Thursday, July 29, 2010

Responses to The New York Times' Nicolas Kristof on Water, Hebron and Jewish Land


Blogs serve an important purpose: Bloggers can blow off steam, particularly when it's so hard to get any column inches in the mainstream press. Another pressure valve is the "talkback" feature that follows many online newspaper items. Frankly, they're a waste of time and effort, but sometimes it's the only way to get something off your chest. Such is the case this week with many angry readers of The New York Times' Nicolas Kristof's column this week on the "Israeli colony" in Hebron. I'm not the only one to use the blog and the "talk-back" feature to respond to Kristof. Read Prof. Gerald Steinberg's response on the NGO Monitor site. A particularly poignant response was written by Stephen Flatow, father of 20-year-old Alisa who was killed by a Palestinian bus bomb in 1995. There's also an important response by David Wilder, spokesman for the Jewish community in Hebron. Wilder revealed that while Kristof toured Hebron with B'Tzelem, one of the most vociferous and tendentious pro-Palestinian organizations in Israel, the columnist satisfied his "journalistic objectivity" by merely giving Wilder a phone call.

Below are excerpts from my own response to Kristof.

Mr. Kristof -- The Israelis you cite are either from the extreme left who deny any Jewish right to the Jewish historical sites in Judea/Samaria (the West Bank) or those on the right in Hebron who find themselves on the front lines. Their views are molded by the intense pressure of their lives.

Most Israelis, however, are anchored in the center, and that is certainly the case for the hundreds of thousands who, like myself, live in the post-1967 areas and for their extended families and friends in pre-67 Israel.

You find the idea of Jews living in their second holiest city, Hebron, illegal or “utterly impractical.” Sorry, Mr. Kristof, many Jews want the right to visit the Tomb of the Patriarchs, something denied to Jews after the 1929 massacre of Hebron’s Jews. Many of those closed shops you referred to were once Jewish properties.

Don’t apply the “utterly impractical” standard to Israel. The state never would have been founded in 1948 according to your standards.

You claim one-third of settlement land is privately owned by Palestinians. Not according to the Israeli Supreme Court — the paragon of justice, decency, fairness loved by Israel’s left — that allowed the construction of settlements on “state land.” When a settlement was built on private land, the court ordered it removed immediately. (The Elon Moreh case.)

The delay of sick Palestinians in ambulances at checkpoints is tragic, but the use of those ambulances to ferry explosives used by suicide bombers is lethal and criminal. I’m not surprised they get delayed at checkpoints.

Mr. Kristof, unless you parachuted into Hebron, you drove on Route 60 from Jerusalem. I use the road every day, and I share it with hundreds of Palestinian trucks, taxis and private cars. Many of them enter Route 60 from Bethlehem. At that intersection 10 years ago a Palestinian terrorist, driving a large stolen Israeli truck, rammed my son’s compact car with his four passengers. Miraculously they survived. The intersection was closed during the intifada, but it’s been open for a year. And my son drives past that spot every day on his way to a Jerusalem hospital where he treats Arabs and Jews. For better or for worse, most roads are open and most Palestinians can travel in the West Bank.

Water Usage in Israel and around the world

Your portrait of evil Israelis just can’t be complete without the canard of Israelis using five times more water than Palestinians. Sorry, it doesn’t wash, so to speak. A study produced by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences along with their Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli counterparts ten years ago, found little difference between water consumption in Israeli and Palestinian urban areas. “Per capita water use for urban Palestinians reaches a maximum of 100 cubic meters a year, similar to Israeli use.” The study suggests that low figures for rural Palestinians “is likely to increase with improvement in the level of living.” More telling, however, is the report’s finding that “water losses unaccounted for [theft or leaks] in the [Palestinian] distribution network” reach 55 percent[!]

Lastly, all modern, developed 21st century societies use much more water than developing societies. “The United States and Canada are the highest per capita water users in the world,” according to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, “…per person usage is more than 2.5 times that in Asia or Europe, and over six times that in Africa.” Cross the border into Mexico and per capita water usage drops by two-thirds.

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