"Say Yes to Peace" means rejecting false accusations, and educating yourself and others about the facts on contentious issues. The swirl of accusations against Israel has led to confusion about Israeli society. Israel is a multicultural democracy that enforces equal civil and political rights for all citizens regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation. It has struggled to protect its citizens from terrorism while simultaneously protecting the lives of innocent Palestinian civilians. The following are examples of "hot topics" surrounding Israel and the Middle East. Please look through them and educate yourself further about these issues.
The built up areas of Israeli settlements in the West Bank cover 1.7 percent of West Bank land, according to Palestinian and Israeli sources. The scheduled route of the security fence incorporates between 5 and 8 percent of West Bank land. Palestinian cities in the West Bank cover approximately 40% of the West Bank land, leaving approximately 60% empty.
Simply put, Israeli settlements are not an obstacle to peace and never have been, and to say so is misleading. To say yes to peace, both sides need to come to the negotiating table and talk about new borders.
Jews are indigenous to the land and maintained a continuous presence for over 3,000 years according to archeological and historical evidence.
Jewish civilization in Israel was already over 1,000 years old when Rome destroyed the Holy Temple and conquered the Jewish nation in the first century.
Rome exiled only a portion of the population. The remaining Jews, banned from Jerusalem, flourished for centuries in other Jewish towns, such as Yavne, Rafah, Gaza, Ashkelon, Jaffa and Caesarea.
The Jewish population was decimated by the Crusaders in the 12th century AD, but it rebounded in the next centuries and grew as Jews returned in waves of immigration and settled in Safed, Jerusalem, Tiberius and Hebron.
After 1850, the Jewish population grew further. By the 1870s, Jews once again were the majority religious group in Jerusalem. Early modern Zionists began purchasing land and establishing thriving communities like Tel Aviv (1909), even while the land was still ruled by the Ottoman Empire.
Israelis enjoy the same civil liberties and human rights as citizens of America and other advanced, western-style democracies. The right to vote is universal. Israel has more political parties—there were 19 in 2004—than most other parliamentary democracies. They range from extreme left to extreme right and from religious to secular. Israel also has one of the freest media in the world and is famous for its self-criticism and blistering debates.
Israeli women and minorities are protected by laws that in some cases are more progressive than those of other democracies. There is legal protection against religious persecution. Gays are protected against discrimination and hate crimes. Professor Uzi Even, an openly gay man, became a Knesset member in 2002. Education is encouraged equally for both men and women. Forty-five percent of women are in the workforce, the same percentage as in the U.S. Women have reproductive rights. Israel is the only Middle Eastern country that allows women to travel freely without a male guardian's permission. Israel treats honor killings as harshly as other murder crimes.
- Israel formally recognizes 15 religions, including Islam, the Báha'í and Druze faiths, as well as Chaldaic and many other Christian denominations, and others. Each religious community freely exercises its faith, observes its own holy days and weekly day of rest, and administers its own internal affairs. Israel protects the holy sites of all religions.
- Israel is the only Middle Eastern country where the Christian population is thriving instead of disappearing. Between 1948 and 1998, Israel's Christians grew fourfold, from 34,000 to 130,000.
- The Báha'ís, a religious group persecuted in Muslim countries, built its world center in Haifa, Israel.
- Israel's non-Jewish minority forms about 20 percent of the population and is made up of Arab Muslims, Arab Christians, non-Arab Christians, Druze, Bedouins, Circassians, Asians and others. Eighty percent of Israelis are Jews of different ethnicities and races from Arab countries, Ethiopia, India, Russia, the former Soviet Union republics, Latin America, the U.S. and Europe. Refugees from Arab and Muslim Middle Eastern and North African countries and their descendants make up over half the Jewish popuation.
- In 1948, almost all of the 160,000 Palestinian-Arabs who remained within Israel's borders became citizens. Today, Israeli-Arab citizens have equal civil and human rights as all other Israeli citizens.
- There are 1.3 million Israeli-Arabs now living in Israel, making up almost 20 percent of the population.
- Hebrew and Arabic are Israel's two official languages.
- There are five official Israeli-Arab political parties.
- Three Israeli-Arabs were elected to the first Knesset. Israeli-Arabs have held as many as 12 of the 120 seats in the Israeli Parliament at one time.
- All Arab municipalities receive government funding for education and infrastructure.
- Many Israeli-Arabs hold high-level positions, such as
- Salim Jurban, selected a permanent member of Israel's Supreme Court (2004)
- Nawaf Massalha, deputy Foreign Minister
- Ali Yahya, Walid Mansour and Mohammed Masarwa, who held ambassadorships
- Major General Hussain Fares, commander of Israel's border police
- Major General Yosef Mishlav, head of homeland security as Israel's Home Front commander
- Israel has enacted affirmative action policies to help its minority citizens achieve full social and economic equality.
Hezbollah's strategy of hiding among civilians, launching attacks from civilian centers such as schools and mosques, and deliberately endangering noncombatants violates the Fourth Geneva Convention and is a war crime according to international law.
"The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations."1 (Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Aug 12, 1949, art. 28)
"The Parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations."2 (Protocol Additional to the Geneva Convention, Article 51 (7))
1. Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, August 12, 1949.
2. Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions, Article 51 (7), June 8, 1977.
Apartheid was a system in South Africa under which a small minority of whites ruled over the larger black majority population. Apartheid subjected blacks to severe political, economic and social discrimination and segregation. They could not be citizens, vote, participate in the government or fraternize with whites. Israel, a democracy like the U.S., gives equal rights, liberties and protections to all its citizens. Israeli-Arabs participate as full and equal members in Israeli society. While Israel, like all multiethnic democracies, struggles with the disadvantages that its minorities experience, its laws try to eradicate—not endorse—discrimination.
Israel never formally annexed the West Bank or Gaza, and the Palestinians are not Israeli citizens and wish to have their own state. Today, Palestinians have their own government, the Palestinian Authority.
The international community has provided welfare for Palestinian refugees and their descendents since 1949 through the UN's Reliefs and Works Agency (UNRWA).
- The U.S., the largest single donor, contributed $2.87 billion between 1950 and 2002.
- In UNRWA's first 20 years, Israel contributed more than most Arab states to the program.
- Two percent of the UN's total budget goes to UNRWA, while 3 percent of the total goes to all other refugees in the world. The Palestinians have received "the highest per capita aid transfer in the history of foreign aid anywhere," reported World Bank official Nigel Roberts in February 2004.1
Between 1993 (in the Oslo Accords) and 2004, the international community donated approximately $7 billion to the PA treasury. At least half of that money is unaccounted for.
The PLO was "the richest of all terrorist organizations" with $8 billion to $10 billion in assets and an annual income of $1.5 billion to $2 billion, according to a 1993 British National Criminal Intelligence Service report. In 1999, England's Daily Telegraph reported the PLO had $50 billion in secret investments around the world.2
1. Ross Dunn, "End sleaze or lose aid, Arafat told," Scotsman, February 29, 2004.
2. Rachel Ehrenfeld, "Intifada Gives Cover to Arafat Graft and Fraud," Insight Magazine, June 22, 2001.
U.S. policy has been to assist both Israel and Arab states. Between 1947 and 1971, U.S. annual aid to Israel was $60 million, while the Arab States received $170 million. After 1970, the U.S. regarded Israel as a valuable strategic ally and increased its aid. It also continued to aid and/or sell arms to Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Yemen and the Gulf States.
The U.S. committed $2 billion/year to Egypt and $3 billion/year to Israel after the Israel-Egypt peace treaty of 1979.
The U.S. spends vastly more to protect the security of its other allies than it spends on Israel. This aid is in the U.S. defense budget, not in the foreign aid budget, because U.S. troops are deployed in or near their countries. The U.S. spends billions of dollars a year to keep troops in Europe and East Asia. It grants roughly the same amount of money to Israel each year as it spends for troops to protect South Korea.
Israel uses much of its grant money to purchase military equipment and other items from the U.S., creating jobs in America. The U.S. has never had to commit its own troops or risk American lives to protect Israel.
As its economy developed, Israel reduced its requests for U.S. economic aid by $120 million a year. They dropped from $1.2 billion (1998) to $360 million (2005).
U.S. aid and grants to Israel comprise only 2 percent of Israel's $140 billion-a-year economy.
U.S.-Israel partnerships have produced breakthroughs in technology and in biomedical, environmental and agricultural research, saving the U.S. substantial funds in research and development.
No natural barriers separate Israel and the West Bank. After 1967, Palestinians and Israelis traveled freely between the two areas. But when the terrorist campaign erupted in 2000, Israel had to prevent terrorists from easily entering Israeli communities. Just as the U.S. and other countries worldwide increased airport security procedures after 9/11, Israel instituted strict counterterrorism measures after the Intifada began.
Though they inconvenience Israelis and Palestinians, the purpose of the checkpoints and the security fence is to save lives. Security Fence: Israel did not begin building the fence until 2003, when terrorism reached unprecedented levels.
- The fence is similar to barriers that dozens of other democracies have built to keep out terrorists or illegal immigrants, such as the barriers between the U.S. and Mexico, India and Kashmir, Spain and Morocco, North and South Korea and even the walls within Belfast that separate Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods.
- Since construction of the fence began in 2003, the number of completed terrorist attacks has dropped by more than 90 percent.
- Ninety-seven percent of the barrier is only a chain-link fence; about 3 percent (10 miles) is a concrete wall, built to prevent sniper shooting prevalent in certain areas.
- Only 5 percent to 8 percent of the disputed West Bank land and less than 1 percent of Palestinians will end up on the Israeli side of the fence. 1
Palestinians can bring their specific grievances about the barrier to Israel's Supreme Court, which in several cases has ruled in favor of the Palestinian claimants, and the fence was rerouted. 2
1. David Makovsky and Anna Hartman, "Israel's Newly Approved Security Fence Route: Geography and Demography," The Washington Institute, March 3, 2005.
2. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "Summary of High Court of Justice Ruling on the Fence Surrounding Alfei Menashe," September 15, 2005.
It is perfectly legitimate to criticize Israel's policies. Israelis do it all the time in blistering debates. But criticism crosses the line into classic anti-Semitism when it exhibits what Natan Sharansky called the "Three Ds."
Delegitimization: The Jewish State has no right to exist. Israelis do not belong in the Middle East.
Double Standards: Israel is condemned harshly for self-defense measures and social problems that are seen as acceptable or inevitable in other nations.
Demonization: Through distortions and lies, Israel is depicted as the world's most evil and dangerous country, and the claim is made that if the Jewish State ceased to exist, the Middle East's—and the world's—main problems would be solved.
The Link: Anti-Semitism is hatred for Jews, their communities and their way of life. It includes demonizing and dehumanizing Jews as a group. Anti-Zionism is hatred for Israel, the modern center of Jewish life and continuity. This is why many people claim that Anti-Zionism, or hatred for Israel, is a modern variation of classical anti-Semitism. "Anti-Semitic bigotry is no less morally deplorable when camouflaged as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism," according to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.1
People of goodwill must try to see through anti-Israel propaganda in order to foster reasonable dialogue.
1. "Findings and Recommendations of the United States Commission on Civil Rights Regarding Campus Anti-Semitism," U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, April 3, 2006.
In response to anti-Israel propaganda, some campus and Church groups have recently called for divestment—withdrawing investments from companies that do business with Israel and boycotting their products—to cripple Israel's economy. These campaigns are one sided and serve to demonize Israel by omitting context. Boycotts and divestment resolutions:
- Blame only Israel for the conflict. They rarely acknowledge incitement, terrorism or the need for Israel to use counterterrorism measures.
- Distort historical facts and spread misinformation about Israel's counterterrorism actions and policies.
- Deny or ignore the steps that Israel has repeatedly taken to promote compromise and peace.
- Rarely condemn the Palestinian role in the continuing conflict.
Learn More at www.standwithus.com/BDS