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Portable West Bank Wall


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Middle East and terrorism

'Myopic view' in front of Old Town Hall

December 4, 2003
Editor, Townsman:
Recently, I came upon a demonstration in front of Old Town Hall with a huge banner that said "Israel Tear Down the Wall," and an accompanying large display voicing the common Palestinian arguments about "occupation," and the absence of their rights. As an American Jew with strongly leftist political views, I have mixed feelings about this display in my own town, by the presumed "peace activists" who live here.

I have for 20 years been opposed to numerous aspects of Israeli official policy, from the actions in Lebanon in 1982, to the aggressiveness of the West Bank settlements, and even to many of the harsh responses to the Intifada. Like approximately half of the Israeli population, I have questioned the policies of the Likud governments of Begin, Netanyahu and Sharon. There are other voices in Israel offering greater wisdom and a stronger vision of peace, as were expressed by Itzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak.

However, I am shocked and disgusted at the myopic view of this situation by our neighbors in front of Old Town Hall with their posters. They should be demonstrating and organizing to fight terrorism, not fences. As Meir Shlomo, consul general of Israel to New England, was quoted as saying in Nov. 24 newspapers, "The security fence may not be the ideal solution, but it is definitely the most practical way to protect innocent Israelis from the unprecedented wave of Palestinian terrorism... While fences are reversible, the loss of human life is not."

I assure my fellow citizens of Andover that if they had reason to fear for their child's safety sitting at Starbucks or riding the bus to middle school because of the madness of suicide bombers, they would be seeking remedies to protect them.

There is a deep flaw in the philosophy of the American "Peace Movement" when it sees only one side of this question. Whether intended to or not, it smacks of not so thinly veiled anti-Semitism, and I denounce this. This fence or wall is a defensive and nonlethal measure. Its only goal is to prevent terrorism, and would be unnecessary otherwise. Each time there is a small victory on the "road to peace" in the Middle East, there is yet another ugly incident of suicide bombing that undermines it. To condemn Israel for protecting its citizens, without acknowledging and denouncing the madness of terrorism, is a venomous and twisted interpretation of the truth.

Ronald Sanfield
Harding Street



Israel wall hurts efforts toward peace in region
In Middle East, walls make for worse neighbors

December 11, 2003
Editor: Townsman

We are two of the Andover residents who have vigiled regularly in front of Old Town Hall, since the invasion of Iraq, to demonstrate our commitment to global peace. We were instrumental in helping to bring to Andover a representation of the wall being constructed by the Sharonist government in the occupied Palestinian territories. This representation is an effort by the Israeli-Palestinian Task Force of the coalition of peace and justice organizations, United for Justice with Peace, to educate Americans about the reality of the Separation Wall, the so-called “security fence.”

The issues faced by Israel and Palestine are complex, steeped in history which can be variously interpreted and will not be resolved without fierce determination by both sides. But it is the contention of thoughtful and dedicated people worldwide that walls of this sort never lead to lasting peace. Indeed, history teaches us that the opposite is true. One need only remember the Berlin Wall and the misery it wrought.

The Israeli peace organization, Gush Shalom, has compiled extensive research on this issue. Its Web site, offers a comprehensive discussion of the realities of the Separation Wall. Billed by Sharon as a temporary measure, the cost to construct the wall is estimated at $2 million per kilometer, meaning a staggering $1.5 billion to complete. In places it is 26 feet high, topped by barbed wire, with 13-foot-deep trenches on either side. And the “security fence” is not being constructed along the agreed upon 1967 border. Instead, the wall intrudes deep into the West Bank, usurping as much as 40 to 50 per cent of what was agreed in 1967 to be Palestinian land. Countless Palestinian homes have been razed. Families are now in makeshift refugee camps. Villages are separated from their water supplies and farmers are separated from their livelihoods, their fields. 83,000 Palestinian olive trees have been destroyed. The town of Qalqiliya and the village of Jayouus are completely surrounded by the wall, with residents being required to pass through a control gate to enter and exit. Recent reports of the US military surrounding an Iraqi village, Abu Hishma, with a barbed wire fence reflect a strategy learned from the Israelis. This tactic has not led to peace in Israel; it is not promoting understanding and trust in Iraq. It is unlikely to lead to anything but more terrorist attacks in both Israel and Iraq; occupation breeds terrorism.

In all of recorded history, there is no instance where fighting injustice with injustice leads to a reasoned result. Have we learned nothing from experience? No one suggests that the Palestinians are blameless, but this wall is not a defensive measure against terrorism. It is instead a direct assault on the two-state solution that has almost universal support as the most likely resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The route of the wall renders a Palestinian state impossible. Even the Bush administration has balked at the route, for this very reason. Pope John Paul II has pleaded with the Israeli government: “In reality, the Holy Land doesn’t need walls, but bridges.” We agree.

An organization of which we are members, Merrimack Valley People for Peace, seeks to promote programs with local groups, including synagogues and churches. As US taxpayers, we deplore the use of our dollars to construct this wall. We call on all Americans, of every ethnic and religious persuasion to learn the facts. We stand for freedom, security and dignity for all. To that end, we will continue to read, to listen and to talk in forums and with passersby in front of Old Town Hall.

Donald Abbott
300 South Main Street

Rebecca Backman
19 Pomeroy Road

Israeli and Palestinian people want same thing: peace

December 25, 2003

Editor, Townsman:

I have been following with interest the debate surrounding the weekly peace vigil outside Old Town Hall. The situation in the Middle East is complex with legitimate claims on both sides. It is true, as Don Abbott and Rebecca Backman’s letter states, “the Holy Land needs bridges, not walls,” but simple slogans seem hollow to parents who send their children off to school on a city bus, wondering if there will be a terrorist attack that day.

Fortunately, our honorable women and men - Israeli and Palestinian - have not despaired. They continue to work tirelessly, within their governments and often outside their respective governments, quietly, below the radar screen, to seek a solution to this intractable and deadly stalemate.

As the authors’ letter implies, there is a wide range of opinion in Israel, as there is in the United States. The right to publicly and freely express one’s view, as those in the peace vigil are doing, is a value both Americans and Israelis cherish.

Ultimately, I believe that a solution will be found, for I have faith that Palestinian and Israeli fathers and mothers share the same dream: a desire to see their children grow up in a world of freedom, opportunity and peace.

Rabbi Robert S. Goldstein
Temple Emanuel

See pictures and links to learn more about the wall.

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Merrimack Valley People for Peace meets monthly, on the fourth Tuesday,
at 7:30 pm,
at North Parish Church, North Andover.

Contact Merrimack Valley People for Peace       (978) 685-1389
            P.O. Box 573
            North Andover, MA 01845

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