Several supporters of Methodist Friends of Israel have drawn my attention to an exhibition that is to take place at Hinde Street Methodist church in London.

A reconstruction of a border control point at the separation barrier between Israel and occupied Palestine is being installed.   Visitors to You cannot pass today: Life through a dividing wall will walk through the checkpoint accompanied by documentary photography, sound, testimony and eyewitness accounts.

Exhibition organiser Katherine Fox, recently returned from monitoring human rights in Bethlehem, said: “Londoners know what it is like to be constantly late for work, miss hospital appointments and get crushed on a lengthy commute through no fault of their own.

“But most are shocked when I tell them the extent of what I witnessed daily at the checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.”

 

From September 2000 to mid-2005, hundreds of Palestinian suicide bombings and terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians killed more nearly 1,000 innocent people and wounded thousands of others. In response, Israel’s government decided to construct a security fence that would run near the “green line” between Israel and the West Bank to prevent Palestinian terrorists from easily infiltrating into Israel proper. The project had the overwhelming support of the Israeli public and was deemed legal by Israel’s Supreme Court.

Israel’s fence garnered international condemnation, but the outrage is a clear double standard – there is nothing new about the construction of a security fence. Many nations have fences to protect their borders – the United States, for example, has one to prevent illegal immigration. In fact, when the West Bank fence was approved, Israel had already built a fence surrounding the Gaza Strip that had worked – not a single suicide bomber has managed to cross Israel’s border with Gaza.

Will visitors to the exhibition be informed about the need for checkpoints to prevent homicide attacks in Jerusalem and beyond?  Will the decrease in number of such attacks, and the lives saved as a result, since the opening of the checkpoints be displayed within the exhibition?

Once again it seems that Israel is to be singled out for taking necessary measures to protect its citizens – Jews and Arabs – and visitors to the land.    Were there exhibitions re the wall and checkpoints in Belfast?   Have there been exhibitions about the checkpoints in the USA – checkpoints which are allowed within a 100 mile strip of any land or sea borders?

“In 1946, revisions to the Immigration and Nationality Act granted extra-constitutional authority to
CBP (then INS) to search any vehicle for “aliens” within a “reasonable distance” of any external
boundary of the U.S. That distance was later defined in federal regulations —with no public comment
or debate—as 100 miles. That area now encompasses roughly two-thirds of the U.S. population, nine of
the ten largest cities, and the entirety of ten states. At the time those regulations were issued, the Border
Patrol was comprised of fewer than 1,100 agents; today, there are over 21,000. The INA also gives CBP
authority to enter private lands within 25 miles of the border for purposes of preventing unlawful
entries.”

 

“The Ceuta border fence forms part of the Morocco-Spain border at Ceuta, a city on the North African coast. Constructed by Spain, its purpose is to stop illegal immigration and smuggling. Morocco objected to the construction of the barrier since it does not recognize Spanish sovereignty in Ceuta.

The fence consists of parallel 6 metre (20-foot) fences topped with barbed wire with regular watchposts and a road running between them to accommodate police patrols or ambulance service in case of need. Underground cables connect spotlights, noise and movement sensors, and video cameras to a central control booth; dozens of Guard ships and patrol boats check the coast, while 621 Guardia Civil officers and 548 police officers control the shore.”

Why is it acceptable for some nations to have checkpoints, whether temporary or permanent, while Israel is expected to allow totally free movement, even it puts its citizens at risk of injury or death? 

The Hinde Street exhibition opens today so it is too late to ask for a rethink about setting it up BUT it is not too late to explain our disquiet at such a display and ask for another exhibition to be held in which the positive aspects of the checkpoints can be seen.

The person at the Church to be contacted regarding this matter is Rev Val Reid e-mail

Val.reid@wlm.org.uk