This is an issue that brings up strong emotions in people on all sides. In my view, this is not about the people of Israel versus the Palestinians. I believe in a two-state solution. I believe the Palestinian people have a right to their own homeland and I hope to see the day when Israel and a Palestinian state live side by side in peace. It is my hope that this article can help further an important discussion and bring us all closer towards some common ground. I write this article because I feel that Israel has all too often been subject to unfair criticism and I am seeking to set the record straight.
I am a strong supporter of Israel for three key reasons:
First, Israel has a strong democratic tradition and a love and respect for freedom and human rights. Second, despite the attacks and threats from Hezbollah (a Shi’a Islamist political and paramilitary organization based in Lebanon, also considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and Canada), Iran and Hamas (a Palestinian Islamic socio-political organization listed on the U.S. State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations), they still retain a generous spirit and act with amazing restraint, according to author Mitchell Bard. This spirit has been vividly demonstrated recently in the amazing efforts of Israeli doctors and humanitarians in Haiti. Third, the people of Israel have shown amazing courage in withstanding attack after attack, such as during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, (also known as the “2006 Lebanon war,” or the “July war” in Lebanon) and refuse to surrender to terror or give up their way of life.
Another threat is the terrorist organization Hamas. Hamas has in its very charter a pledge to destroy Israel. How do you negotiate with people who want you dead at all costs? Imagine how we would feel here in Canada, if we had to put up with the United States and Mexico calling for us to be wiped out and if the American Constitution contained “the destruction of Canada” as one of its amendments? This is the threat that looms over Israel every moment of every day. Hamas takes advantage of peace deals and cease-fires, to smuggle weapons into tunnels near Israel’s borders, and has launched vicious rocket attacks, most notably against the city of Sderot.
Some people in Canada often like to express solidarity with Israel’s opponents. But let’s take a look at the stated beliefs of some of Israel’s enemies. For instance, the worldview of Iran’s government leaves no rights for women, no rights for religious minorities and no rights for its LGBT* population. One needs only to look at Iran’s oppression of its own people, including the denial of rights to the Baha’i people, simply for practicing their own religion. For those who oppose Israel, it is important to take a second look at which nation in the Middle East most closely represents the values that you cherish.
Israel’s enemies do not believe in an open and democratic society. They seem to hate Israel because it is a free and fair country and is a clear rejection of their hateful worldview. Canadians who oppose Israel should give this some thought. We have much in common with Israel.
We cherish the same rights and freedoms as Israelis do. We seek progress and justice as they do. Contrast this with some of Israel’s neigbours. The denial of rights for women in Saudi Arabia is a clear example. Compared to some of the nations it shares the region with, Israel’s record on human rights stands head and shoulders above the rest.
The story of Israel is one of the most inspirational in our shared human history. Out of the unspeakable horror and human tragedy of the Holocaust, the Jewish people came together in their historic homeland and built a nation that today is one of the world leaders in technology, advancement and human rights.
Despite being one of the only Middle Eastern nations without vast reserves of oil, Israel has a living standard higher than much of the region. Israel leads the Middle East in women’s rights, human rights, protections for LGBT* people and protections for religious minorities. Israel has done all of this under the constant threat of attack, and with very little credit or recognition from the world.
Israel — a small nation, comprising about two per cent of the land of the Middle East — is a beacon of light and peace in a dark and violent region. It is important that we stand up against misrepresentations of Israel and make the facts known — we must make perfectly clear that Israel is not an occupying power. Israel is a legitimate country that has the same right to exist as every other nation on Earth. When it comes to Israel, let’s work together to set the record straight.
Spencer Fernando is a University of Manitoba student and a strong supporter of Israel.
18: http://www.hrw.org/en/rate/79258 www.hrw.org/en/rate/79258