Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Miliband Sees What Isn't There

David Miliband, Britain's new Foreign Secretary, is touring the Mid East. Accompanying him is the Guardian's Julian Borger. Today's report contains the following paragraph, describing, as you'd expect, how the Israeli settlements will doom any prospects for peace:
Most conspicuous of all are the settlements. Miliband was driven from Jerusalem to Jericho past mammoth new housing developments, stretching deep into the West Bank. To serve them, a myriad of new roads was being scored into the earth: smooth and black and closed to Palestinians, whose olive groves were left as rows of black stumps.
Now it just so happens that I took that same road, yesterday, twice. Once down towards Jericho, once back up to Jerusalem. It's one road, not "myriad". So far as I could see, it isn't closed to Palestinians, otherwise how to explain the fact that at the (few) checkpoints, Palestinian cars are checked? I mean, if they're not there? Most significantly, however, in both directions I looked at the two only fields that could possibly fit Borger's description of blackened olive trees. I stared at them, because they are indeed rather puzzling. Back in the 1970s, so far as I can remember, they weren't there at all: merely a parched and dusty hillside. Then in the 80s, as Jewish settlements were built nearby, someone planted them with some kind of desert crop - acacia, perhaps? I sort of thought it must have been the initiative of the new settlers, but maybe I was wrong. I didn't give it much thought - two fields out in the desert, nothing all that noteworthy. And then yesterday, I was struck by the fact that all the stumps look dead.

There was never an olive tree there, the stumps aren't blackened stumps of them, and anyway, what's the connection between Maaleh Adumim, some miles up the road, and those two fields? Maybe the acacia's all died of something? Maybe the owner, whoever he or she might be, stopped watering them and they died? Indeed, I don't know - but I do know that Borger's version is hogwash.

1 comment:

Lydia McGrew said...

I love stuff like this. Solid, on-the-ground _facts_. I'm going to have my daughter read this post. She's reading _Right to Exist_ right now and trying to pick a paper topic.