Last night, The Nation Institute hosted a debate between former congressman Brian Baird and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and moderated by The New York Times’s Roger Cohen about the UN-commissioned Goldstone Report, which documented alleged war crimes committed by both the Israeli military and Hamas forces during the 22-day long “Operation Cast Lead” conflict in Gaza in 2008.
At one point during the debate, Weiner began to say that the West Bank was more relatively prosperous than Gaza in part because there is no Israeli occupation there (although there is an enormous blockade). Cohen pointedly asked Weiner if he was really serious in claiming that Israel is not currently occupying the West Bank, which is the position of the international community and the United States. Weiner repeatedly insisted that there was no occupation there, even going as far as telling Cohen he agreed that there was “no IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] presence there”:
WEINER: You can see a difference in the development in the West Bank with 11 percent year over year growth, with no Israeli occupation there either, with increasing access to checkpoints —
COHEN: What about area C, D,
WEINER: Hold on, maybe this would be helpful
COHEN: No occupation in the West Bank, did I hear you right?
COHEN: Have you been to the West Bank lately?
COHEN: You didn’t see the IDF there?
WEINER: In Ramallah? No. In Nablus? No. Now can I tell ya there might be some people in this room who think Jerusalem is occupied.
COHEN: Well hold on a second there, let’s stick to the West Bank. You’re saying there is no IDF presence there?
It is simply false to say that the West Bank is not occupied and that there is no Israeli troop presence in the area. Both Nablus and Ramallah are the frequent subjects of Israeli military raids, and access to and from the cities is subject to Israeli control. Americans for Peace Now (APN) is a leading Middle East NGO that advocates for a peaceful two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On its website, it has an interactive map of the Palestinian territories. The map lays out the presence of thousands of Israeli settlers in the West Bank, each of which is connected to eachother by Israeli-only roads guarded by numerous Israeli military battalions and many more checkpoints. In the following map, each blue house represents an Israeli settlement:
It would be surprising to the Palestinian population in the West Bank, which has been under a state of occupation for 44 years, to hear that it lives free of Israeli military presence. This certainly is what the people who live in the territory want. Recent polling has found that 74 percent of the Palestinian population endorses a two-state solution where both the Israelis and Palestinians can live free in two independent states safe from occupation and terrorism. Yet such a solution will never happen as long as American politicians like Weiner advocate for a foreign policy that endorses every move Israel takes and fails to condemn its abuses against the Palestinian population. (HT: Mondoweiss)