Israel's Anti-Terror Barrier Project
6% Concrete Wall + 94% Palestinian Lie
New Data from the IDF Head of the Security Fence Project
5 Nov 2003
Israel's anti-terror barrier is one more victim of best-selling professional Palestinian propaganda. Immediately dubbed the "Apartheid Wall" it has caused hysteria in places where one should be able to more mature examination of the facts. The reference to apartheid in its odious South African context is as relevant as calling the anti burglar bars on your house "apartheid bars".
Fortunately, unlike politics, there are still a few professions where you can clearly measure what is true and what is false. As engineering is one of these professions, let's put first some technical aspects of the Palestinian Wall to the test. The barrier is frequently referred to as a wall in order to generate comparisons with the infamous Berlin Wall. -Well, is it really a wall?
The ATB Project
The Head of the security fence or "Anti-Terror Barrier Project" (ATB) in the Israel Defense Force's Construction Center, Lieutenant-Colonel Erez, lectured on the professional project management aspects of this project, in the Annual Conference of the Israel Society for Quality, in Tel-Aviv, on 27 November 2003. By co-incidence Take-A-Pen's Chairman, Andre, a professional in project management himself, served as the chair of the Project Management Session of the conference, could ask a few questions from Erez, heard some new information and thus can submit to you this first-hand report.
Lt.-Col. Erez said in his lecture that the most challenging feature of the ATB project has been the need for an extremely wide integration of the great many disciplines involved, and within a very short time.
The top design criterion of the ATB has been to maximize security for the civilian population while causing minimum disruption to the local Palestinian population. In a rare consensus of all security experts in Israel, of all the diverse security forces, and even of most parties in the Knesset, except a few on extreme left and right, all agree that such a security barrier is the most effective and least violent way to save Israeli civilian lives, without endangering any other human being.
There was a wide agreement even on the design concept 'how' to do this: most of the line should be a slightly improved version of the traditional electronic wire fences, existing for example on the Jordanian border and around some defense sites, and only where the barrier must protect densely populated urban areas very close to the barrier, should it be built as a concrete wall. Minefields or other similar lethal means so commonly used by Syria and some other Arab states are not used in Israel's ATB fence.
The routing of the fence was determined by the Israeli government with minimum use of Palestinian land, when necessary taken to public use strictly according to Israeli and international law, and with full compensation properly determined and paid, as it is done for example in a highway project within Israel.
The whole ATB project and its details have been scrutinized by many legal, environmental and other experts before construction permits were issued and actual construction started, and their reservations were respected to the largest possible extent. The construction of a security barrier in occupied land in order to save human lives is, according to international law and the Geneva Convention, both the right and the duty of the occupying power.
Contradictorily, the route of the fence has been determined with such severe Israeli self-constraint that even most of the legal Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria (Shomron) are planned to remain unprotected outside the fence, drawing bitter criticism by tens of thousands of Israelis involved.
Question and Answer Session
After the lecture the session chairperson, Andre asked two questions of Lt.-Col. Erez.
"The security barrier is described and photographed mostly as a high concrete wall. What are the actual lengths already constructed and already built of the fence and the wall sections of the barrier?"
"The details of future design are not released for public use yet. The 130 km length which has been completed by now will by the end of December 2003 grow to 150 kilometers complete, out of which 8 km is a concrete wall and the rest is an electronic wire fence. "
"One can see the adverse PR effects of the security fence. We wonder whether the management team of the ATB project considered the PR of the project as a task within their scope, as certain project management standards require?"
"I have to admit, that we have not done anything in this direction." (Smiling)
"When we recently started an overview of the many Palestinian websites, articles, overnight compiled 'research documents' and several fresh books (!) on the "wall", we understood that we may know how to build well a project, but it is they who know how to make propaganda."
5.7% concrete Wall + 94.3% Palestinian Lies
The new information received from the project coordinator is very significant. Now all have a way to measure the truth; 8 km of the total 150 km that is 5.7% wall, so 94.3% is not a wall. That means anybody who has called this security barrier a 'wall' has been simply 94% mistaken. From now on, if after knowing the facts one calls it a wall, he or she is in 94% a liar.
Arab and other opponents frequently say that Israel builds the wall illegally only in order to "gobble up" Palestinian territory. Far from the truth; the territory taken to public use for the construction of the ATB is designed to be a small part of those territories Israel voluntarily transferred to the administration of the PA. The legality of a security-oriented routing of the fence can be based on UN Resolution 242 on which no better authority must be sought than the late Eugene Rostow who participated in producing it. In an article published in The New Republic on October 21, 1991, he explained unambiguously that Resolution 242 allows Israel to administer the territories it occupied in 1967 until "a just and lasting peace in the Middle East" is achieved. There was no intention to force Israel back to the "fragile" and "vulnerable" Armistice Demarcation Lines. Rather, it was intended that Israel retire, once peace was made, to what Resolution 242 called "secure and recognized" boundaries, agreed to by the parties.
Another Arab complaint is that the fence is causing disruption of the lives of Palestinians who cannot get access to their own fields. It is really an inconvenience and a pity, but these economic type considerations are by far inferior, also by international law, as Professor Emanuel Gross, internationally recognized expert of constitutional law points out, to the importance of saving human lives. Had the Palestinians and the Arab world acted to stop Palestinian terror and not to promote it, there would be no need for the anti-terror barrier in the first place.
Regarding the second question and the answer of the IDF project head, it is also true that the Palestinian leaders have not excelled in building too much projects for the good of their own people but know very well how to make and how to sell incitement and propaganda, even when their merchandise is 94% a lie.
Unfortunately many good-intentioned 'clients', like some EU leaders, UN's Kofi Annan, and the State Department, bought well-packaged Palestinian Wall-lies.
But Israel's failing PR and its miniscule information system are partly responsible for these failures. The naive belief that in the name of free speech a vibrant democracy does not have to counter its totalitarian opponent's devious propaganda lies - is a huge mistake, an obsolete disregard of the fact that we are living in the information age.
We need a good fence. Nobody says any Anti-Terror Barrier can substitute real peace. But peace unfortunately is not around the corner. In the ten years since the Oslo accord Palestinian governments acted not to curb Palestinian terror but to get illegal weapons and to indoctrinate hatred, so a security fence is the available second best. More than that, by decreasing the dominance of terror and violence on the daily agenda, the Anti-Terror Barrier can help to actually return to effective Israeli-Palestinian cooperation and to peace negotiations.
Israel had once a famous "Good Fence" in Northern Israel, at Metulla, enabling fairly good cooperation for several years with Southern Lebanon, in trade, tourism, in exchanging manpower and more.
As even UN's routinely Muslims-appeasing Secretary-General Kofi Annan admitted: "Israeli scientists have worked closely with their counterparts in the region on problems of health, agriculture and water. Such international scientific cooperation across adversarial boundaries offer hope for future peace"
The conclusion is, it is entirely understandable that the Israelis work to complete the construction of the Anti-Terror Barrier. It saves many lives, and the resulting relative calm may give also a chance for a renewed cooperation with the Palestinians, thus offering real hope for future peace.