For years Palestinians have been sneaking across Israel’s “security barrier” risking arrest to find work, much like Mexican immigrants who try to slip into the USA. In the last few weeks, that trickle has become a flood. A CBC report paints it as a marvellous mixing, but it glosses over the underlying discrimination and injustice. Read a special guest column.
On Sunday evening, August 16, listening to the CBC Radio’s weekend news package, my ears pricked up.
“For two weeks, thousands of Palestinians have been crossing into Israel for a day out at the beach,” reported World This Weekend (TWTW) host Martina Fitzgerald, “and no one is stopping them! Israeli soldiers seem to be turning a blind eye as Palestinians head into Israel without permits, and without a Covid-19 check!” she continued, introducing Jerusalem-based reporter Irris Makler.
Ms. Makler reported on the recent appearance of breaches in Israel’s separation barrier, through which West Bank Palestinians have been quietly slipping, heading to work or visiting family inside Israel, and even going to the beach, most of them for the first time in many years!!.
Israel claims the barrier is to protect Israelis from Palestinian “terrorists”. Palestinians, however, say the barrier is about separating Palestinians who live in the West Bank, from Israelis and to steal Palestinian land.
Standing at a hole in the wall, Makler speaks with a school principal named Mohammed Aziz from the Palestinian village of Beit Liqya. Astonishingly, Aziz says he is heading to the beach for the first time in his life!!!
Then, even more startling news from Makler: “His wife will pick him up. Mohammed’s wife is an Israeli Arab, and due to Israeli rules prohibiting family reunions, they must live separately.”
Makler explains that while Azis’ wife is a Palestinian citizen of Israel, HE lives in the West Bank and is not allowed to enter Israel without a special permit. So usually, his wife and children come to him.
“This will be the first time in twenty years that Mohammed visits his wife and children in Israel ‘proper’, Makler adds, with no further context or explanation.
In forty seconds, Makler has revealed a handful of facts that may astonish CBC listeners who don’t follow news from the region: Israel won’t let this Palestinian school principal live with his wife and kids? They can visit him in the West Bank at Beit Liqya, but this is the first time in twenty years he gets to visit them? Beit Liqya is just forty kilometers as the crow flies away from Jaffa and the beach but Mohammed has never been allowed to go for a dip?
Ms. Makler’s script doesn’t mention that Jewish settlers who live only ten kilometers north of Mohammed’s house, have always been free to zip across the chemerical “Green Line” every day without problem. It’s just an hour’s drive to the beach on a hot day.
Nor does Ms. Makler reveal that, when Palestinian refugees living in the West Bank slip through the hole in the wall, risking arrest and detention, they’re really just returning to what they consider home, after seventy years of forced expulsion from Israel.
After visiting the holes in the barrier, Ms. Makler segues to the beach. There, she paints a pleasing scene: “There are old Arab women sitting fully clothed in the water – including one woman in a wheelchair!” Makler reports, her voice rising in surprise. “There are young men smoking shisha pipes, and there are families, of course, who’ve packed home cooked food.” Jalud Bashiti and her daughter-in-law Tamara, from Nablus, are also “thrilled” to be at the beach. It’s Jalud’s first time, too.
As anyone who’s strolled down the beach front strip from Tel Aviv to Jaffa knows, Jewish Israelis swim and lounge in trunks and bikinis along the north stretch; Palestinians bathe to the south, on the edge of Jaffa – women fully clothed. They don’t tend to mix.
But in Ms. Makler’s report they seem to do so — harmoniously. “So far, the Israelis don’t seem to mind the influx of Palestinians,” Makler remarks, enthusiasm and a shade of surprise in her voice. “Indeed, they welcome them.”
“If we go to the sea, they can come also,” one Israeli man tells Makler. His female partner concurs: “They can come also to the sea. The beach is for everyone!”
Really? The beach is for everyone? Are they being dishonest, or do they really not know that Palestinians from the West Bank are forbidden to come? It’s hard to tell. And Makler doesn’t try.
In fact, this beach is not for everyone. Between this beach and the Jordan River – now effectively a single state, ruled by one sovereign – Jews have full rights, and Palestinians don’t. At this beach, Palestinians from the colonized territories bathe and relax only at the pleasure of the Israeli military.
Makler seems to not notice another crucial point: the “security barrier” does not appear to be about “security” at all. At least for the Israeli citizens she interviews, concern about Palestinian “terrorists” does not seem to be an issue.
Makler ties a pretty bow on her TWTW piece about peaceful coexistence at the beach: “There isn’t much mingling, but Israelis and Palestinians enjoy the sea, side by side, sharing the beach without friction. It’s a moment of grace, so rare here, and remarkable just for that.”
How wonderful a picture!!
How misleading for CBC listeners!!
NOTE: This special column is an abridged and slightly edited version of a longer article “Radio waves at the beach” which first appeared in Mondoweiss.
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.
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