Israel's barrier in the West Bank


Madam, - Dermot Meleady (December 24th) may be correct that comparisons between South African apartheid and Israel/Palestine are of little heuristic value: the truth is that Israel's policies and history vis-à-visthe Palestinians and the Occupied Territories are substantially worse than the policies of the National Party in post-1948 South Africa.

1. The "apartheid wall" may mostly be "fence", but Mr Meleady neglects to mention the exclusion zones around it, or the Israeli-only access roads, or the amount of Palestinian land it actually eats up, or the fact that it does not follow the 1967 border between Israel and the West Bank but rather cuts deeply into Palestinian land, or the fact that Israel plans eventually to surround the major Palestinian population centres in the West Bank with this "fence" entirely.

2. Modern historical scholarship, by Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe, and Walid Khalidi, has shown that a coherent Israeli plan for the expulsion of Palestinians - the so-called Plan Dalet - existed and was acted upon from November 1947 onwards. Mr Meleady's "war of extermination launched against the new Jewish state by six Arab armies" was not the "context" of the exodus of the Palestinians, which was well underway by the time the Arab armies attacked Israel in May 1948. It is worth remembering that the notorious Deir Yasin massacre of Palestinian civilians occurred in April 1948.

3. Mr Meleady is mistaken in his assertion that lands conquered in wartime constitute a legitimate territorial aggrandisement by a state: this idea has absolutely no validity in any international law.

4. Mr Meleady mentions UN Security Council Resolution 242, in the same sentence suggesting that Israel is unlikely to attain security in the Territories soon because of Islamic Jihad and Hamas. This is a non sequitur, as UN Security Council Resolution 242 nowhere mentions the Palestinians.

- Yours, etc,

CONOR McCARTHY, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Madam , - "It would be impossible for a present-day Mary and Joseph to make the journey this night from Nazareth in Northern Israel to Bethlehem", according to your Editorial of December 24th. Yes, and also exceedingly foolhardy - for Mary and Joseph, being Jewish, would be putting their lives at severe risk by entering this Judenfreiarea.

Patsy McGarry, in his report "Political situation in Bethlehem may force Christians to leave", highlights the fact that the Bethlehem Christian population has sharply declined in recent decades. The same is true of other areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority. In sharp contrast, Israel's Christian community has prospered and grown by 270 per cent since the founding of the state.

The drop in the Christian population, both in your Editorial and McGarry's report, is blamed on Israel's so called security barrier. Yet, of course, the barrier would not exist but for Palestinian terrorism. The blame for its construction lies squarely with the Palestinian leadership that sponsored years of bloody terrorism against Israeli civilians.

Yes, Bethlehem has serious problems, but it is unfortunate that your Editorial does the Arab Christians a disservice by ignoring their intimidation and persecution in Bethlehem, particularly at this time of year.

- Yours, etc,