In the summers of 2004 and 2007 I had the pleasure of traveling to the land of Israel where my father grew up and has family there. On my first trip there I did not know what to expect as I did not grow up in the Jewish community and my mother was not born Jewish (although she did convert before marrying my father).
My first impression of Israel was that it was similar to Canada with regards to Human Rights, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, and Democracy. At the same time it was also very different (besides the weather) as it is the only free democracy in the entire Middle East. While Canada has a friendly neighbour such as the United States, Israel is surrounded by hostile neighbours that would like to see nothing more then its existence exterminated.
That is also exactly what Mr. Brian Latour would also like to see. In the August 17th, 2010 edition of the Manitoban, Mr. Brian Latour wrote a very racist, anti-peace, and hateful letter titled “Two Weeks in Palestine and Israel”. In his letter Mr. Brian Latour claims wild accusations that Israel is engaged in state sponsored racism against its own minority population and that is an obstacle to peace in the region. These accusations however are very far from the truth. The reality about Israel is that it is a multi ethnic and multi cultural society that respects human rights, democracy, and freedom of religion, the right to free speech, and more. Its current population is estimated to be a bit over seven million people, in which around eighteen to twenty percent of the population is estimated to be either ethnic or religious minorities.
These minorities however (which include the Druze, Bedouin, Circassians, Christian Arabs, Muslim Arabs, and Baha’i) have the exact same rights and privileges that their fellow Jewish counterparts have. There are three major Arab political parties that were democratically elected and serve in the Knesset (Balad, Hadash, and United Arab List). Israel is also the first and only country in the Middle East that allows people who are LGBT to have full rights, have Gay pride parades in cities such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, allows LGBT individuals to serve in the army, and the Israeli government even honours same sex marriages.
Mr. Brian Latour claims he visited Israel this summer and witnessed how “racist and fascist” Israeli society is., Hhowever, the Ddeputy Israeli Consulate General in San Francisco, Ishmael Khaldi, (who is an Israeli Bedouin,) refutes that false accusation when responding on April 22March 4,nd 2010 to Israeli Apartheid Week. IAW week Hhe said,” “I am a proud Israeli – along with many other non-Jewish Israelis such as Druze, Bahai, Bedouin, Christians and Muslims, who live in one of the most culturally diversified societies and the only true democracy in the Middle East. Like America, Israeli society is far from perfect, but let us deals honestly. By any yardstick you choose — — educational opportunity, economic development, women and gay’s rights, freedom of speech and assembly, legislative representation — — Israel’s minorities fare far better than any other country in the Middle East.”
This is why I support Israel, because Israel represents a beacon of democracy and human rights in the Middle East. This exists in no other country in the region. There are gross human right violations in most Middle Eastern countries; such as Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, etc. Yet Mr. Brian Latour refuses to condemn the actions of these states that violate human rights on a daily basis! Where was he when the regime in Iran practiceds state sponsored terrorism on its own population? Where was he when Sudan was committing genocide in Darfur? He was busy trying to demonize the only country in the region that respects human rights and law. He was busy trying to divide Arab’s and Jews from creating peace in the Middle East. Thank God that most rationale individuals do not subscribe to his extremist and racist views, and that most individuals wish for peace in the Middle East.
Peace in the Middle East will occur when people work together to build bridges, trust, and respect each other. Not when people write articles such as Mr. Brian Latour’s, which drive people apart instead of bringing them together.
Paul Meyerson is Israel Affair’s Chair of Hillel/JSA for the University of Winnipeg