Israel: Island of Tolerance in the Mideast
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Published in: March-April 2006 issue.


I AM STRUCK by those on the left whose hostility to Israel is so total that they ignore the fact that, by the values important to liberals, conditions inside Israel are greatly superior to those within any of its Arab neighbors. This does not mean that one needs to agree with Israel’s position on Israeli-Arab issues. As a supporter of Israel’s right to exist as a democratic Jewish state, I have long supported Israeli withdrawal not just from Gaza, but from almost all of the West Bank, and, if an agreement can be reached with the repressive Syrian regime, from the Golan Heights as well. I have also been critical of some aspects of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, although it is always relevant to note that, had the Arab states been genuinely interested in creating a Palestinian state in Gaza and all of what is now the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, they had the ability to do so at any time between 1948 when Israel was created and 1967.

But whatever one’s position on these questions, people on the left ought to be taking note of the differences between the freedom that exists in general within Israeli society and the oppression that is sadly the situation in virtually every Arab state. This is particularly true with regard to the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people.

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