Saturday, October 17, 2015

MSNBC "Palestine" Map Isn't What You Think

Yesterday MSNBC ran a graphic showing what appears to be a startling loss of land for Palestinians since 1946:

This set of maps was created by pro-Palestinian activists - the originals can be accessed with a quick Google search. Every map is inaccurate as labeled, and the colors mean different things in different maps.

Map 1: 1946
What it's a really map of: Palestine. As in, British Mandate Palestine.

Why it's wrong: Palestine was never a nation-state. The British established Mandate Palestine following their defeat of the Ottomans in World War I. Palestinians inhabited but did not control the land in green. Anecdotally, while the yellow area is small, Jews were about 30% of the population of Mandate Palestine in 1946.

Map 2: UN Plan 1947
What it's really a map of: The 1947 UN Partition Plan of November 29, 1947 [Resolution 181(11)].

Why it's wrong: It never happened on the ground. Violent attacks and reprisals broke out soon after the plan was approved at the UN, and by May 1948 Israel was at war with six Arab states. The map doesn't show boundaries that ever existed in the real world. The UN partition plan also did not include the Golan Heights, shown as "Israeli" land on the map.

Map 3: 1949-1967
What it's really a map of: Israel between 1949 and 1967.

Why it's wrong: Palestinians didn't control the green areas. Gaza was under Egyptian control and the West Bank was under Jordanian control. Also, while Map 1 shows "Palestine" as green because Palestinians lived in the green areas, Map 3 doesn't show major Arab cities and towns in Israel where Palestinians lived. The criteria shift between maps.

Map 4: Israel (Present)
What it's really a map of: The State of Israel, The West Bank, and Gaza.

Why it's wrong: This is the only map that shows land actually controlled by Palestinians. Gaza is controlled by Hamas, and parts of the West Bank - Area A under the Oslo accords - are controlled by the Palestinian Authority. However, the map shows Area B as "Israeli." This is wrong - Area B includes areas of joint Israeli-Palestinian control. There has been some illegal settlement expansion into Area B but not all of it. While the status quo shifts daily, here is a map showing Area B (since it's old, it reflects less settlement buildup than exists today).

MSNBC's airing of this set of maps was highly irresponsible and severely harms the network's credibility on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was a breach of trust between MSNBC and its viewers and raises serious ethical questions about accurate journalism. Any story on the Israeli-Palestinian will draw accusations of bias, but these maps are not flawed because of spin or narrative. They are simply inaccurate.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

There's No "Iron Dome" For Stabbings In Israel

Israel has responded to stabbing attacks today in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem by installing metal detectors in predominantly Muslim areas of Jerusalem. These include the Damascus and Yaffo gates of the Old City.

Deployed strategically, metal detectors may help reduce the incidence of attacks and restore a sense of safety among a frightened Israeli population. However, these measures are a partial solution, and they indicate the limitations of a purely technological response to terror.

Israel is famous for using technology to solve its security problems. The quintessential example is of course the Iron Dome system which shoots down rockets from Gaza intended for civilian targets in Israel. Iron Dome, while expensive, is an amazing piece of technology. 

However, an Iron Dome for person-on-person violence is simply not a realistic option. During the spate of car ramming attacks last year in Jerusalem, Israel installed concrete blocks at Jerusalem's light rail station. While it may have deterred some attacks, it didn't stop them entirely. In this latest round of stabbing attacks, Israel faces a similar challenge. It simply cannot install a metal detector on every street in the country. Given limited resources, Israel is being smart by placing metal detectors in highly trafficked areas. But there are too many streets and too many people for any technological response to stabbings to work on its own.

The point is not that Israel should stop using its available resources to protect its population. Rather, it's that when the underlying problems are political, the solutions must be political as well. If Israel blocks rockets, Palestinian terrorists will respond with cars. If Israel blocks cars, Palestinian terrorists will respond with knives. These attacks are heinous acts of terrorism against innocent people. But they are politically motivated and require a political solution. This round of stabbings will stop, but without a change in the political status quo, the next round of stabbings will come, stronger than ever.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Israeli-Palestinian Violence Sparks Crisis Of Legitimacy

A Palestinian terror cell linked to Hamas attacked an Israeli settler family driving through the West Bank last Thursday evening, killing the two parents, Naama and Eitam Henkin. 

The attack set off riots, reprisal attacks, security operations, and low-intensity violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Over the weekend, two more Israelis were killed in a stabbing attack and two Palestinian teenagers were shot and killed by the IDF during clashes. Several Israelis, including a 2 year-old, were wounded in attempted stabbings and scores of Palestinians have been wounded by an IDF crackdown and the resulting clashes.

In the wake of this unrest, Israeli and Palestinian leadership are taking steps to calm tensions. Despite antagonism over the speeches both leaders made at last week's UN General Assembly, cooperation on the ground remains effective thus far. Under extreme pressure from the far right, including members of his own government, Prime Minister Netanyahu has deployed an extra four battalions to the IDF deployment in the West Bank and thousands of police in Jerusalem. President Abbas issued orders to Palestinian security forces to quell protests in the West Bank. For their part, Israeli officials have told the Palestinian authority that Israeli security forces intend to take firmer measures to prevent settler violence. 

While rumors of a Third Intifada are premature, the violence poses a real threat to control for both Israel's government and the Palestinian Authority. Israel's far-right is literally out for blood and the Prime Minister has already begun a security crackdown that will provide good theatrics but do little to prevent the next wave of attacks. The Palestinian Authority has lacked legitimacy for years among a Palestinian public increasingly frustrated with settlement expansion and a lack of national recognition and basic rights.

"Conflict management" advocates should recognize that the current flare up is proof positive such a strategy is short-sighted. The conflict becomes increasingly difficult to manage over time as more and more Israelis and Palestinians lose faith in their governments' ability to meet their needs. The violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem is not just a crisis of security, it is also a crisis of legitimacy for both Israeli and Palestinian leadership. The alternatives on both sides are radical groups itching for a fight that will leaves hundreds of innocent people dead. 

Once the current round of senseless violence ceases, it will be incumbent on both parties to prevent the next outbreak. The stakes of this negotiation are not only the survival of Israel and the Palestinian national cause. They are the survival of Netanyahu and Abbas' respective political power as well.