October 14: True and false

Mixing truth with lies is a great way of obfuscating the issue and confusing people.

True and false
Sir, – Fatah spokesman Ahmed Assaf said that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s insistence that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish and democratic state “is aimed at abolishing the right of return for the refugees and expelling the more than one million Palestinians living in Israel” (“Two-state solution is over, Fatah official says,” October 13).
Mixing truth with lies is a great way of obfuscating the issue and confusing people. Yes, Israel cannot absorb Palestinian refugees or it will cease to exist. No, Israel will not expel the Israeli Arabs.
Selective equality
Sir, – If the EU supports “two democratic states living side by side in peace and security” (“Israel dubs EU call to guarantee equality ‘kicking at an open door,’” October 13), are they a bit troubled by the fact that the current negotiations are taking place with a Palestinian leader who is not democratically elected? (His democratically elected term in office expired in January, 2009.)
Equal rights and privileges, among individual citizens as well as nations and aspiring stations, must be balanced with equal responsibilities.
Sir, – Catherine Ashton’s spokeswoman’s recent comments on civil rights in Israel omit the fact that Israel does guarantee equality for all Israeli nationals, as written in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
Arabs have held some of the highest positions in Israeli society. Salim Joubran became a justice in the Supreme Court in 2004. Jamal Hakrush was promoted to assistant commander in the National Police in December, 2006. A year later, Raleb Majadele, a former member of Israel’s Labor Party, became the country’s first Arab-Muslim cabinet member.
There are three Arab political parties in the current Israeli parliament, with Arabs also sitting in what are traditionally Jewish parties.
Arabs also are prevalent in Israeli academia, sports and entertainment.
In addition to the individual’s right of freedom, numerous organizations operate freely in Israel representing the Arab minority and frequently appeal to Israel’s justice system when it is felt rights have been infringed.
Israeli Arabs have opportunities not afforded to citizens in many Arab countries. Women enjoy equal rights in Israel as do homosexuals. Furthermore, polygamy, child marriage and female sexual mutilation are prohibited by law in Israel. Muslim women in Israel have more rights here than in just about any Muslim country.
In many Mideast countries minorities are suffering severely. Will the EU use its power to focus on their plight?
LAURA KAM The Israel Project Jerusalem
Here and there
Sir, – Gil Troy notes that when Canadian immigrants swear allegiance and when Americans pledge allegiance, it is acceptable, “yet when Israelis propose loyalty oaths, it becomes oppressive” (“Loyalty acts, not loyalty oaths,” October 13).
However, there is a big difference between the US and Canadian case, on the one hand, and the Israeli case on the other.
There, loyalty oaths encourage allegiance, for they inspire within the immigrant confidence that he or she is welcome in this land as their new homeland.
The proposed Israeli loyalty oath would send the exact opposite message. It would tell the Arabs that although they are born here, Israel is not their homeland. It is the homeland of the Jews. They can stay on sufferance if they take the loyalty oath.
The proposed loyalty oath is discriminatory, and so Israel should not be surprised if the world sees it for what it is: oppressive.
Pandora’s boxes
Sir, – As an immigrant and fully-Jewish citizen, I have always received red-carpet treatment; that is to say, compared to less privileged souls – Russians who were Jews “there” but not “here,” notwell- enough-converted converts, messianic Israel-worshiping Christians, and a bevy of native-born minority folk.
I know that I belong to the dominant class. I managed to keep this “superiority” under wraps even from myself most of the time; that is, until I saw the headlines about the amendment to the Citizenship and Entry Law. My stomach tied up into knots.
I called an Israeli friend who said, “So tell me, how would an American react to this?”
Here goes:
I am not an academic; neither do I have any political affiliations. I am the mother of two. I live and teach flamenco dance in Jerusalem.
As a high school student in New England I learned that the separation of church and state was a concept, a creed, a value of the highest order. The revered pilgrims starved through the Massachusetts winters just to get away from the Church of England. The founding fathers expressed the concept in their seminal documents.
Freedom from persecution based on race, creed, religion is bottom line, and every American and every candidate for US citizenship knows it.
Swearing loyalty to a Jewish and democratic state opens not one but many Pandora’s boxes.
Non-Jewish candidates for citizenship are immediately put into a paradoxical situation of being required to identify with something that they are not.
The more insidious implication is that Jewish citizens are being given a message of superiority and even a green light to discriminate against non-Jews.
Even without the subtext of non-Jews being inferior citizens, the act of swearing allegiance to a Jewish and democratic state is fraught with ambiguity. Compliance with the law, paying taxes, and a basic respect for others’ freedom of expression seem to me more relevant measures of good citizenship.
The amendment’s authors show lack of judgment but also intent to aggravate existing divisive and racist tendencies.
The amendment sounds a note of paranoia behind the intentions to unite us through identification with a nonexistent “Jewish and democratic” political identity. It also shows transparent ignorance about the democratic values that support civil society.
Time and again Israel is caught in the irony of the history of the Jews as maligned minority and our current status as tragically insensitive and heavy-handed governors of a society whose pluralism our leaders are still trying to deny.
Brainless City
Sir, – I had to grimace at the irony of juxtaposing Warren Buffett’s praise for Israeli “brain power” – delivered to a conference held at the Avenue Convention Center in Airport City – with the location itself, which in my experience contradicts everything he was saying (“Buffett: Israel has a disproportionate amount of brains and energy,” October 13).
Airport City is a great idea that has been horribly executed. The basic premise was to build a logistics and distribution center near the airport, but somewhere along the way it was forgotten that distribution (logistics) requires transport, and transport requires trucks and containers, which need to move along roads.
Airport City is an enormous complex that has a single access and exit road, so that every one of the thousands of vehicles coming each day must move through this one point.
Then came the bright idea to build a gigantic convention center – right at this single entry point! Now, on any given day, another 500 or so vehicles are thrown into the mix. Traffic stretches back as much as a kilometer from the entry to Airport City.
For obvious reasons, the airport is located on the flattest piece of land in the region. So Airport City is totally flat, but they didn’t figure this into the planning: none of the roads have drainage.
HENRY KAYE Mazkeret Batya