Israel’s settlements are not the real problem, only a red herring

With each passing year, the Arab-Israeli conflict seems to get an additional facelift in the media headlines. Many notable news sources seek to demonize Israel in the most “objective” manner possible, concentrating on angles irrelevant to the real conflict. Subsequently, when foreign journalists come to Israel with their notebooks, pens and preconceived notions, there is very little chance that their audience back home will have the opportunity to understand the conflict in an unbiased way. So much misinformation and shoddy reporting place Israel and her citizens in a very vulnerable position.

On the day that the settlement freeze expired, CNN featured the headline on its news site: “Palestinians: We Fear Violent Israeli Settlers.” The article focused on one Palestinian family, using them as the only example to support the story’s sensational title.

The article did not point out that for many Palestinians, settlement construction is a major part of their livelihood and that many are currently out of work due to the freeze. Even more sadly, stories highlighting friendly relations that do exist between Israeli settlers and Palestinians rarely appear in western media networks.

This sort of misrepresentation of the conflict is further strengthened with such articles as “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace” published in Time on Sept. 2. The author, Karl Vicks, writes that “The truth is that Israelis are no longer preoccupied [with peace],” rather they are busy “making money and enjoying the rays of late summer,” Vicks asserts. Vicks bases his argument primarily on two Israeli real-estate agents, Eli and Heli from Ashdod, whose viewpoints he uses to represent the opinions of close to six million other Israeli Jews.

But media networks aren’t the only ones assigning wrongful and misdirected blame for Mideast tensions; government officials are also echoing their sentiments. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton recently seized the opportunity to also assign blame on Israelis, but to a more specific sector — the Russian immigrant population in Israel. Clinton recently told the U.S. press that Israeli Russians “are the hardest-core people against the division of the land” and “present a staggering problem” to peace.

In truth, the staggering problems facing the Middle East peace process have nothing to do with Israeli Russians, nor with the settler community.

The obstacles have all to do with the rising nuclear power of Iran and the republic’s fervent financial and military support of terrorist organizations in Gaza and Lebanon as well as in other areas across the world.

Without the financial support of Iran, Hamas’s network could not exist and keep Gaza under its hold. With a $540 million budget for 2010, of which Iran provides the largest share, Hamas’s connection with Ahmadinejad’s government is rooted not only in money but in guns as well.

Iran provides Hamas fighters with top military training and instruction from the commanders of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The Islamic Republic also engages in delivering weapons in single components to the Sinai, paying the Sinai Bedouins for transferring the weapons through the Gaza tunnels.

The results of the Iran-Hamas connection were revealed this past summer when Egyptian police took control of nine weapons caches across hideouts in the Sinai Peninsula.

Nearly 200 anti-aircraft missiles, 90 artillery shells, 200 bullets of varying sizes and anti-tank landmines, machine guns and ammunitions were among the weapons found, according to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency. Egyptian security also seized 100 kilograms of TNT explosives.

Both Iran and Syria continue to be the chief sources for weapons bound for the Gaza Strip, as Hamas builds a stockpile of rockets targeting close to one million Israelis in range.

But readers of Dan Ephron’s June 1 Newsweek article, “Gaza is about Butter, Not Guns,” would have gained a completely different understanding of the situation. Eph­ron highlights what he sees as the economic benefits Israel elicits from the blockade, while downplaying any security threats that Gaza terror groups pose to Israelis.

And the threats are very real. This past September alone, the number of Gaza rocket attacks on southern Israel sharply increased, with close to 20 Kassams and mortar rockets fired at residential areas in the western Negev and Ashkelon.

As articles blaming Israel for failed Mideast peace continue to stream into the headlines, it is clear that the Mideast reality will continue just as it always has — with Iran as an increasing mobilizing force. With statements like that of Ahmed Jaabari, the leader of Hamas’ military wing, who threatened a wave of violence intended to derail the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Israelis have no choice but to prepare themselves for war. For Israel, terror and war are always a few steps behind peace, whether mainstream media choose to document this angle or not.

Anav Silverman, a native of Maine, writes from Jerusalem, Israel. She is an international correspondent at Sderot Media Center: www.SderotMedia.org.il.