LAST WEEK, Irish MEP Emer Costello made a big issue of Israel’s refusal to allow her and her delegation access to the Gaza Strip via the Israeli border.
She did this despite knowing in advance that it is Israeli policy to forbid entry to Gaza, except for goods and for Palestinian residents returning from medical treatment in Israeli hospitals (2,500-3,000 do so each month).
Only in very rare and unique cases do we allow other delegations to enter Gaza through Israel. This is because Gaza, under the control of Hamas, has been in a state of war with Israel since Israel withdrew all its military forces and all Israeli citizens from there in 2005.
She could have sought entry to Gaza from Egypt. A little-reported story is that, for some months now, Egypt has also been refusing travel in and out of Gaza in its efforts to prevent terrorist infiltration and weapons smuggling into the Sinai Peninsula. But it makes a sexier story to say “Israel stopped me”.
Ms Costello has recently revealed in TheJournal.ie what she believes is “the single biggest obstruction to peace” between Israel and the Palestinians.
It is not the daily calls in Gaza and in Judea-Samaria (the ‘West Bank’) for Israel’s elimination as mandated by the Hamas Charter and by the PLO National Charter.
It is not the daily incitement to Jew-hatred that goes on in the Palestinian Arab media.
It is not the daily indoctrination of schoolchildren as young as five in hero-worship of suicide bombers, dressing them up with bomb belts and drilling them with mock rifles.
It is not the complete failure of the so-called ‘moderate’ Palestinian leadership to prepare their people for the inevitable compromises that must come with any peace agreement. Only this week, a speech by PA Chairman Abbas says that “all of Israel is occupied Palestinian land”.
No, Ms Costello has discovered the real cause of the absence of peace. It’s the homes being built for those Israelis who would like to live in the suburbs of their own capital city or in Judea-Samaria, the Jewish people’s ancestral homeland.
Two inescapable facts invalidate her argument. First, not a single Jew lived in these areas in 1964, when the PLO was founded with the aim of eliminating the ‘illegal’ state of Israel, or in 1967 when four Arab states joined forces with the declared aim of annihilating it.
Second, contrary to the allegations in her article, this building does not result in “the forcible displacement of communities”. In Jerusalem, building takes place within existing Jewish communities on land purchased long ago by them. In the wider Judea-Samaria, no new settlements have been built since 1998 – the new homes are within existing settlements.
The 350,000 Israelis who live in these areas for the most part do not impinge on Arab communities – almost all live in the otherwise mainly empty Area C. Only 4 per cent of the Arab population live there (the other 96 per cent enjoy autonomy in Areas A and B).
Israel has a more than 20 per cent minority of Arab citizens. Cannot a future Palestinian Arab state find room for a few per cent Jewish minority? Or is Ms Costello telling us that there are places where Jews must not be allowed to live, as was the case in Europe in the ’30s of the last century?
Ms Costello carefully suppresses any mention of the vigorous programme of Arab home-building that takes place constantly alongside Israeli building in Jerusalem. She also omits to say that Israeli buildings are just as much subject to planning regulations, and the ‘threat of demolition’ where they are ignored, as are Arab ones.
The only evidence Ms Costello offers for her generalised and false allegations are based on two individual anecdotes. Since I am not familiar with all the details, I cannot comment on their veracity. But I can say that, if real injustices were inflicted on the Palestinian persons mentioned, they have the option of taking their cases to the courts of Israel, all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.