The democracy that is Israel....
Lots to be proud of here...
The Jewish state of Israel is a diverse nation that has absorbed people from more than 140 countries. Among its population are about 1.5 million Arabs, including Israeli Knesset member Ahmad Tibi, who in a May 23 Times interview lashed out at Israel, using inflammatory words like "racist" and "fascist." As is his style, Tibi failed to back up his white-hot rhetoric with hard facts.
In 1947, Arab leaders rejected a United Nations resolution to form an Arab state alongside a Jewish one. This caused the displacement of some 600,000 Palestinian refugees. From that point forward, Arab nations have denied these Palestinians and their descendants citizenship and basic civil rights, including the right to own property, get an education or take out loans — rights held by Israeli Arabs.
Arab Israelis, who make up about 20% of the nation's population, enjoy equal rights, government representation and protection in Israel. They live freely in all parts of Israel, can use all public facilities, attend Israel's top universities and are contributing members of society. By no means is Israel the epitome of perfection, but we do aspire for equality for all our citizens. According to the Abraham Fund Initiative, since Israel's establishment in 1948, the number of schools in the Arab Israeli school system increased by more than fifteenfold; Hebrew schools grew by only five times. The number of classes offered in the Arab Israeli system increased more than seventeenfold, and since 1961 the literacy rate of Arab Israelis jumped from 49.6% to 90%, a clear indication of the educational opportunities offered to all our citizens.
Not only are Arabs treated equally as individual citizens, but their minority status is also recognized in some aspects by the government, with Arabic being an official language in Israel (alongside Hebrew) and Israeli Muslims having their own jurisdiction on religious issues (Sharia law) pertaining to members of their community, just like Jewish religious law at the Rabbinical courts. Additionally, Arab Israelis are citizens with full voting rights and can serve as elected members of the Knesset, as lawmaker Tibi does. It is true that Arab Israelis hold about 10% of the Knesset seats, a number that is disproportionate to their population. Perhaps this is because Arab Israelis are opting instead to vote for non-Arab parties or exercising their democratic right not to vote at all.
In his interview, Tibi made it clear that he has no intention of serving as a bridge between Israeli Arabs, Palestinians and Israeli Jews. But he also made it clear that he would never give up his Israeli citizenship or passport for a future Palestinian identity. And why would he? Would a Palestinian parliament allow a member to travel freely to an enemy state, such as the Arab Knesset members' recent public visit to Libya? Would a Palestinian parliament allow one of its members to serve as an adviser to a hostile government? For those who may not know, Tibi served as Yasser Arafat's adviser on Israeli affairs while simultaneously serving as a member of the Knesset.
Tibi knows that no Arab country would afford him the freedoms that the Jewish state does. After all, Arab Knesset members are even allowed to travel to Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, the terrorist organization that vows to exterminate the Jewish state. Israeli Arab lawmakers travel there to express their support, then return to their Knesset offices to make their case to Israeli and international media. Is any such freedom available in the Arab world? Of course not! Tibi knows this; he relies on such freedoms to do his work.