Israel is Unique in the Middle East

By Daniel Falkenheim, Contributing Writer

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Citizens across the globe are united by a common interest: to live a decent life. From the shores of Havana to the smog-filled streets of Beijing, people strive to improve their lives — even if it is just by a little. Yet, strife, warfare and regional conflict obscure this goal and unfortunately, these situations often end with one thinking that his neighbor is his enemy.

Israeli Apartheid Week — a series of events targeted against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza — is underway internationally, and it will be coming to Montclair State on April 3. Claims that Israel is a “settler-colonial state” that engages in apartheid and that Zionism is a form of white supremacy were posted in the halls of the Student Center just a few weeks ago in anticipation of Israeli Apartheid Week.

These claims only increase tensions and promote misconceptions. Equal attacks can be launched against the Palestinian National Authority and Hamas, but that isn’t the point. The point is that maybe Israel is not as monstrous as it is made out to be.

The Syrian Civil War has left thousands dead and millions more as refugees, and that conflict is literally on Israel’s doorstep. Israel shares a border with Syria, yet Syria has never officially recognized Israel’s existance, and they remain enemies. Despite this, hundreds of Israeli citizens traverse the border undercover to provide aid to Syrians victimized by Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad, in a brutal civil war. As a part of iL 4Syrians, a non-governmental organization, Israelis risk their lives to supply food, water and medicine to Syrian refugees.

Near the end of the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, a Palestinian Authority officer entered Israel to bring his 10-month-old daughter to a hospital for life-saving surgery. The Israelis could have rejected their enemy at the door, but through the humanitarian organization Save a Child’s Heart (SACH), they saved her life. Fajar, the daughter of the officer, is one of the more than 3,400 children from developing countries that SACH has saved directly — no questions asked and free of charge.

The people of Israel yearn for peace with their neighbors, but the Israeli government holds a unique place in the region. Israel is the longest-standing democracy in the Middle East outside of Turkey, and it is by far the most progressive government. Israel has freedom of religion, freedom of speech and a guaranteed right to vote to its non-Jewish minority in its Declaration of Independence.

Now, freedoms found in Israel may seem minor to Americans because we share many of the same liberties, but Israel’s freedoms are staggering compared to the laws of its Middle Eastern neighbors.

Israel legislates equality for women, while honor killings are legal in many Arab countries. Israel has had a female prime minister, yet women cannot travel freely without permission from a male guardian in many Middle-Eastern countries. Palestinians can petition Israel’s highest courts, yet Saudi Arabia conducts public executions. Israel sends humanitarian aid to Gaza, yet Assad has massacred his own citizens in Syria.

Every country is on the continuous path to becoming a more perfect union, and Israel is not perfect — but the country is nowhere near the monstrosity its opponents make it out to be.

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