A must read article by Robert Harris @ New English Review: A Comprehensive Response to Anti-Israel Tourist Activism Talking Points, Part I:
Betty Purcell, a member of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, is best known for her former role as a current affairs producer at RTE, Ireland’s public service broadcaster. Purcell is a television producer of longstanding, who wrote a book called Inside RTÉ: A Memoir about her thirty-three year career at the Broadcasting institution, which indicated the extent to which she influenced RTE’s political culture.
Purcell trenchantly advocated against the Jewish State in the mainstream media, in the aftermath of a supposed fact-finding tour of Judea and Samaria/West Bank, organised by the Bethlehem branch of the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association). Purcell’s staunch anti-Zionist claims, as expressed in an Irish Examiner article, letters, and during an RTE interview, echo most of the normative propagandistic talking points found when anti-Israel tourism activists share their insights with the international media. This article uses Purcell’s commentary as a starting point to closely critique these broad talking points.
On November 2nd, 2015, the Irish Examiner published an opinion piece by Betty Purcell, entitled ‘A boycott of Israel can help end the injustice’.
Purcell’s screed begins with a description of the appearance of a field of olive trees, near Bethlehem:
“It should be an idyllic scene. But we are with the farmer who owns the field, and his story is tragic.”
Purcell does not name the farmer and his family, upon which several of her claims are based. The absence of an identifying source for Purcell’s claims soon becomes significant. Of the farmer, it is said:
“Coming down the hill towards him is a massive Israeli settlement (illegal under international law, and condemned by the International Court of Justice in 2004). It has already led to the confiscation of half of his land.”
Numerous invalid claims have been made in the media about the confiscation of land and property that was supposedly owned by Arab-Palestinians. Purcell does not even deem it necessary to name the area where the farmer lives, but it appears to be near the security barrier, in the environs of Bethlehem. It is difficult to deduce the “massive” Jewish settlement that Purcell references. It might be Efrat, or the neighbourhood of Gilo, which Purcell may deem a settlement but it is merely a suburb of East Jerusalem. Purcell describes this settlement as almost a living thing, coming after the unfortunate farmer, but these urban centres typically develop inward rather than outward, and do so at a relatively slow pace due to the controversy that such developments garner internationally. [...]
When naming the security barrier the “Separation Wall”, Purcell demonstrates a clear propagandistic intent. The term evokes the notion of apartheid and negates the historic circumstance in which the development occurred, namely the Second Intifada, in which the civilian Israeli populace was subjected to approximately four years of terrorism, that largely originated in Judea and Samaria/West Bank. It led to the death of nearly a thousand Israelis, the majority of which were Jewish civilians, along with many thousands of non-fatal casualties.
Purcell’s article introduced a rather extraordinary claim:
“The Wall is built in the West Bank, and when it is completed will annex a further 47% of West Bank territory.”
This claim was challenged by a representative of Dublin’s Israeli Embassy:
“Ms Purcell states that the separation wall, when it is completed, will gobble up 47% of Palestinian territory. This is a lie; the wall is expected to take up about nine per cent of the territory. Ms Purcell does not explain why it was built in the first place: to keep potential terrorists out of Israel.”
However, Purcell stood by the charge in a letter of response:
“…there are varying estimates as to the amount of West Bank land the Separation Wall will seize. The YMCA for instance predicts the incursion will be 47%.”
read moreIf there are varying estimates, then why did Purcell choose to go with the most extreme estimate in her article? Purcell’s 47% claim is so absurd that the reader might be forgiven for thinking that she has never seen a map of Judea and Samaria/West Bank!