Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Here is my latest (and probably final) exchange with Prof. Malcolm Levitt. Please note that it contains three texts. His last letter to me, in black, in which he quotes earlier material from me (in blue) and, finally, my responses to his letter, in red. Good luck with it. Forgive any typos or howlers, and overlook any repetition (almost inevitable). That said, do enjoy it.

By the way, it's long, so I have split it in two: you'll need to read the next post as well.

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My, my, Malcolm, you have given me a lot to think about this time round. However, I will try to do justice to your argument, and where I concede that you are right I will say so. On the whole, and as you may very well expect, I do not find your arguments as compelling as you might have hoped, much as you have not let yourself be much influenced by mine. But I do honestly trust that through this dialogue we may both come to appreciate the broad or specific thinking for which we both speak, albeit we speak as two people alienated from one another’s perceptions. How far it will develop I can’t tell, but as it is we only have glimpses of each other’s perceptions. Yet that is not a bad thing in itself. It may not move me closer to your viewpoint or you to mine, but it may leave us with a better understanding of those viewpoints.

Rather than repeat your technique of interpolating one letter with comments within the entire text, I propose to cite relevant passages from your last letter and to comment on them. I will leave your material in black and make my comments in red.

I will begin with your brief introductory paragraphs.

First, many of your critical points (and also those from others) are in the line of "why criticize Israel, when country XXX does far worse things". People who make such comments are usually unfamiliar with political activism and how it works. It's not some sort of (reverse) beauty contest in which you choose the absolutely worst human rights offender in the world at the particular moment in time and concentrate on that. The fact that a particular country is abusing human rights is sufficient to criticize it, and to try to do something about it.

While this makes some sense, it leaves the basic question unanswered. Many supporters of Israel are often critical of this or that policy and of evidence of human rights abuses where they occur. What we do not do is make a song and dance about Israel since we do not believe its abuses are serious enough to single it out. You will be familiar with the principle of triage in an emergency medical situation. The more badly injured someone may be, he moves towards the head of the queue, while those whose injuries are not life-threatening remain at the back. Nothing you say will convince me that Israel’s breaches of human rights are even a fraction of those committed by a country like Iran. Ordinary Iranians, a people I have known and loved since 1966, deserve considerable support from human rights organizations in the West, yet those organizations are parsimonious in the support they give. Most of the time the governments and NGOs are too busy condemning Israel or supporting a wide range of boycotts, apartheid week events, and flotillas of junk for them to come to the aid, verbal or otherwise, of those who most desperately need their help. Everyone is frightened of Iran, with the result that one of the most obnoxious regimes on earth gets away scot-free with its executions, tortures, and repression, while all the time building nuclear weapons for use against Israel and others of its enemies. Israel does not hang gays, doers not even imprison adulterers, does not persecute its Baha’i minority, treats patients from its chief enemy state in its own hospitals, and has an exemplary record regarding human rights. It often makes mistakes, owing to pressure from different political forces, but it does better than other countries that are never indicted.
But you choose to move Israel to the very top of the triage queue. While men and women bleed and die in many other countries, you push a democratic, human rights-observant state to the front, as though your political preoccupations give you the right to pass over the Iranian dissidents, the Baha’is, Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians who may be Iranian citizens yet are treated as if they were nobody at all.
It is also important to take account of context. By this I mean that Israel, unlike the UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Canada, Australia, the US or any other Western democracy, faces an existential threat. Iran is building nuclear weapons with the express aim of attacking and destroying Israel. Hamas, Hizbullah, Fatah and every other jihadist group in the world makes the destruction of the Jewish state its fondest aspiration. Over the years, several Arab states and the Palestinians have launched war after war and wave upon wave of terrorist attacks against Israel, cutting off their own noses as they have done so. It should not be surprising if Israel has to take decisive security measures to protect its citizens from such wrath. That wrath originates in a violent form of anti-Semitism, the very thing Israel was created to avoid or defend against. Not every country has the luxury of defending itself through words alone.
Next, you say:

In addition, many of the countries XXX which some critics would prefer to be targets of campaigns are already official enemies, for example Iran.
Iran is technically an enemy state for most Western democracies, yet, as I have said, there are very few protests at state or public level. There are no TV documentaries about its behaviour, no major newspaper or magazine articles, no broad public engagement with the wrongdoings of the regime. Yet Israel, which is not the enemy of any democracy, which was established by democratic means, and which has a heritage of suffering and denial that is outmatched in scale only by what the Russians endured under Stalin and the Chinese under Mao, Israel has become the primary focus for international condemnation. This makes no sense. The Left in many countries has allied itself with radical Islam and with neo-antisemitic far-right activists and bawls loudly about Israel in a way no-one lamented the excesses of the Soviet Union or the depredations of Pol Pot in Cambodia. Their agitation, their use of violence to stop Israeli lecturers speaking at universities, to end concerts by Israeli orchestras in public concert halls, and to howl at Israeli dance troupes and singers and theatre groups chill me to the bone, since it is all visibly anti-Semitic. I am not a Jew, but I feel it in the soles of my feet. You are a Jew, and it surprises me that you either do not feel it as I do, or prefer to sanction it for political motives. The very fact that Israel alone is singled out for this treatment as no other country on earth is prioritized, that Israel and Israel alone is rushed to the head of that triage queue convinces me that the motion underlying almost all of this a just plain old Jew hatred.
 The major point about Israel is not that it is a uniquely bad human rights offender (although it is bad enough)
I would like you to tell me why Israel is ‘bad enough’ in respect of human rights. As you will know, the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel endorsed all human rights values, something that has never happened in any Islamic state, least of all in those whose law is based on the Shari’a and stated clearly that the State of Israel would ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex, and guaranteed freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture. I would much rather live in Israel than in Iran, Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and numerous other countries. The main modern human rights issues are set out in the Declaration of Human Rights, which is pretty comprehensive. The whole thing is long, but here is some of the text:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
The basic laws of Israel fully endorse this. There are no Israeli laws that contradict this. No apartheid laws, for example, modelled on those of South Africa. Yet quite insanely anti-Israel activists repeatedly describe Israel as ‘an apartheid state’ and hold an annual Israel Apartheid Week. Why? There is no apartheid in Israel. Yet people believe that. If I declared ‘Britain Apartheid Week’, I would be laughed at. Why do responsible people not laugh at those who perpetuate this easily disproved myth? You’re a scientist. You know that no-one takes seriously creationists or flat earthists or 9/11 conspiracy theorists or other cranks. That the apartheid Israel myth has so much traction is surely because those who believe in it don’t know the first thing about Israel or the Middle East.

The Universal Declaration also states:
  • Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent,  trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Which Israeli law, court ruling, or policy undermines this article? There is no race bar in Israel: Arab Israelis are full citizens. They are discriminated against, but by individual citizens, not the state. Colour is not a basis for any official discrimination, and people of all colours do thrive in Israel. There is no legislation that discriminates on the basis of sex (save for two religious issues, the get and the situation of women at the Kotel), language, religion (Israel is the only rights-observant country on this issue in the Middle East). Political and other opinion is protected, as you must know. Not only are there political parties that oppose the state, but there are also dozens of NGOs, journalists, and other individuals who regularly display hate for the Jewish state. No-one has ever banned Ha’aretz from being published. On the other hand, ultra-Orthodox racist works like Rabbi Shapira’s anti-Arab Torah Ha-Melekh have been seized by the police.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Who in Israel does not have those rights? Criminals can lose their liberty, but that is true in every single country. Security is only at risk from terrorist organizations who infiltrate Israel with the aim of killing innocent civilians.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
It may be worth citing U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, who said in 1987 that despite the difficulties in safeguarding civil liberties during times of security crises, he said ‘it may well be Israel, not the United States, that provides the best hope for building a jurisprudence that can protect civil liberties against the demands of national security.’
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
You must be aware that Israel’s courts often rule in favour of Israeli Arab citizens and against the Israeli government. Israeli law prohibits the arbitrary arrest of citizens, defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty and have the right to writs of habeas corpus and other procedural safeguards. Israel holds no political prisoners. Merely holding opinions critical or dismissive of the Israeli state is not enough to result in anyone’s arrest or imprisonment. But involvement in terrorist activity will lead to incarceration, as it will in any country you care to name. Israel maintains an independent judiciary, as do other democracies.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Israeli citizens can travel and live freely within the borders of Israel. Restrictions in the West Bank are very limited and are undertaken for security purposes.
(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Although Israel is a Jewish state, citizenship is not defined by Jewishness. Arabs born in Israel have Israeli nationality just as much as Jews and regardless of whether they are Muslims, Christians, Druze or anything else.

 (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
  • (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
While this is broadly true for Israelis, the country has to make adjustments to its marriage laws. The Ultra-Orthodox Jewish lobby has successfully forced the government for many decades to recognize only religious marriage. This has caused problems for agnostics, atheists and others, and has forced many to travel to Cyprus for a civil wedding. It’s not a happy state of affairs and is likely to get worse as demands for gay marriage increase (something that the haredim and other extremists bitterly oppose). This breach of human rights arises, not from any desire on the part of the government, but by a political need to appease the Ultras. The issue of free and full consent is more problematic, given that Ultra-Orthodox Jews and strict Muslims alike insist on arranged marriages. For everyone else, of course, consent is normally free and full. The breach of human rights takes place because the government is sworn not to interfere with religious rulings and customs (which would constitute a greater breach of human rights after all). None of this is generated by the Israeli government. Secularists like myself would prefer it if they took a harder line with the extreme Orthodox. For all that, it is not evidence that the state of Israel sets out to reverse human rights rulings or ideal practice.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Israel is clearly an exemplar state in this regard. Not one of its neighbours, nor any Islamic state anywhere in the world offers even a fraction of the protection Israel offers for apostates, heretics, members of different faiths, religious dissidents, and others. When Jordan controlled the West Bank from 1949 to 1967, the authorities destroyed around forty synagogues. Under Israeli control, the army has not deliberately damaged any mosque, but vandals (including those involved in price-tag acts) have tried to burn a few. The work of vandals does not constitute a breach of this article.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

I think you know that Israel functions in this respect like any open democracy. It has opposition parties in the Knesset. It has newspapers like Haaretz that consistently take an anti-government stance. NGOs like the new Israel Fund (which opposes the occupation and settlements), the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, B'Tselem, Machsom Watch, Women in Black, Women for Israel's Tomorrow (Women in Geen), with its abhorrent anti-government line that calls for the transfer of Israeli Arabs, the pro-Palestine groups who welcomed President Obama in Israel last March, Christian anti-Israel groups like Sabeel and EAPPI, and many other organizations are all given free rein in the Jewish state, provided they remain within the limits of the law, exactly as is done in any democracy.

As you might expect, I could continue to take articles from the Universal Declaration, but I hope I have shown that, with very few exceptions, Israel does adhere to the principles and demands of human rights, at least as much as does the UK, the United States, Canada, Australia, France and other European countries. That you should express the view that Israel is ‘bad enough’ makes me wonder just what standards you would regard as acceptable, for surely you should treat any other democracy as equally ‘bad enough’, citing its failings where they occur in stark contrast to its positive achievements. You make no allowance whatever for the simple fact that Israel, unlike any other democracy, faces an intolerable security burden, having been invaded and terrorized over many decades by enemies that simply refuse to give up, citing the old Khartoum Declaration refrain of ‘No peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel’ ad nauseam. Faced with external and internal threats, all democracies respond by increased security measures, as I learned in my youth about Britain within Northern Ireland. That did not make the UK a state opposed to human rights or ‘bad enough’, and the security measures were quickly relaxed when both sides made peace. What can Israel do when faced with an enemy who won’t even get round a table to negotiate?

You say that  Israel receives unprecedented financial, military, diplomatic and financial support from Western democracies. This unconditional and long-term support from the West has enabled a mindset within Israel in which its politicians feel they can commit any number of human rights abuses without consequence. The unconditional support from the West, largely in defiance of international law, is a situation which makes Israel unusual.’

I’m not sure what to make of this. All round the world, countries receive financial, military, diplomatic and financial support from Western democracies. The United States, for example, gives aid round the world well in excess of what it gives to Israel. Its military and financial aid in 2011 amounted to some $49.5 billion. In 2004, almost ten years ago, private aid from the US stood at $71.2 billion. In 2011, the US gave over $10,000 millions to Afghanistan. Israel comes next, with $2,995 million. It’s a lot of money, but it helps preserve stability in a very unstable region, which is why America contributes the money in the first place. And did you notice that John Kerry has just agreed to provide $4 billion for the development of the West Bank, quite a bit more than the US gives to Israel? But did you also notice that the PA has turned the payment down rather than make any political compromises?
Unfortunately, that is entirely in keeping with Palestinian behaviour down the decades. As you will know, in 1937 the British Peel Commission published a 404-page report following a thorough investigation of the Palestine Mandate. The report recommended partition, and offered the Jews a mere 20% of the entire Mandate territory and the Arabs 70%. Add to that the whopping 77% of the original Palestine, also given to the Arabs of the region, and the Arabs walked away with a territorial gain far in excess of what other people (think of us Irish) could have hoped for. The plan was to merge the two Arab entities into a single Arab state under King ‘Abd Allah. A majority of the Zionist movement accepted even this grudging division of the land. The Arabs, led by that monstrous man, soon to be a war criminal, al-Husayni, rejected it out of hand. Determined to have everything, they came closing to losing it all.

They made the same mistake over and over again, when they rejected fresh, generous offers to make a fair partition of the land (retaining Jordan as the first Palestinian state) in 1947, 1948, 1949, 1967, 1973, 1979 (the Camp David Accords), 1994, 1998 (the Wye River Memorandum), 2000 (Camp David – the most generous offer to date –followed by the second intifada), again in 2000 (Assad walked away from 98% of the Golan), 2001 (when 92% of Palestinians supported attacks on Israeli soldiers, 58% attacks on civilians), 2003 (the Road Map: Israel pulled out of population centres, increased aid, and dismantled outposts; the PA flatly refused to stop terror), 2005 (Israel pulled completely out of Gaza), 2007 (Annapolis, when Olmert offered 93% of the West Bank and a full land swap, ‘Abbas turned it down), 2008, and 2009 (Netanyahu offers a full Palestinian state, the 6th Fatah Conference resolves to ‘totally reject recognition of Israel as a Jewish state’.
You might say you admire the Palestinians for their resolve, for their refusal to give up an inch of what they believe to have been their land, for their integrity in rejecting the very notion of a Jewish state or the presence of a single Jew in their midst, indeed anywhere in the Middle East. I would not be so kind. They are eaten up by a profound antisemitic prejudice, a level of hatred so great they can never contemplate a Jew in the next room. It is not a noble sense of attachment to their homeland that drives them, but an unmoving predilection for violence above negotiation, murder rather than kindness. Throughout their pronouncements, in sermons, on television, and in school textbooks I see nothing but a wicked racism, and it surprises me that anyone on the left can contemplate such unswerving devotion to the cause of killing Jews because they are Jews. What they by rejecting every solution that is presented to them, instead of working to find a better formula, is to hurt themselves and keep the Middle East in a state of tension. It is now my conviction that peace will not be possible for the foreseeable future because hatred of Israel is based on jihad and anti-Semitism, and there seems no way of bypassing such ingrained sentiments.

You next say
Anyone can criticize an official enemy country (e.g. Iran), or a far-away powerful country about which we can do very little (e.g. China). But such criticisms are usually masks for the crimes that our own countries and allies are committing.

Really, this is too far-leftist for me to take very seriously. (And I am a Labour-voting, middle-of-the-road liberal.) I really don’t think you have thought this through. If I criticize the regime in Iran, I will be arrested, thrown into jail or placed under house arrest, and not impossibly end up swinging on the end of a rope. You know perfectly well that that never happens to any critics of the UK, US or other democratic governments (including Israel). Democracies have free presses, open discourse in universities, open access to MPs, congressmen, and MKs, there is freedom to set up political parties, there are tribunals, commissions, courts and many other bodies who will listen to formal complaints about the state. There are very few attempts to cover up our crimes, and there aren’t that many crimes to cover. What crimes there are (by the army, for example) can brought to pubic attention and thus to court. This is what happens in Israel – how else could a newspaper like Haaretz survive?
Some of the respondents have demanded that I condemn Arab human rights abuses. Fine, I condemn them. So would anyone else with any decency. So what? Can we go back to the point, now, please, which is Israel?

Malcolm, this is not an argument. Nobody is stopping us going back to Israel, especially since Israel is the primary object of this debate. At least you recognize that a decent person would condemn Arab human rights abuses and, I trust, those of Iran, many African countries, China, and so on. Of course you do. But you seem to think that we should move on from them to the human rights abuses of Israel, which you appear to regard as equally serious. I find this reprehensible, in that I have never seen evidence that Israel’s human rights record is demonstrably egregious, as are those of the countries I have mentioned. I have always enjoyed visiting Israel, have been free to travel anywhere, and have never been subject to arbitrary arrest. But I have not chosen to visit Iran, much as I love it, since 1979. Given my previous contacts there, the research I was engaged in (all perfectly respectable here) and my personal attitudes to the clerical regime, I preferred not to take the risks further visits would have entailed. I have never felt that about Israel.

‘It's important to understand that one does not run an inverse beauty contest and decide which country is the worst, and boycott it. That would be highly ineffective. The criterion has to be “which tactic is most likely to do good in that particular case, and least likely to do harm”.

I don’t entirely follow this. I do not see why it would be ineffective to sanction and boycott a country whose people are in immediate need of relief from the unconscionable actions and demands of a government that offends democracy and prohibits freedom. People in such countries cry out for early relief, but they are denied succour so long as people like yourself focus on Israel, a country whose people are not in any such need. Frequently, anti-Israel activists justify their boycott, divestment and sanction campaign by shrilly declaring Israel to be ‘an apartheid state’. But, as I have said before, there is visibly no apartheid in Israel. Nor, quite frankly, is there apartheid in the West Bank. Gaza can speak for itself, but it is no longer Israel’s concern. You may think is easier to take action against Israel, but surely that is only because Israel is a democracy which provides an open arena in which accusations and complaints may be made. Many people make accusations against the British governments, but they have never been deprived of an opportunity to pursue their accusation in the public square, in the Houses of Parliament, through the media, or through the courts. There is really no need to persecute Israel because it is equally open. But the citizens of Iran, China, Tibet, Sudan, and all other rights-denying states do not have a voice. They cannot their complaints through a parliament, courts, or the media. They need advocates abroad, yet everywhere the Left is preoccupied by a state which, whatever its problems, is driven by law and a need for fairness. If the Left concentrated its calls to boycott to the UK or Ireland or France while denying their voice to millions round the world who plead for help, it would be considered a betrayal of the ideals of the Left and of the downtrodden everywhere. That is also true of an unhealthy focus on Israel.

You continue, arguing as follows:
(1) Israel is strongly dependent on support from the West (2) Israel is too powerful and its victims (the Palestinians) are too weak in the face of the Israel/West combination (3) Israel has implemented a harsh apartheid regime in the occupied territories, partly in collusion with ruling Palestinian elites (the Oslo accords).
This makes no sense either. Many countries depend on support from the West, as I have said. What support Israel receives is not massive, and the country still has large pockets of poverty. Nevertheless, the Israeli economy as developed by internal innovation and marketing places the country as number 16 in a table of world economies. It is also worth pointing out that the West Bank and Gaza receive large donations form all round the world, notably from the richer Arab states and dozens of Muslim charities. Unlike Israel, the PLO/PA and Hamas have siphoned off large sums, initially to line the pockets of Yassir Arafat, then Mahmoud ‘Abbas and his sons, and more widely to buy weapons of all kinds with which to fight Israel.

You say: Israel is too powerful and its victims (the Palestinians) are too weak in the face of the Israel/West combination.
Why should Israel be made to suffer because it is more powerful than its enemies? Many countries are more powerful than others. By your argument, we would end up in a world like the one satirized by socialist/humanist Kurt Vonnegut in his short story, Harrison Bergeron. In that society, anyone who is more powerful than other people (stronger, faster, with better eyesight, more beautiful, more intelligent etc.) has to wear devices to reduce them to the level of less well endowed people. Naturally, the result is a disaster, just as it would be if Israel were to abandon its advantages in military force, science, business, culture and so on.
The Palestinians had every chance to build a stable state and threw it away. On three auspicious occasions, Arab armies invaded Israel with the explicit aim of slaughtering its Jewish population. They lost each time, but instead of behaving sensibly and calling it a day, to the present they call for jihad and refuse to recognize Israel. Now, given that Israel has such a strong economy and is in the habit of giving help to countries all round the world, it might be expect ed tnhat the Palestinians could all these years have benefited from Israeli know how and hands-on assistance. Don’t forget that when the West Bank and Gaza were under full Israeli control, their economies steamed ahead, but once Hamas and the PA took over, both economies sank. Is it too hard to see why I favour Israel over the intransigent, belligerent Palestinians. But Palestinians who showed themselves willing to make peace and get on with their lives would be the darlings of my heart.

Israel has implemented a harsh apartheid regime in the occupied territories, partly in collusion with ruling Palestinian elites (the Oslo accords).

Well, that isn’t true, and I’m sure you know it. There is no apartheid regime in the West Bank (though Mahmoud ‘Abbas has promised he will institute one if he ever gets his state, and there are numerous apartheid states in the Arab world). And ‘harsh’ is a gross misnomer. There are thousands of men and women in the West Bank (and unoccupied Gaza) who plan to carry out direct murders of Israeli citizens. They have murdered thousands in the past. The only things that have stopped them have been IDF patrols and checkpoints and, most effective, the long security barrier. I really don’t care if anyone is inconvenienced by having to wait an extra fifteen minutes to go through a checkpoint if doing so saves a single child’s life. Every time a terrorist has been stopped at a checkpoint wearing a suicide vest (and, as often as not, carrying a permit to attend an Israel hospital), it has been a victory for peace and common sense. Yet the Palestinians continue to make heroes of these monsters, especially those who have killed large numbers of innocent Jews. Apartheid was embedded in South Africa in a legal manner, with dozens of apartheid laws. There are no such laws for Israel or the West Bank. To come out from under the burden of apartheid, the South Africans had to dismantle the state. The security measures that operate in the West Bank can be much more easily lifted: the Palestinians must abandon their unnecessary armed struggle, make peace, and show they have no further intention of entering Israel to slit another baby’s throat. That will be hard and will require considerable political fortitude, but the responsibility for doing it rests squarely on the Palestinians, not the Israelis. Yet you prefer to hurt the Israelis.

As for the ruling Palestinian elites, the last thing they can afford to do is collaborate with their greatest enemies. The Oslo Accords have not been well observed on either side, but I don’t see why they were in principle such a bad thing for the Palestinians since they might have led to a permanent peace and long-term advantages for both Israelis and Palestinians. Don’t you want things to go well for the Palestinians?
Israel's aims are to take command of all important resources there such as water and historical sites
You should know that Israel protects the holy sites in the West Bank just as much as it does in Israel proper. The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is controlled by the Palestinian police. It has been most at risk when, in 2002, a large group of Palestinian terrorists took it over and threatened the lives of some 200 monks. IDF troops refused to break into the building. The second-holiest Jewish site, the Ma’arat Ha-Machpelah or Tomb of the Patriarchs is under Palestinian control. When I was there, I and my companion were squeezed into a tiny space reserved for Jews, the rest being monopolized by Muslims. Rachel’s Tomb near Bethlehem is more controversial. It has been attacked by Palestinian terrorists many hundreds of times, including 290 firebombs and IEDs in a six-month period. The Palestinians say they regard it as a mosque dedicated to Bilal, but their repeated attacks on the structure leave me wondering just how much respect they have for the place. Currently, there are attacks every day using stones and Molotov cocktails. Given that Islam has a long history of conquest followed by the capture of churches and synagogues which are turned into mosques, denying their original function, and that over forty synagogues were demolished when the Jordanians occupied the West Bank, I cannot see how the Israelis can with any confidence return the tomb to the PA. There are many references to Rachel in the Torah, but not one in the Qur’an.

You say the boycott raises the visibility of Israels actions and sends a message to Israeli politicians that they cannot continue to assume the unconditional support of the West.
I honestly don’t think this is true. Most intelligent Western politicians will not be drawn into what is so obviously an intolerant attack on a decent country, carried out for the most part by strident young wreckers who can never see good in anything but the causes they espouse. When these extremists call for the boycott of an ‘apartheid Israel’, anyone with any knowledge of the country knows the accusation is untrue and has been deliberately twisted for extreme political ends. I think most know too that this anti-Israel agitation is largely if not entirely only anti-Zionist on the surface, but anti-Semitic underneath. The former Labour MP Denis MacShane is very perceptive about this.
This increases the chance that Israeli politicians will understand that they need to move towards a true peace agreement, and not conduct a charade.
Well, this is the pot calling the kettle black. Israel has launched more peace initiatives since the 1940s than there is room here to list. The Palestinians have turned down each and every initiative and continue to do so, refusing even to come to the negotiating table. I need hardly mention Hamas and its conviction that the only way to a solution is through jihad and that peace talks and negotiations are simply ‘a waste of time’. Why should Israeli politicians have to learn anything? They have by any standards been generous in what they have offered the Palestinians. The Palestinians have never reciprocated any of Israel’s moves to peace. When Israel pulled out of the Sinai to make peace with Egypt, what did the Palestinians do? They went on with their terrorism. When Israel pulled out of southern Lebanon, what did the Palestinians do? They went on killing Israelis wherever they could find them. When Israel pulled everything out of Gaza, what did the Gazans do? They trashed everything the Israelis have left behind for them to use, then elected Hamas and set off to fire over 12,000 rockets into civilian areas. And yet you think it’s a good idea to boycott Israel in order to teach members of the Knesset how to conduct relations with the Palestinians.
I judge that it is a policy that can be adopted by anyone, and is most likely, in this particular situation, to do good - just as it did in S Africa, which is a rather similar case, in my opinion.
No, it doesn’t do good, because it is built on a lie. Just like your statement about South Africa being ‘a rather similar case’. That is historically and politically ridiculous. There is absolutely no comparison between Israel and South Africa. Where are the apartheid laws in Israel? To cite just a few, where are the Population Registration Act, the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act, the Bantu Education Act, the Coloured Persons Education Act, the Immorality Act, the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, the Immorality Amendments Act, the Native Land Act, the Group Areas Act Coloured Persons Communal Reserves Act, the Pass Laws (around nine of them), the Riotous Assemblies Act, the Unlawful Organizations Act? There are plenty more of the same. And you suggest that Israel, which has no laws remotely like these and which has handed authority for about 90% of the West Bank to the PA is similar? Israel is a democracy with laws that treat all citizens as equals. Please don’t ask me why it is profoundly immoral to suggest otherwise. For a succinct but powerful account of this, why not read the attached op ed that appeared this month in the San Francisco Examiner? The author is a black member of the South African parliament who lived under apartheid and has visited Israel many times.

As far as Gaza is concerned, I would add that if you ethnically cleanse many hundreds of thousands of people and drive them into a huge prison camp, on which you then impose a near-seige, for an indefinite time, and regularly terrorize, bomb, and assassinate, one should not expect the development of Scandinavian social democracy in that place.

Malcolm, where do you get all this from? Israel did not ‘ethnically cleanse’ hundreds of thousands of people in 1948-49. Read Efraim Karsh’s Palestine Betrayed, a scholarly, fully sourced and cogently argued study of the period. Most of the Arabs who fled in 1948 did so because the Arab Higher Committee and the Arab Liberation Army told them to get out in order to make room for the armies who invaded Israel. They promised the Arabs they would return to their homes to celebrate a victory that never came. In other places, Arabs fled be cause the Arab armies had started a devastating war. In places like Haifa, the Jewish population pleaded on many occasions with their Arab neighbours to stay, but were ignored. Finally, in a small handful of places, Jewish forces did force Arabs out because they were in the way of fighting. It could all have been avoided if the Arabs had taken up the UN offer of a state for themselves.
And the flight was planned months before the war. The Arab Military Committee instructed the Arab League’s members ‘to open the gates… to receive children, women and old people [from Palestine] and to support them in the event of disturbances breaking out in Palestine and compelling some of its Arab population to leave the country.’ The secretary general of the Arab League, ‘Abd al-Rahman ‘Azzam, declared in May 1946 ( a full year before the war) that ‘Arab circles proposed to evacuate all Arab women and children from Palestine and send them to neighbouring countries, to declare “Jehad” and to consider Palestine a war zone’. And that’s exactly what happened. Yet Israel, whose people pleaded with Arabs to stay, is blamed for it. You couldn ‘t make it up, could you?
And what ‘prison camp’ can you possibly mean? Millions of Palestinians live in Jordan, Syrian (until recently), Lebanon and elsewhere. Jordan is more or less a Palestinian country. What Palestinians do not have in the rest of the Arab is citizenship and freedom to work in most professions. All other post-war refugees have settled down and taken citizenship in other countries. Only the Palestinians remain, and they do so because of Arab politics. They are there, large numbers of them still in refugee camps, because Arab governments want to keep them there as a reproach against Israel. Why do they have one bloated refugee organization devoted to them alone, while the rest of the world has to get by with a single organization of its own. ‘Prison camp’ is simply too emotive, too inaccurate, and too malicious for what I would call ordinary political discourse.

Now, I wrote earlier ‘But you still insist that “with respect to Israel itself there is definitely severe discrimination against some non-Jewish elements but for the most part the veneer of an egalitarian democratic society is maintained - for the time being”.
 I really don’t know what to make of that. Does giving the vote to all citizens constitute a ‘veneer’?
To which you have replied:
The word "veneer" was badly chosen. Let me concede that point and take that word back. On the one hand, Israelis would love to have a proper functioning democracy, with equal rights for all. But on the other hand, they can't, because Israel has defined itself as a "Jewish state", and there is no such thing as a "Jewish state" that is also a democracy, unless the state consists of Jews alone.
Thank you for retracting ‘veneer’. But I don’t understand your following argument. Why can a Jewish state not be a democracy? Back home, we have an ‘Irish Republic’, where most people are, liker myself, of Irish descent. But we also have lots of immigrants from different parts of the world. I’ve not noticed anyone claim that Ireland is not a functioning democracy. France is another case. The République française is French in origin and spirit, with that sense of Gallic exclusivity that has left its stamp on the wine, the cheeses, the cafés, the women, and the little vans that run down its little streets. When you are in France, you know you are in France. Yet France has millions of non-French citizens, mainly from North Africa, it has large numbers of zones sensitives, and it is a multicultural democracy. I am sure you like the New Israel Fund, its political views, and its work for human rights within Israel. But surely you also know that it maintains that ‘Israel is and must be a Jewish and democratic state’ and that it was ‘among the first organizations to see that civil, human and economic rights for Israeli Arabs is an issue crucial to the long-term survival of the state’. If they see no contradiction between Israel as a Jewish democracy and work within that democracy to ensure full rights for Arab citizens, surely you will not tell them they are wrong.

You say:
That is an obvious point of principle, but there are numerous practical instances of discrimination against non-Jews within Israel, for example:

The following Ten Facts about Palestinians in Israel in the Appendix to Ben White's recent book 'Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination, and Democracy' help to set the record straight.

It’s worth saying here that I don’t like White or his strident lack of common sense. He has supported the apartheid slur against all evidence, he supports the BDS campaign, especially within the academic sphere. As you may know, in 2010 he masterminded a ban on one of Israel’s foremost historians, Benny Morris (a man who had helped debunk many myths in the Zionist narrative), from lecturing at Cambridge University. As a Cambridge PhD, I feel offended that anyone should take it upon himself to do that, and I trust that you, as an academic, would feel the same. White has supported a call to boycott the Habima Theatre, Israel’s National Theatre that performs for and involves Jews and Arabs both, when it came to the UK to play The Merchant of Venice at the Globe. He has – and for an academic I find this beyond outrageous – criticized the very idea of having Israel Studies in British universities. Such criticism helps undermine the very principles on which Western universities are based. Universities throughout the Middle East (I have studied at one and taught at another) suffer badly from restrictions on what may be taught or published, and some countries have interfered directly in what is taught in the UK. White has also defended Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad from perfectly reasonable charges of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. And he has claimed that comparing Israelis to Nazis is ‘not antisemitic’. I don’t believe White is someone I would trust, whether in his opinions or his claim to rational facts. He is surely best described as an agitprop rabble-rouser or something to that effect. He does not seem to understand moderation. That said, I will pass on to his ten points.

1. Since 1948, over 700 Jewish Communities have been established in Israel (not including settlements in the Occupied Territories). The only towns established for Palestinians citizens were seven in the Negev, and only as a way of removing the Bedouin population from other areas.
This is typical of White’s almost hysterical approach to fact. Of course more Jewish towns were built. The Jews were, in the main, new arrivals and had to build, and in due course they greatly outnumbered the Arabs But most Arab towns remained inhabited after 1948, and Arabs have remained in high numbers in most Jewish towns. Given the numbers, it all adds up to a reasonable balance. It resembles the situation in Ireland (most inhabitants are Irish), Scotland (most are Scots), Wales (most are Welsh) and so on across the globe. The Arabs in Israel are well catered for: the population of Acre’s Old City is 95% Arab, Lower Haifa is 70% Arab. There are high percentages of Arabs in Jaffa, Tayibe, Jaljulai, Kafr Bara, Kafr Qassim and elsewhere. 55% of the population of East Jerusalem is Arab, and there are large numbers in Abu Ghosh, Bayt Jamal, and other places in that region, with thirteen Arab neighbourhoods round Jerusalem. There are 21 Arab centres in the NW Negev, and 24 in the Haifa District, while the Northern District has 53% Arabs. I attach a list (and map) of Arab settlement in Israel. Please consult it and ask yourself if it makes sense to complain that there are so many Jewish towns. And ask where Mr White comes up with that high figure of seven hundred, and why he has not made a calculation to compare populations, and why he has not defined ‘towns’.

2. Significant authority over areas like land ownership and rural settlement is invested in bodies that are constitutionally mandated to privilege Jews [like the Jewish National Fund.]
Israel is a Jewish state, so it seems logical that government and other bodies will privilege the considerable majority of the population who are Jews, just as English district councils and other bodies favour their own local populations. Given the historical facts of the Zionist movement that led to the creation of Israel, the JNF (Keren Kayemet Le-Israel) was a necessity if Jewish settlers were to be able to lease government (Ottoman, British) and private land. Nothing in Israeli law exists to prevent Arabs obtaining funds for land lease from wealthy Arab states, but Saudi Arabia and others will not give their money to development within the Jewish state. That isn’t Israel’s fault. And White ignores the fact that the JNF has done great good for all Israel’s citizens. It has planted over 240 million trees in Israel. It has also built 180 dams and reservoirs, developed 250,000 acres of land and established more than 1,000 parks. Since 2009, the JNF has been helping the Palestinian Authority plan public parks and other civic amenities for the Palestinian city of Rawabi, north of Ramallah. The JNF provided the Palestinian Authority with 3,000 tree seedlings for a forested area being developed on the edge of the new city. Although there are issues with the JNF, they are all at the level of questions involving any bureaucracy organization anywhere in the world. But problems like these can affect any country. It is wrong to single out Israel for behaviour comp[arable to what may be found in most countries and a great deal less harmful to the totality of its citizens than measures taken across the world.

3. The amount of land belonging to Palestinian refugees that was expropriated by Israel's 'Absentee Property Law' amounts to around 20 per cent of the country's total pre-1967 territory.
This doesn’t cause me to lose much sleep. As I have explained, the vast majority of Arabs either chose to leave or were pushed or enticed out by Arab organizations and Arab armies. It was a tragedy, but it was not a tragedy of Israel’s making. Down the years, however, money from land and building sales has been retained by the Israeli Ministry of Finance for possible compensation to Palestinians. Currently (as I write) cases for restitution are being brought before the Supreme Court, and if they go through, it will mark a substantial shift in legislation in this field. The point is not so much that some injustice was done in the past, but that Israel operates under the rule of law. It does not deserve to be treated like a Third World dictatorship.

4. Roughly one in four Palestinian citizens are 'present absentees' (i.e. internally displaced), their land and property confiscated by the state.

This is a distortion of the historical and contemporary reality. When the fighting ended in 1949, the only people who had been ethnically cleansed were the 850,000 Jews displaced from Arab countries. Arabs who remained in Israel (on the right side of the green line) became Israeli citizens, whether they had fled from their villages or not, and all were rehoused. Not a single Jew was left in any of the Mandated territory that remained in Arab hands. In the middle of a fierce war for Jewish survival (a mere three/four years after the end of the Holocaust), many Arabs fled their homes, prompted (as I have said) by Arab officialdom and foreign military. There were no Israeli plans to destroy villages or displace anyone, and the number of places where this did happen was negligible. It is time the Arabs took responsibility for what they did. Arabs who were displaced are not refugees but Israel citizens. They were all rehoused. Likewise, those Jews who were displaced from the rest of the Mandate were all rehoused – not by the Arabs who had displaced them, but by their own people.

5. An estimated 90,000 Palestinians live in dozens of 'unrecognised villages' in Israel. They suffer from home demolitions and a lack of basic infrastructure.
Malcolm, you are letting Ben White mislead you disastrously. He creates distortions of history and present fact because he cherrypicks his information and uses it pejoratively, to create false realities. His use of the term ‘Palestinians’ here is calculated to give a false impression, connected to tropes of suffering and persecuted Palestinians. Strictly speaking, Palestinians live in Gaza and the West Bank. Arabs living in Israel are Israeli Arabs, a community that thrives more completely than their Palestinian brethren. However, if we are talking about the ‘unrecognized villages’, we are speaking of Israel’s Bedouin (Badu, Badawiyin) population, and that places this in a completely different context.
The Badu are nomads who originated in (and  still reside in) the Arabian peninsula. Like many other nomads in the Middle East (like North Africa’s Berbers/Imazighen or Iran’s tribes (Qashqa’i, Baluch etc.), the Bedouin have changed during the 20th century. Some remain nomadic, but increasing numbers have chose or been required to settle.
in Syria, the Bedouin way of life effectively ended during a severe drought from 1958 to 1961, which forced many Bedouin to abandon herding for standard jobs. Many have been further displaced by the current civil war. Governmental policies in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Tunisia, oil production Arab states of the Persian Gulf and Libya, as well as a desire for improved standards of living, effectively led most Bedouin to become settled citizens of various nations, rather than stateless nomadic herders. In most countries in the Middle East the Bedouin have no land rights, only users’ privileges, and that is especially true for Egypt.
Between 1967 and 1989, Israel built seven townships for the Badu in the north-east Negev. One, Rahat, is the world’s largest Badu settlement. Outside these seven towns, there are numbers of unrecognized villages. It’s very easy to see why they are not given official recognition by the state. It’s all down to the concept of planning, which applies here in the UK and across the Western world. These Badu villages were built chaotically without taking into consideration local infrastructure. They are scattered all over the Northern Negev and often are situated in inappropriate places, such as military fire zones, natural reserves, landfills, etc. No regular state would recognize them as suitable places to live.
But Israel does not leave the Badu to simmer in chaos of their own making. On September 29, 2003 Israeli government has adapted a new ‘Abu Basma Plan’, according to which a new regional council was formed, unifying a number of unrecognized Bedouin settlements into the Abu Basma Regional Council. This resolution also regarded the need to establish seven new Bedouin settlements in the Negev. This meant the official recognition of unrecognized settlements, providing them with a municipal status and consequently with all the basic services and infrastructure. The council was established by the Interior Ministry on 28 January 2004.
Israel is currently building or enlarging some 13 towns and cities in the Negev. According to the general planning, all of them will be fully equipped with the relevant infrastructure: schools, medical clinics, postal offices, etc. and they also will have electricity, running water and waste control. Several new industrial zones meant to fight unemployment are planned, some are already being constructed, like Idan haNegev in the suburbs of Rahat. It will have a hospital and a new campus inside. The Bedouins of Israel receive free education and medical services from the state. They are allotted child cash benefits, which has contributed to the high birthrate among the Bedouin (5% growth per year). But unemployment rate remains very high, and few obtain a high school degree (4%), and even fewer graduate from college (0.6%).
In September 2011, the Israeli government approved a five-year economic development plan called the Prawer plan. One of its implications is a relocation of some 30.000-40.000 Negev Bedouin from areas not recognized by the government to government-approved townships.
Malcolm, I would like you to take a deep breath and compare Ben White’s very negative and malicious picture of the ‘unrecognized villages’ with the efforts being made by Israel to make life for the Badu better than it is for most nomadic groups in the Middle East. Perhaps more can be done, but there is time for that, and Israel faces the same problems with the Badu as do other countries with hyper-traditionalist minorities. It should not stand in a list of criticisms directed against Israel, any more than we should throw up the treatment of Romanies in the UK or Romania or the Tinkers in Ireland.

6. Residency in 70 per cent of Israeli towns is controlled by admissions committees that filter out those deemed 'unsuitable' for the 'social fabric' of the community.
Ben White is letting his prejudices run away with him. There are only some 150 community settlements in Israeli, which will hardly add up to 70%. Most have only a few hundred residents, some as few as thirty. They are not really ‘towns’. This is not a massive national problem, though it does raise questions. These community settlements (sg. Yishuv Kehilati) are more or less identical to housing cooperatives in many other countries, like India or the United States. In all of these places worldwide, there are local elected committees who decide who they want or do not want as new members.
And this produces the problem for Israeli and other cooperatives. Residents often choose to be in communities whose fellow members are similar to themselves, who share their beliefs or political or artistic ideas. This means that Arab Israelis are regularly rejected, as are gays, single parents, or Jews of different backgrounds, such as Mizrahim. And this should be illegal under Israeli law. However, the law concerning these communities have reinforced the right of residents to choose new members, creating a tension between one standard of legislation and another. Nevertheless, the Arab Human Rights organization argued last December before the Supreme Court that the communities law is illegal. I do not know if there has been a formal response yet. Now, I don’t disagree that this is discriminatory, but I don’t see why it should be cause for the particular condemnation of Israel. Israel is a democracy, and proper appeals will surely be heard and laws passed in order to improve the situation. We are not talking about a dictatorship here, where liberal legislation is rendered impossible by the powers that be.

7. Despite making up 20 per cent of the population, the state development budget for the Palestinian minority is just 4 per cent.
This is mostly a quotation from Hadash (the former Raqah party) chairman Mohammad Barakeh. As you may know, Hadash is an extremist anti-Israel party, and Barakeh (Baraka) is a leading opponent of the state within the Israeli parliament. I’m not an economist (I still have difficulty adding one and two), so I’m willing to take this at face value. However, I think that the statement as it stands, without context, may be misleading. The context surely has to be the actual development of Arabs in Israel, of which there has been a great deal. The Arab community in Israel has experienced remarkable advances since 1948, in areas like healthcare, longevity, education, housing and political enfranchisement.
Israel has not stinted so greatly in its contribution to the Arab sphere. For example, allocations to Arab municipalities have grown steadily over the past decades and are now on a par with, if not higher than, subsidies to the Jewish sector. By the mid-1990s, Arab municipalities were receiving about a quarter of all such allocations, well above the 'share' of Arabs in Israel's overall population, and their relative growth has continued to date. In numerous cases, contributions to Arab municipal budgets substantially exceed contributions to equivalently situated and sized Jewish locales, let alone the larger and more established Jewish cities where government allocations amount to a fraction of municipal budget.
I recommend a recent article by Professor Efraim Karsh (who succeeded me a couple of years ago as editor of The Middle East Quarterly). It details the advances made by Arab Israelis: Israel’s Arabs: Deprived or Radicalized.
One thing that White does not allow into his equation is the simple fact that Israeli Arabs benefit, not just from specific monies devoted to their sector, but from money spent on all those other parts of Israeli life in which they share, such as the universities, in which they form 20% of the student population, paralleling their percentage in society at large. While these will give you a better sense of context, I will not go so far as to say there is no problem. Israel could spend more on its Arab population and get better results for everyone. But all countries disfavour minorities. In Israel, the Ultra-orthodox communities suffer more badly than Arabs. That is partly their fault, because they choose to ignore most areas of Israeli life, notably military service, which forms a route into Israel society in general. Arabs suffer from that exemption too. But both sectors may now come to benefit from exposure to life in the IDF as public opinion swings to the introduction of legislation that will demand that everyone fit to do so should take part in some form of national service.
8. The Education Ministry spends more than five times as much on Jewish students as Palestinian students.
I don’t doubt that something like this is true.
But it isn’t the whole story. Here are some figures from 2010: ‘In 2010, the number of computer science teachers in the Arab sector rose by 50%. The Arab sector also saw a rise of 165% in instructors teaching technology classes and a 171% increase in the number teaching mathematics. The number of physics teachers in Arab schools grew by 25%, those teaching chemistry by 44% and in biology by 81.7%. And here are more from that article I just mentioned, by Efraim Karsh.
No less remarkable have been the advances in education. Since Israel's founding, while the Arab population has grown tenfold, the number of Arab schoolchildren has multiplied by a factor of 40. If, in 1961, the average Israeli Arab spent one year in school, today the figure is over eleven years. The rise was particularly dramatic among Arab women who in 1961 received virtually no school education and today are equally, indeed better educated than their male counterparts (in 1970-2000, for example, the proportion of women with more than eight years of schooling rose nearly sevenfold - from 9% to 59%).
In 1961, less than half of Arab children attended school, with only 9% acquiring secondary or higher education. By 1999, 97% of Arab children attended schools, with 46% completing high school studies and 19% obtaining university/college degrees. In 2011, over a half of Arab twelfth-grade students (two thirds of Christian students) won the matriculation certificate, with dropout rates of Arab students similar to those in the Jewish sector: 1.8% and 1.5% respectively. Indeed, the dropout rate in the weaker parts of Jewish society were higher than their Arab equivalent: 3.1% among ultraorthodox Jews and 3.6% among foreign native Jews, compared to 2.6% in the Bedouin sector - the weakest part of Arab society.
Nor do Jewish schools enjoy better individual services than their Arab counterparts. In 2007/08, for example, Arab students were six times more likely to receive didactic assessment, and five times more likely to have a nurse based in their school, than their Jewish counterparts. Arab students had somewhat more frequent access to youth and/or social workers, as well as truancy officers, while Jewish students had somewhat better access to psychological and educational counselling.
More important, during the past twelve years, relative investment in Arab education has far exceeded that in the Jewish sector resulting in a significantly larger expansion across the board: Teaching posts in pre-primary Arab education trebled, compared to a twofold increase in the Jewish sector; Arab primary education posts grew three times faster than their Jewish counterparts while the relative increase in Arab secondary education posts was six times higher than in the Jewish sector.
Still more dramatic has been the story in higher education where the numbers of Arab graduates multiplied fifteen times between 1961 and 2001. Fifty years ago, a mere 4% of Arab teachers held academic degrees; by 1999, the figure had vaulted to 47%. In 1999, the proportion of Arab students studying for advanced degrees was 19%; a decade later 34% of Arab high school graduates passed the university entry exams. And while this figure is still lower than in the Jewish sector (48%), it is compensated by the much larger Arab presence in education colleges where Arab students occupy 33% of all places - way above their relative population share.

9. Public Officials, including Members of the Knesset and cabinet members, routinely and publicly express racism towards Palestinians with impunity.
That there is racism in Israel, I do not deny. But racism in the UK, the USA, France, and pretty well any country with citizens of mixed ethnicity is at least if not greater than anything known in Israel. Probably the most visible racism comes from the Ultraorthodox Jewish community, whose written and spoken statements about Arabs are every bit as vile as anything the Arabs say about Jews. There is a difference, however. In Arab countries, nothing is ever done to penalize anti-Semitic speech. Foul comments about Jews, most of them as debased as anything said or written or drawn in the Third Reich are treated as normal and are openly expressed on radio, television, mosque sermons, political speeches, and school textbooks. They are often accompanied by exhortations to violence against Jews or the celebration of killings or maimings carried out against Jews. These celebrations and the exhortations that precede them are approved of and made by Palestinian officialdom.
The situation in Israel is quite different. While much racism exists, even in high places, it is not approved by a majority of the population. Incitement to racism is prohibited by law, and many racists have been arrested and punished for their activities. Because there is no coercion in Israel to adopt the ways of any one ethnic or cultural identity, the country is characterized by the presence of a variety of racial, religious, linguistic, and other allegiances. That can engender friction, as it does in other countries of mixed ethnicity like Lebanon, Syria, Iran or the UK. A 2010 State Department report indicated that Israeli law outlaws the expression of racism and that the state does in fact implement these rules. I’m sure the enforcement of laws against racism in Israel is not enough, any more than in the UK. But just as you can join anti-racist groups here, you can ally yourself with Israeli outfits like the Coalition against Racism in Israel. It’s more positive than White’s technique of taking a problem out of context and listing it as an indictment of Israel.

10. Shin Bet, the domestic intelligence agency/secret police, openly fights peaceful and legal efforts by Palestinians citizens to challenge the 'Jewish' nature of the state [i.e. to campaign for equality between Jews and non-Jews within Israel].

Malcolm, this is rather vague, isn’t it? The Shin Bet is Israel’s internal security service, just like the UK’s MI5, America’s FBI, Germany’s Verfassungsschutz, and other agencies round the world who have much the same mandate. Shin Bet/Shabak’s mandate includes state security, revealing terrorist organizations, interrogating terror subjects (within the limits of the law, something insisted on by thre Supreme Court in the 1990s), providing the state with intelligence to back counter-terrorism in the West and Gaza, counter-espionage, and other forms of security for state officials, buildings and airlines. White paints a picture of a demonic Gestapo-like agency that seeks to block peaceful demonstrations and activities by Palestinians. You should know that if Palestinian challenges are peaceful and legal, the most that may be expected is policing, much as would happen here in the UK even for peaceful demos. But Israel is not the UK, and many demonstrations and protests quickly turn violent. In villages like Bil’in and Ni’lin there are weekly protests about the security barrier, but these are never free of violence or the threat of violence. And I don’t see how these protests advance the cause of equality. The security barrier has saved hundreds of lives from attacks by Palestinian terrorists. I have no respect for the peace-loving qualities of individuals or groups (including Western groups) who fight to have it removed. And I can’t see why anyone should protest in favour of equality for Jews and Arabs in a country where such equality is guaranteed in law. Absence of morality is not the result of some oppressive determination of the Israeli state but discrimination on the part of individuals, social sectors like Haredi Jews, and some state or military officials. It’s OK to call for greater observance of the laws on equality, though I suggest the best way to achieve that would be to involve oneself in the many voluntary and state-sponsored bodies that encourage greater integration for Arabs and wider understanding for Jews through working together and engaging in projects like Save a Child’s Heart that stress our common humanity.
From here, you comment directly on passages from my previous letter. I’ll do what I can to widen my arguments. I have turned my original statements blue, and my new ones are red, as above.

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