Israel is a vibrant country without peer in ways that Americans would appreciate if they were aware of them. Yet as a result of Israel’s depiction in the mainstream media, Israel’s image in the United States and elsewhere inverts reality. Given the war we are in and Israel’s status as one of America’s crucial allies, it is important that we begin to get the story straight. Let me take just a few examples that occur to me as I reflect on our visit to Israel this week.
1. Image: Israeli society is oppressive and militarized. Reality: Israel is one of the freest countries in the world. Almost unbelievably, its Arab citizens enjoy more rights protected under the rule of law than Arab citizens of every other country in the Middle East. Even during wartime, it protects the freedom of the press to such an extent that it has contributed to the enemy’s efforts. The Israeli military is a citizens’ army that reflects the principles of a free people committed to the preservation of human rights.
2. Image: Israel is riven by religious and ethnic differences, heedless of the concerns of anyone but Jews. Reality: Israel is a genuinely multicultural society. It has of course welcomed Jewish refugees from all over the world, including those persecuted in other Middle Eastern countries waging a propaganda war against Israel as an alleged violator of human rights. Israel protects the freedom of all believers to practice their religion. Israel is an incredibly scrupulous guardian of the shrines and historic sites of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. By contrast, those who were paying attention in 2002 saw how Arafat’s minions treated the Church of the Nativity and its clergy. Less well known, for example, are the maniacal desecration of Joseph’s tomb by Palestinians in 2000 and the desecration of Jewish graves in Jerusalem by Arabs under the jurisdicton of Jordan before the city was united by Israel as a result of the 1967 war.
3. Image: Israel is a brutal country lacking in civil society. Reality: It has built all the institutions necessary for the cultivation of democracy. Individual rights are protected by the rule of law. Its court system protects the rights of all citizens and jealously exerts supremacy over the legislative and executive branches of the government. In every area of modern life Israel, from business to the arts, Israel boasts a genius that on a per capita basis is unrivaled. It has become a high tech hotbed.
4. Image: Israel is glum country devoted to war. Reality: Israelis are a people who enjoy life to such an extent that they want nothing more than to be left alone by their neighbors. Its three largest cities radiate life. Jerusalem projects intense spiritual power. Tel Aviv is a magnificent resort city with stunning beaches and nonstop night life. Haifa is a strikingly beautiful seaport and home of the Bah
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill
“Proclaim Liberty throughout All the land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.” Inscription on the Liberty Bell