Why A Hermetic Separation Is The Only Solution To The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict I Believe In
This morning, a terrorist attack took place almost outside my front door.
According to Google Maps, the distance, as the crow flies, between my apartment in South Jerusalem and where a random Israeli jogger was stabbed solely because he was presumed to be Jewish is a little over one kilometer.
I regularly frequent the site of the stabbing to take walks and shoot videos. As my escapades this Purim laid bare, I’m currently woefully out of shape and — had I not stubbed my foot last night and had it not been Shabbat — I might even have thought about taking a jog this morning along that route. In other words, it could have been me.
For those unaware, there has been a long series of knife attacks by so-called lone-wolf attackers taking place in Jerusalem.
The Israeli pressed dubbed this the “knife intifada” to distinguish it from the earlier and more violent intifadas that took place when Palestinians were able to easily move suicide bombers between the West Bank and Israel.
The security barrier — which the Western World loves to decry, perversely, as a mechanism to ensure “apartheid” — has been responsible, in large measure, for the amelioration of that dynamic.
These lone-wolf stabbing attacks are somewhat seldom reported in the Western Media. At least, they don’t grab headlines in the same manner that Israeli bombardments of Gaza (in response to rocket attacks) tend to do.
Israelis love to point to things like this as examples of the Western Media’s implacable bias against their country. I just think that individual knife attacks aren’t as “sexy” — or newsworthy — as major military aerial campaigns that can injure hundreds. We tend to forget that we’re but a small blip in the Middle East and that international readers have other issues with greater import upon their daily lives.
The Wall Alone Isn’t Enough To Ensure Israelis Security
When I moved to Israel — 7 years ago — I began to be fascinated by borders (or more truthfully, it encouraged a longstanding fascination to grow).
Their contours throughout this land. What they looked like from spitting difference. And how those living adjacent to them felt about living on the fault line that divides between the world’s only Jewish state and the Muslim-dominated Middle East surrounding it and largely hostile to its very existence.
I’ve since traveled across large swathes of the country — including trawling through obscure castles in the north — in order to see more of them up close (the pursuit makes for interesting tourism for the adventurous. My advice is to keep one eye on the news before setting out and not to get too close).
However when I first moved to this city, Jerusalem, those years ago, one question, among many others, stood out in my mind.
The security barrier may create a physical separation between the West Bank and Jerusalem — secured by checkpoints, electronic surveillance, and barricades (note for the pedantic: this is only partially true. A daily influx of illegal migrants and the astonishing fact that it remains partially unfinished tell the honest story that it’s a useful but not wholly effective barrier).
But what, I wondered, is standing between East Jerusalem and the West?
East Jerusalem contains neighborhoods that are entirely antithetical to the existence of the State of Israel and which endorse the militant aspects of the Palestinian cause (this morning’s attacker simply walked up from the nearby neighborhood of Abu Tor).
What’s stopping a would-be attackers from — Gd forbid — picking up arms in Ras Al’Amud or Issawiya or Jabel Mukaber and walking to Ben Yehuda Street, the nightlife capital of the city’s west?
The answer — I’m sad to report — is mostly ‘nothing’ (or rather, informants, active police surveillance, and other such methods that stop short of imposing a physical barricade).
Why I Back Total Separation Between Israelis and Palestinians
Jews living in West Jerusalem but beyond the Old City — like me — have become somewhat smugly content with the Israeli security apparatus’s careful management of this ultimately untenable situation.
In doing so we’re but a microcosm of broader Israeli society and part of a broader dynamic of making the best out of an uncomfortable security reality. The Tel Aviv Bubble benefits as much from Israel’s policy-less art form of managing the impossible through dominance in security and technology as much as we do.
During times of heightened unrest — and the upcoming Muslim holiday of Ramadan is a frequent catalyst for that — we’ve become used to heeding the calls of family members living abroad, like those of foreign embassies, which adjure us to avoid “flashpoints.” The Old City — and more specifically Damascus Gate — is the usual prototypical one. “Don’t go there; but let’s meet for lunch here” (even if the distance between the two is only a kilometer or two).
The Jewish residents of those most battle-hardened parts of Jerusalem — I’m speaking about the Old City — tend to be the most ideologically motivated.
And so we — the lesser “extremists” (for isn’t a Jew living in Jerusalem, in the Muslim world’s eyes, extremism by definition?) — engage in a convenient form of mental NIMBYism. That’s their problem. And when tensions abate we can go back to visiting during mostly secure times.
But what happens when random acts of nationalistic violence — I prefer that to the blunt “terrorism” — are perpetrated far from that? In downtown? In the middle suburbs of Jerusalem which feel just far enough away from the flashpoints to feel safe? This morning provided a grim warning that such a reality is, sadly, not inconceivable.
In an era in which Amnesty International has unfairly accused Israel of operating de facto apartheid and one in which Donald Trump made the building of a wall with Mexico a core tenant of his election manifesto, it may seem counter to the Zeitgeist to argue that more walls and more separation are necessary.
And yet, having studied this conflict for many years — and lived in the very heart of it for several — that’s precisely what I think is needed to ensure a future that’s workable for both of us.
The reaction to this heinous attack in the Palestinian media lays bare a totalitarian worldview that’s uncompromising and impossible to negotiate with. The random Israeli jogger who crossed paths with the stabber, this morning, was a “colonist” injured in a legitimate act of resistance.
And that’s the very thing I’m forever trying to explain to well-meaning Westerners. The dominant Palestinian worldview sees every Israeli — and every Israeli town, Tel Aviv as much as Ariel — as a “settlement.” The only way to “liberate Palestine” when that’s the formula being relied upon is to completely eliminate Israel and Israelis. In their entirety. Gd forbid.
It would be nice to think that if more effort were invested in the moribund peace process — or more lavishly generous iterations of the Abraham Accords were offered to Palestinians — that we could all forget about this ugly war.
Sadly, when ideological opposition rather than territorial squabbles pit these two peoples together, I don’t see that happening. Ever. And so I think that complete and hermetic separation represents the best solution.
Your state (or territory) there. Mine here. Perhaps we’ll have mutual tourism. The odd inter-party meetup could be nice as well just to break the ice. But to believe in the notion that two peoples can ever live peacefully atop the same tiny piece of land is to engage, I believe, in noting better than willful delusion.