In recent statements, US Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has raised concerns to say the least. During a conference for the progressive Netroots Nation over the weekend, she made a public announcement that Israel is a racist state, stating, ‘I want you to know that we have been fighting to make it clear that Israel is a racist state…’ It is apparent to me that it is due time for disclosure.
While modern society respects the freedom of expression and diverse opinions, it is disconcerting to witness a sitting congresswoman making such a brazen claim. Such a declaration reveals a deep-seated radicalism that necessitates aggressive scrutiny. This is not only due to the magnitude of the accusation but also because the claim is unequivocally false.
When one spends any amount of time physically in Israel, a striking revelation emerges: the international media often presents a grossly inaccurate portrayal of the realities on the ground, particularly concerning Israel’s relationship with its Arab population and the neighboring Palestinians. Whether on European or US streets, university campuses, or random corners, one frequently encounters those aggressively promoting anti-Israel rhetoric, using terms like “apartheid”, “occupiers,” and other slogans that convey in many cases anti-Semitic undertones.
This misrepresentation tends to paint the Arab population as innocent, peace-loving victims enduring mistreatment and ethnic cleansing by the perceived malevolent Israeli regime. The common arguments put forth revolve around claims of Israel being an apartheid state, violently violating human rights, fiercely discriminating against all resemblance of Arab. Additionally, some prescribe to the assumption that Israelis and Arabs inherently harbor hatred towards one another and are unable to coexist peacefully on any degree.
However, a firsthand encounter with Israel unveils a profoundly contrasting reality. Amidst acknowledging the existence of conflicts and challenges, the abundant visual evidence distinctly showcases a landscape of cooperation, mutual understanding, and a common yearning for peace between Israelis and Arabs. Regrettably, genuine endeavors to cultivate dialogue and foster collaboration are frequently disregarded in entirety, leading to the continuous perpetuation of misguided narratives within the international realm. It is imperative to address these subtle nuances with precision, for they hold the key to promoting accurate and informed discussions, as well as fostering the realization of enduring peace in the region.
Having relocated to Israel, my firsthand experience has entirely dispelled the flagrantly erroneous claims. Allow us to examine some undeniable facts, many of which I have personally witness on a daily basis.
Were you aware that there are more than 160 officially recognized Arab localities in Israel? Let us revisit that number. Over 160, predominantly populated by Arab Muslims and Christians? Not to mention Arab communities thriving in population by the thousands in major Israeli cities such as Haifa, Yafo, Jerusalem, Ramle, Akko, Lod, Nazareth, Nof Hagalil, and Beersheva, among others. Remarkably, the town I currently reside in nestles itself warmly beside an Arab Muslim town which maintains its historical name from before the modern state of Israel’s birth and enjoys harmonious relations with its Jewish neighbors. In close proximity on the other side of the hill another Arab town mirrors this image.
The strength of this case extends beyond the mere presence of Arabs in these regions. It lies in the compelling evidence of their seamless integration within Israeli society. A simple stroll invariably brings encounters with Arab individuals, confidently adorned in religious attire, seamlessly engaging in everyday activities like shopping at malls or enjoying picnics on the beach. The notable fact that an astounding 30 percent of Israel’s doctors share Arab descent speaks volumes about their significant contributions to diverse professions across our borders.
To merely suggest that Arab citizens enjoy the same freedoms, rights, and protections as their Jewish counterparts would be a considerable understatement. They navigate life without the burden of undue prejudice or animosity from the decent majority. Notably, parks and playgrounds serve as living testaments to the harmonious coexistence of secular Jews, religious Jews, secular Arabs, and religious Arabs, all united in the pursuit of shared life experiences. Furthermore, the unimpeded access Arab citizens have to sacred sites, exemplified by their visits to the Western Wall, epitomizes their unrestricted religious expression and the freedom to move about freely within the nation. Direct observations attest to the fact that Arab Israelis lead lives replete with freedom, rights, and religious practices on par with any Jewish citizen residing in Israel.
Among the approximately 9 million inhabitants in Israel, an intriguing fact emerges: 2 million of Israel’s populace are Arab, constituting a significant 21 percent or 1/5 of the entire population. These figures are astounding, especially when retaining the knowledge that it stands alone as the sole Jewish state in the region amid a roster of more than 22 countries identifying as Arab.
But perhaps these numbers are not sufficiently enlightening. Consider this: Arab Muslims actively serve in the Knesset, Israel’s governmental body. Furthermore, the count of mosques within Israel proper has experienced a remarkable five-fold increase since 1988, now exceeding 400. Remarkably, over 1000 Muslims contribute their services to the Israeli Defense Forces, a testament to the inclusivity of this institution, additionally adjusting its training regimen to accommodate Ramadan.
Additionally, Israel’s commitment to fostering harmonious respect is evident through its employment of more than 300 Imams and Muezzins, who are supported by the government and receive Quranic resources supplied by the state. A whopping 28 percent of clerics employed or financed by the state. It is noteworthy that the Israeli government extends financial support to numerous Arab schools and colleges, with many imparting Islamic education to their students.
Were you aware that Arabic holds a prominent position as one of the main languages in Israel, evident in its pervasive presence on every street sign and major road sign, attesting to the nation’s commitment to linguistic inclusivity? In 2015, the Israeli Government underscored its dedication to the development of the Arab sector by allocating an impressive budget ranging from 10 to 15 billion shekels. A noteworthy reflection of educational progress is observed at the esteemed Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa, where the number of Arab undergraduates nearly doubled from 2001 to 2014, reaching a substantial 21 percent representation.
As we also delve beyond Israel’s borders proper, a comprehensive understanding necessitates a momentary examination of Gaza and the West Bank.
Frequently, the notion propagated about Gaza being an “Open Prison” where Israel allegedly subjects the population to torture and starvation requires critical examination of the actual facts. As of 2022, approximately 11,000 Gazan workers possessed entry permits, enabling them to work in Israel informally. Notably, the government took measures to regulate Gazan employment by allocating 20,000 work permits to Gazans, signifying Israel’s efforts to provide economic opportunities for the Palestinian population.
Moreover, Israel actively facilitates the entry of humanitarian supplies into the Gaza Strip, prioritizing the well-being of the civilian populace, despite the territory being governed by Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization openly advocating for the elimination of the Jewish State and everything Jewish. (sound racist?) In the face of such adversities, Israel displays a humanitarian approach, offering assistance and opportunities, only to receive homemade rockets in return as expressions of gratitude. Paradoxically, Israel is unfairly labeled as racist, despite its continued commitment to ameliorating symptoms of hatred and racism.
In this discourse, it is essential not to overlook the fact that Gaza shares its border with Egypt, which, too, has erected a wall to regulate movement.
Concerning the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, the Israeli Security cabinet recently authorized strategic measures to prevent collapse of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. These proposals, bolstered by the security establishment, encompass multifaceted approaches, including economic, travel, and security measures, designed to stabilize the region.
It is crucial to recognize that the Palestinian Authority has been known to endorse and even financially reward families of terrorists responsible for heinous acts against innocent Israelis, solely due to their Jewish identity. Despite these disconcerting actions, Israel is inexplicably labeled as racist.
The paradoxical nature of such accusations becomes apparent when juxtaposed against Israel’s efforts to stabilize and bolster the Palestinian leadership, even in the face of violence and brutal terrorism directed towards its own citizens. Which in turn is celebrated openly in the streets of their cities as a national holiday with the passing out of sweets to the populace.
My detour, ultimately serves to underscore the crux of the matter. The undeniable truth is that Israel stands far from being a racist state; on the contrary, it exemplifies a harmonious coexistence between Israeli Jews and Arabs. Together, they forge symbiotic bonds across various spheres, including business and trade, academia, medicine, sports, agriculture, and even in serving jointly in the army and in the Knesset.
Despite navigating through real and delicate complications, Israel faces a discriminatory disposition from both its closest and distant neighbors within the global community. Nonetheless, Israel perseveres in extending a compassionate hand, offering assistance and protection even to those who harbor animosity towards it. A true beacon of hope and illumination, Israel stands as a testament to the resilience of unity amid adversity.
Indeed, every nation faces its share of challenges and complexities, and Israel is no exception. However, amidst these inherent difficulties, a resolute desire for peace prevails among the majority of Jews and Arabs, both at the individual human level and within the realm of governmental affairs. This commitment to peace is exemplified by recent milestones like the Abraham Accords, where Israel forged significant peace and normalization agreements with nations like the U.A.E and Bahrain.
As a parent picking up my young daughter from kindergarten and accompanying her to the park, I witness a profound reality that the world may be oblivious to or, perhaps, chooses to disregard. In this ordinary setting, I see religious Muslims, secular Arabs, religious Jews, secular Jews, Ethiopians, and others seamlessly existing, living their lives, and cherishing moments with their children in a climate of peace. The evidence attests to the fact that Israel stands as a paragon of non-racism, upholding the dignity and respect of its Arab community.
Perhaps a helpful gesture would involve providing Congresswoman Jayapal with a transformative opportunity to experience firsthand the reality in Israel through a sponsored trip without the blindfolds on.