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Articles by IAM Associates
Libeling Israeli Democracy

 IAM's investigative report, 12/11/07

By Joel Amitai


Last Thursday Mu’taz al-Kurdi, owner of a private TV station in Hebron, was arrested by Palestinian Authority security forces. His offense—a few days earlier the station broadcast a press conference with Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh. Fatah, now officially in charge in the West Bank, views Gaza-based Hamas as its political rival.


The Jerusalem Post reports that according to PA officials, “the decision to arrest al-Kurdi came directly from the office of PA president [and celebrated “moderate”] Mahmoud Abbas. Although he was released the next day, his TV station has been closed down until further notice.”


The arrest and closure “sparked fierce protests from Palestinian
journalists, who accused Abbas’s security forces of waging a campaign of intimidation against them. Several Palestinian journalists and media organizations have been targeted by Fatah’s security forces in the West Bank over the past few months. . . . Al-Kurdi is the third journalist to be arrested by [these] forces in the past few days. The other two . . . are still in detention [and] are accused of publishing reports that ‘reflect positively on Hamas.’”


This kind of oppression should come as no surprise since it is typical of the Arab world. For instance, the two Arab countries that have signed peace treaties with Israel, Egypt and Jordan, don’t get high ratings for freedom from Freedom House. Egypt is “not free” with scores of 6 for political rights and 5 for civil liberties (scale of 1 to 7, with 1 as the highest); Jordan is “partly free” with respective scores of 5 and 4.


Freedom House, however, rates Israel “free” with scores of 1 for political rights and 2 for civil liberties. Japan, for example, gets the exact same ratings. Among the democracies, though, Israel is the only one surrounded by hostile nondemocracies, and its own high level of democratic freedoms is a unique achievement.


It is all the more bizarre, then, that far-Left Israeli academics
regularly cast Israeli oppression as the key to the long-term conflict that besets Israel.


For instance, Anat Matar, professor of philosophy at Tel Aviv University, said last June in explaining why she backed an anti-Israeli boycott: “Israel is regarded by its Western allies as an open, liberal democracy. It is not.... For more than two thirds of its existence, Israel has been occupying the Palestinian territories and,
in recent years, the severity of this occupying regime has been greatly intensified.”

Yaron Ezrahi, professor of political science at Hebrew University, is quoted as calling Israel’s “occupation”—entirely removed in Gaza and now mainly consisting of life-saving security work in the West Bank—“a classic colonial enterprise” using an “apartheid system.” Ezrahi “readily defends a book by former President Jimmy Carter, whose title—‘Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid’ — provoked American Jewish critics to vilify the 39th president as an anti-Semite.” Ezrahi himself said: “If Carter were to give a lecture in Jerusalem and he were to say this is apartheid in the West Bank, I would say, yes, I support you. This is exactly the case.”

Adi Ophir, associate professor at Tel Aviv University’s Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, speaks of  “the fragmentation of space, the systematic destruction of the infrastructure of Palestinian society and all the other aspects of continuous destruction that Israel brings about by its occupation of the Palestinian territory…. Israel rules the [territories] by a variety of military, geographic, architectonic and economic means that create conditions of a chronic disaster and bring the population to the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe, without ever crossing that threshold.”

Such Israeli academics seem too busy using their freedom of speech to level such ferocious libels at Israel to be able to consider some glaring questions:

1. From a standpoint of democratic freedoms, why is it so axiomatically desirable to return Gaza and the West Bank to Arab rule (before Israel’s “occupation” began in 1967 they were not ruled by the Palestinians themselves but, respectively, by Egypt and Jordan). Does the current Islamist rule of Hamas in Gaza constitute Matar, Ezrahi, or Ophir’s idea of progress?—or the West Bank Arab-nationalist thugocracy of Fatah? Would these Israeli academics want to live under these regimes? Why do they not mention the infinitely superior situation under “Israeli occupation” until 1993, when living standards and literacy drastically increased in these territories, infant mortality was drastically reduced and life expectancy rose sharply, and seven
universities were established whereas previously there were none?
 Would not a genuine concern for the Palestinians have led such Israeli
academics and others to help the Palestinians achieve human
rights and freedom of speech within the territories, instead of working obsessively to remove the Israeli presence? But then they would not have been glorified, and perceived by others and themselves, as "freedom fighters."

2. Since Israel is indeed a democracy meeting the highest or near-highest standards of rights and freedoms, why do such academics bash it as a crafty, diabolical actor seeking to crush the aspirations of others? Democracies are known to be the most peaceful of the world’s countries, avoiding war with each other and seeking to avoid it with nondemocratic countries and forces. Why do the likes of Matar, Ezrahi, and
Ophir—while enjoying the full fruits of Israeli democracy including the prerogative to exploit their prestige as taxpayer-supported academics to vilify their country relentlessly—not give Israel credit for the benignity of its rule in the territories until 1993 and its efforts since then—however misguided—to grant the Palestinians the independence for which they supposedly yearn? 




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