by Joel Griffith
In 1948, the Jewish people secured sovereignty over their ancestral homeland for the first time in nearly 2,000 years. Once again, they could thrive—religiously, economically, culturally—in the home their ancestors were forced to flee.
But more than 70 years after the rebirth of the Jewish nation, enemies of her very existence are using boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) to economically harm and morally impugn one of our closest allies. Unfortunately, several newly elected members of Congress are vocal advocates of BDS—particularly Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.
Following her election victory, Tlaib said, “Americans should not be aiding any country that doesn’t support human rights. I’ve been very clear. I will not support racist countries that pick and choose who gets access to justice.” She further claims that Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pursuing “apartheid policies.”
During Israel’s 2012 war against Hamas (an entity designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization), Omar claimed, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” She has also claimed that Israel is an “apartheid … regime.” Following her election victory in November 2018, her campaign said she “believes in and supports the BDS movement.”
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These peddlers of hate hurl false allegations against Israel of apartheid and minority oppression in an attempt to generate public support for BDS.
In reality, Israel is the Mideast’s only true democracy—one in which minority rights are protected. The right to vote, access to public health care, public education, freedom of speech, and protection of legal rights are enjoyed by all citizens, regardless of race and irrespective of religion.
As testament to this, in 2015—the most recent general election—voters elected 17 Arabs to serve in the 120-member Knesset. Arabs also comprise a growing proportion—more than 16 percent—of undergraduate students, a long-term goal of the Israeli government. In fact, the number of Arab university students soared more than 78 percent in just seven years. And many Arabs serve in the Israeli Defense Forces.
The Israeli government also protects the freedom of religion. Across Jerusalem—the capital of Israel—Muslims, Christians, and Jews (and others) are free to practice their faith. Mosques, churches, and synagogues operate within yards of each other. From the Western Wall bordering the holiest site of the Jewish faith, the Muslim call to prayer can be heard throughout the day.
For nearly 700 years, Jewish people were denied entry to the burial place in Hebron of Abraham, their patriarch. Now, under Israeli control, both Muslims and Jews pray at this site. Across the nation, the Israeli government ensures these three great monotheistic faiths can be practiced more freely than at any other time in history.
Contrary to Tlaib’s “apartheid” claim, the Israeli government does not impose ethnic segregation on communities. Arab and Jewish Israelis are free to buy and sell homes and land within areas that fall under Israeli administration.
On the other hand, Jews are precluded from living in zones controlled by the Palestinian Authority, which manages Palestinian civil affairs. In fact, a fatwa—a ruling under Islamic law—forbids Arabs from selling real estate to Jews in those areas, under penalty of death. A top judge of the Palestinian Authority warned that acting contrary to this order qualifies as “high treason.”
The charter of the Palestinian Liberation Organization—technically considered the “sole official representative of the Palestinian people”—continues to call for the violent destruction of Israel. Schools and television stations operated by the Palestinian Authority poison residents with an endless diet of anti-Semitism. The Palestinian Authority government routinely names streets, public buildings, and parks in honor of terrorists. Even worse, it bestows millions of dollars annually as compensation to families of these same terrorists.
In past years, the political leadership in both U.S. political parties recognized and spoke out against the bigotry inherent in attempting to destroy the Middle East’s only bastion of liberty. It is time once again for these leaders to boldly condemn the bigotry of these newly elected BDS advocates.
Indeed, the BDS movement exemplifies contemporary anti-Semitism. How disappointing and appalling that a growing number of U.S. members of Congress join in the chorus of Israel’s enemies under the guise of human rights concerns.
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Joel Griffith is a research fellow in the Roe Institute at The Heritage Foundation.