By Ariel Gomberg
There is one country in the Middle East that shares the same democratic values as the United States. Israel, a country smaller than the size of New Jersey, was founded in May 1948 as a Jewish, democratic state. Every citizen, regardless of his or her religion, is granted democratic rights and freedoms. The Israel Defense Force and the Government of Israel have spent the past 64 years defending the rights of their citizens. Israel’s citizens include people from a multitude of religions and cultures.
Israel is often falsely accused of being an “Apartheid State.” Apartheid refers to the racial segregation that occurred in South Africa, where “nonwhites” were barred from participating in government, public facilities and educational institutions. In 2009, the United Nations published the Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of committing war crimes during its operation in the Gaza Strip. Richard Golstone, the author of the report, retracted these claims in 2011. The United Nations publicly repudiated the validity of the account and exonerated Israel of its alleged war crimes. The Israeli operation itself was in response to 8,000 missiles fired by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
No other country that borders Israel grants its citizens complete freedom of speech, press, assembly and religion like Israel does. Israeli law forbids discrimination of any person based on their sexual orientation. The Israeli military has always allowed gays to serve openly, even before the United States Congress repealed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” Israelis can, and do, constantly criticize their own government. Just last spring, thousands of social protesters took to the streets of Tel Aviv, where peaceful demonstrations took place.
Of course, Israel, like any other country, has its flaws, but its commitment to grant complete freedoms to its citizens is unwavering. Palestinian reporters have more rights in Israel than they do in the Palestinian Authority. At Israeli universities, Muslim and Jewish students learn together in classrooms with both Arab and Israeli professors. In the Israeli Knesset (parliament), there are both Arab and Israeli members. Israel even had its first woman Prime Minister, Golda Meir, in the 1970s.
Until 2002, there was no barrier between Israel and the West Bank. It was only when terrorists targeted innocent civilians within Israel’s borders in the form of suicide bombings on public buses, in shopping malls, restaurants, and night clubs, that Israel took drastic measures to protect its citizens. As a government, Israel established the means to protect the lives of its civilians by employing the use of a security fence and checkpoints along the West Bank-Israel border. During the Second Intifada, over a thousand innocent civilians were killed due to the lack of protection. Today, the security fence has foiled almost every attempted terrorist attack, and Israelis no longer fear using public transportation or eating in restaurants. In its short existence, Israel has progressed more than many countries have in centuries, and it prides itself on the fact that it opposes any non-democratic country.