Friday, April 23, 2010
The Real Lesson to be Learned from Israel Apartheid Week
The Middle East has no shortage of regimes enforcing different varieties of apartheid.
The eminent civil libertarian Alan Dershowitz places Saudi Arabia first on any list of those repressive regimes. For starters, it practices gender apartheid, sexual orientation apartheid and religious apartheid.
Saudi Arabia prohibits women from working alongside men or even driving cars. It imprisons and executes gays and lesbians. It prohibits open religious observance to all but Muslims. Even during the first Gulf War, when America was saving the Saudis from being destroyed by Saddam Hussein, our soldiers were prohibited from praying!
Needless to say, Saudi Arabia doesn't permit Jews to live there.
The "moderates" among the Palestinian Arabs, led by Fatah, PLO and PA chair Mahmoud Abbas, insist that their future state - if they ever stop rejecting its establishment - be ethnically cleansed of any Jewish presence. They've already made it a crime to sell land to a Jew. And not just any crime, but a capital crime, punishable by execution.
Even the most moderate, pro-Western of the Arab countries, Jordan, bars Jews from citizenship or even owning property. This is even though Jordan encompasses nearly eighty percent of the territory of the Palestinian Mandate, envisioned as the Jewish homeland in the Balfour Declaration.
There is one exception in the Middle East, one country which is a liberal, Western-oriented democracy, one country which shares most of the same core values as America, one country which cannot reasonably be accused of practicing any form of apartheid.
That country is Israel.
In Israel, Arabs, Jews, Muslims, Christians and dozens of other national and religious groups live together as citizens with equal legal rights. A Druze member of the Knesset, Majallie Whbee, even served as Israel's president for a few days three years ago while Israel's acting president was visiting America!
Members of all these groups own homes and use the same parks, beaches, stores and government services in the country one Israeli described to me not as a melting post but as a stew.
I just returned from two months as a volunteer in that "stew," experiencing first hand the blending of the different ethnic ingredients.
I volunteered peeling potatoes and dicing carrots alongside Arabs and Muslims in a Meir Panim soup kitchen directed by a religious Jew and serving mostly elderly Russian immigrants.
I spent time volunteering at Laniado Hospital, founded by an ultra-Orthodox rebbe, with doctors, nurses and patients coming from all ethnic and religious backgrounds, the professionals working together and all the patients treated with respect.
I visited Connecticut's Partnership 2000 twin, Afula and Gilboa, where Connecticut's Jewish Federations have funded programs for Arab-Jewish coexistence and where the mayor of Gilboa, Danny Atar, every day goes into the Palestinian Authority to work with the mayor of Jenin to improve the lives of the Palestinian Arabs living there.
Ha'Emek Medical Center in Afula also employs Arab and Jewish doctors, working together. During the worst of the Arab terror offensive launched after Yasser Arafat rejected peace and the establishment of an independent Palestinian Arab state, He'Emek equally treated both the terrorists and their Israeli victims, sometimes putting terrorist and victim in the same hospital room.
I also visited Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, which of course also has an integrated staff and serves everyone without regard to nationality or religion. I saw the reinforced checkpoint outside the bomb-proof, concrete-reinforced emergency rooms, where even Magen David Adom ambulances are stopped and searched before their patients are allowed to pass. (Of course, I was also checked before entering the hospital.)
I saw the special "VIP" emergency room, used for patients who require bodyguards, the emergency room to which Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was taken when he suffered a stroke. Amazingly, when Arab terrorists survive their own terror attacks and can be saved with medical treatment, they are taken to the same emergency room and given the same level of care as the Israeli prime minister!
Clearly, the contrast between Israel and its neighbors could not be greater, leading Alan Dershowitz to propose that a "Middle East Apartheid Education Week" be held at universities around the world. It's a proposal one would expect to be wholeheartedly endorsed by true human rights advocates.
Presently, impressionable students are subjected to something quite different, a two week long festival of hate-filled anti-Israel propaganda called "Israeli Apartheid Week."
There is one valuable lesson true students can take from Israeli Apartheid Week: As with the false accusations of Israeli apartheid, one should always react to accusations made against Israel with a healthy degree of skepticism. Most of the time, not only are they false, but those same accusations would be justified if they were made against Israel's enemies.
Alan H. Stein, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Mathematics of the University of Connecticut, president of PRIMER-Connecticut, a media-monitoring organization whose acronym stands for "Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting," and is on the board of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater New Haven. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.