Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Touchy Subject

I remember when I arrived in Israel in early 1998 while the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal was in full swing, and the talk everywhere here was not so much about if Clinton lied or not, but that Monica was Jewish. I had no idea (and really didn't care) but what it did was highlight the difference between what was interesting to people here and people in the States.

For the record, I don't like politics (too depressing) and I hope this doesn't fall in that category. I do not know if Jimmy Carter's new book Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid is newsworthy in America, but here it is a hot topic of conversation. I am no expert in the field, but I do have my somewhat informed thoughts on the subject.

First, Jimmy Carter points out that he is not referring to Israel as being apartheid, but Palestine (specifically, Israel's actions in the territories). He is correct because Israel cannot be considered apartheid in any way. While prejudice is present in every country, Israel is no exception. But Israeli Arabs, like Jews, have the right to vote, serve in parliament if elected (several Arabs are currently members of the Knesset), though not obligatory they may serve in the army, are eligible for financial benefits and social services, have the Arabic as an official language, and so on. It is by no means complete or perfect, but minorities in Israel have more rights and privileges than anywhere in the Middle East, BY FAR. And as a minority with my Arab family here in Israel has been treated well by the government, even given preferential treatment over Jews for the reason we are not Jewish in some instances. Sometimes it is actually better treatment than America in certain similar circumstances.

As far as "Palestine" goes, in my opinion, the reference to apartheid is severely misplaced. In the territories, there are separate roads for Jews and Palestinians. Why? Because of terror attacks. There are Jewish settlements, but they are temporary and land occupied can be given away (as seen with the Gaza evacuation). While Jewish settlements are relatively free of Arabs (there are a few Arabs living in some), Palestinian cities, towns, and villages are completely free of Jews by law and force of death.

The Security Fence, also referred to as the "Apartheid Wall" by detractors, is undoubtedly an ugly scar on the landscape.It is a response to terror, first and foremost, and was erected during the height of the current bloody intifada. It is actually 97% fence and only 3% wall (the wall parts are to protect from gunfire. It is temporary, while lives lost by terror are permanent. Happily, it is working.
Israelis has learned that ruling over Palestinians is a lose-lose prospect and have shown they are willing to sacrifice deeply in hope for peace. Christians, Arab or otherwise, have more freedoms and rights here than anywhere in the Middle East, including Islamic-majority states elsewhere. Though not perfect by any means, Israel is a beacon of freedom in a region which knows nothing of the sort. So with all due respect to former president Carter, his comparison of Israel to apartheid is simply wrong on every account.

Forgive me for this plunge into controversy - these things will be few and far between. On a lighter note, if you are interested in more of this former president's activities, see the next entry.

UPDATE - Mr Carter recently apologized for several (what he calls) "mistakes" in the book and says the said offending errors will be corrected in the next edition.

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