3.1.07

Truth at last, while breaking a U.S. taboo of criticizing Israel

ei: Truth at last, while breaking a U.S. taboo of criticizing Israel:

Anti-Arab bigotry is rarely condemned in Israeli public discourse, in which Palestinians are routinely construed as a 'demographic threat.' Palestinians in Israel's soccer league have played to chants of 'Death to Arabs!' Israeli academic Daniel Bar-Tal studied 124 Israeli school texts, finding that they commonly depicted Arabs as inferior, backward, violent, and immoral. A 2006 survey revealed that two-thirds of Israeli Jews would refuse to live in a building with an Arab, nearly half would not allow a Palestinian in their home, and 40 percent want the government to encourage emigration by Palestinian citizens. Last March, Israeli voters awarded 11 parliamentary seats to the Israel Beitenu Party, which advocates drawing Israel's borders to exclude 500,000 of its current Palestinian citizens.

Some say that Palestinian citizens in Israel enjoy better circumstances than those in surrounding Arab countries. Ironically, white South Africans made identical claims to defend their version of apartheid, as is made clear in books such as Antjie Krog's Country of My Skull.

Americans are awakening to the costs of our unconditional support of Israel. We urgently need frank debate to chart policies that honor our values, advance our interests, and promote a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. It is telling that it took a former president, immune from electoral pressures, to show the way.

The debate should now be extended. Are Israel's founding ideals truly consistent with democracy? Can a state established in a multiethnic milieu be simultaneously 'Jewish' and 'democratic'? Isn't strife the predictable yield of preserving the dominance of Jews in Israel over a native Palestinian population? Does our unconditional aid merely enable Israel to continue abusing Palestinian rights with impunity, deepening regional hostilities and distancing peace? Isn't it time that Israel lived by rules observed in any democracy - including equal rights for all?

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