On campuses across the United States, Israel is being accused of human rights violations. The accusations are so many and so detailed that even relatively well informed pro-Israel students are often at a loss to refute them. The damage is especially great when the charges come from Jews, such as the South African Richard Goldstone, or from actual Israelis. And when official spokespersons for Israel come to campus and attempt to set the record straight for a non-specialist audience, they are often heckled and shouted down before they can present the relevant history and geopolitical facts.
Jonathan Ben-Artzi, a nephew of Netanyahu, is one of a number of Israelis who have won notoriety in recent years for denouncing Israel. In an article in the Christian Science Monitor on April 1, he compared Israel to Apartheid South Africa, and made other charges as well. These charges, although widely publicized, are false.
I am not a Jew, but many years ago I decided to make my home in Israel. Non-Jews of all ethnicities may apply to reside under the umbrella of Israeli authority, but like most other countries, Israel has rules and procedures regarding resident status and citizenship. I applied and now hold “permanent residency,” which entitles me to all the rights and privileges of citizenship except the ability to vote in the National election, the equivalent of a US “green card.”
Granted, in the world’s only Jewish state, Jews have special status. In 1950, Israel passed a Law of Return enabling Jews from around the world to immigrate. The Law was amended in 1970: “The rights of a Jew under this Law and the rights of an oleh [Jewish immigrant, literally ascender] under the Nationality Law… are also vested in a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew.” Over the years, the Knesset [Israeli parliament] has discussed and argued and addressed expanding specific policies. Today, Israel has 5.7 million Jewish citizens, as well as 1.5 million Arab (Muslim, Christian, Druze, etc.) citizens and 0.3 million citizens of other background.
Contrary to what many academics and others in the USA claim, the Arab citizens of Israel may and do vote and serve as Knesset members, government officials and even Supreme Court Justices. Jews, Arabs and others have and use free access to the beaches of Netanya, Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Eilat. We sit in cafes together, work together, shop in malls and open-air markets, and wait together in our post office lines! Benjamin Pogrund, who moved to Israel after a career as an anti-apartheid journalist in South Africa, has addressed the use of the word apartheid as “an epithet of abuse” for Israel. “If true,” he wrote, “it would be a grave charge, justifying international condemnation and sanctions. But it isn’t true. Anyone who knows what apartheid was, and who knows Israel today, is aware of that.”
One of my heroes, Martin Luther King Jr. devoted his entire life to fighting oppression. He knew a little something about apartheid and where it was authentically being employed. A few weeks before his tragic death Dr. King said, “I see Israel, and never mind saying it, as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy.”
The lie about Israel’s denial of water rights to Palestinians is typical of the kind of” beating your wife accusation” that is commonly made against Israel. Here are the facts: Israel obtains 50% of its water from the Sea of Galilee and the Coastal Aquifer, both of which lie inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders. Another 30% comes from the Western and Northeastern Aquifers of the Mountain Aquifer system. These two aquifers straddle the so-called “Green Line” boundary of the West Bank, but most of their water lies under pre-1967 Israel and is easily accessible only in Israel. In the 1950s, Israel used 95% of the Western aquifer’s water, and 82% of the Northern aquifer’s water. Today, Israel uses only 83% and 80% respectively; the Palestinian share of these aquifers has actually increased. Moreover, “every year over 40 MCM (million cubic meters) of water from sources within Israel is piped over the Green Line for Palestinian use in the West Bank. Ramallah, for example, receives over 5 MCM. And despite the virtural declaration of war against Israel by the Hamas rulers of Gaza, Israel still sends to Gaza another 4 MCM of Israeli water annually.”
A very popular accusation that is once again appearing monthly on USA campuses is one that most students can relate to-use of roads. This of course resonates will most of us-what better life event to complain about than the roads we travel upon. The accusation is that Israel segregates its roads and does not permit Palestinians to drive on them. In November 2009, stories claimed that Israel’s Route 505 was a Jews-only road, a settler road. Palestinian sources, when contacted, confirmed the false report. In fact, no roads in the West Bank or Gaza are open only to settler traffic. However, since the violent Palestinian uprising against Israel, in which scores of Israelis have been shot on West Bank roads, use of certain roads has been prohibited to private Palestinian vehicles. The Palestinian leadership signed the Oslo Accords, which provide for Israeli jurisdiction in areas in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria and enable Israel to stop traffic during emergencies – times of shootings, bombings and the like – for public protection, just as other governments do.
Israel left Gaza in 2005. However, another false accusation is that Israel has created the “largest open air prison.” This is right out of the “playbook” of Israel’s enemies and yet we see “academics” perpetuating the lie. A quick glance at a map will show that Gaza borders on Egypt–a Muslim-Arab state. Ask the accusers about the traffic flow, both above and below ground, between Egypt and Gaza. Or ask about the trucks carrying goods and materials that enter Gaza regularly via Israel. Or about the number of patients who travel from Gaza to Israel for free medical care. Or about how Israel provides gas and water to Gaza, even though the Gazans are our sworn enemies, who fire rockets onto Israel’s civilian population and attempt to kill its people on a weekly basis? Did you know they plant bombs to kill Israelis?
Meanwhile, thousands of West Bank Palestinians have permits to enter Israel (for work, study and other purposes), and east Jerusalem residents (other than Jews, who have access only to the Wailing Wall) have free access to the Temple Mount. During periods of heightened violence, access is usually limited to men over the age of 45 or 50 and women of all ages. One such restricted period fell earlier this month, as Hamas called a “day of rage,” inciting violence on the Temple Mount and beyond. The fact that intermittent closures and restrictions are the exception, as opposed to the rule, is apparent from the media reports, which note the beginning or the end of a more restrictive period.”
As is often reported, the United States provides nearly $3 billion in military aid to Israel. That is not just a handout. By law, 70% of these dollars must be spent on American made/built military material, munitions, weapons, and vehicles. Thus those dollars return to the US economy, keeping thousands of Americans employed and able to pay taxes. Israel’s high tech industry is the envy of the world and attracts US investors, again sending dollars back into the US economy.
Finally, it is true that certain governments near the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria do not offer citizenship to Palestinian Arabs. Those countries include Jordan and Lebanon. Reporting accurately and honestly the facts enables individuals to arrive at informed conclusions-people with integrity assume this responsibility.
GS Don Morris is a member of the Board of Directors of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.
 Water Rights. Alex Safian, PhD, October 29,2009. http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_print=1&x_context=7&x_issue=12&x_article=1756
 Palestinian entry into Israel http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=55&x_article=1821
 List_of_Checkpoint.xls www.btselem.org