriminate terror? If you answer “yes” to this question, you answer “yes” to the fence.
Benjamin R. Gurvitz is a sophomore in Timothy Dwight College. He has just returned to Yale after his three-year mandatory stint in the Israeli Defense Force.