While so-called “progressives” and biased media in the United States level a relentless stream of accusations against Israel, these “critics” uniformly ignore the fact that Israel is one of the most liberal, progressive nations in the world. If Israel’s “progressive” critics really cared about social justice, they would be the country’s most fervent supporters.
Enemies of Israel falsely accuse Israel of white colonialism, apartheid, ultra-nationalism, unfair treatment of its Arab citizens, LGBT “pinkwashing,” theocracy and violations of international law.
In fact, Israel is a mature democracy with high-functioning government and judicial institutions, plus a long track record of moral behavior and the rule of law. It guarantees expansive civil liberties, equal rights and economic opportunities to its citizens.
This includes, of course, Israel’s two million Arab citizens—20% of the population—who share all the benefits of Israeli society.
Israeli Arabs are currently represented in the Knesset by two political parties, one of which is an Islamist party that was part of the outgoing government. An Arab Muslim judge serves on Israel’s Supreme Court. An Arab Christian also served as a Supreme Court justice and was chair of Israel’s Central Elections Committee.
An Arab Muslim is the head of Bank Leumi, Israel’s largest bank. Arabs also make up 30% of the country’s doctors and 50% of the country’s pharmacists.
Thousands of Israeli Arabs volunteer for service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), even though military service is not required of Arab Muslims or Christians.
So much for the myth of Israeli apartheid.
Israel is the Middle East’s most diverse nation and one of the world’s most diverse nations. In fact, the overwhelming majority of its population are people of color—including more than half of Israeli Jews, who mostly hail from Africa and the Middle East.
The IDF is also extremely diverse, boasting service members from 73 nations and a Muslim holding the rank of major.
Israel protects freedom of religion. Unlike most of its Middle East neighbors, all religions—including all branches of Judaism—are welcome, and Israel is the only Middle Eastern country in which Christians are growing in numbers. Israel also hosts the world headquarters of the Bahai faith.
Israel believes in and practices full social equality. Women enjoy complete freedom, serve in all levels of government and business and even participate in the military draft. The IDF has six female brigadier generals and a female fighter pilot.
Abortion is legal in Israel. There are no state restrictions on racial or religious intermarriage. Same-sex marriages are recognized by the legal system. This was the case nine years before same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.S. In addition, while the abusive practice of “conversion therapy” for members of the LGBT community is still legal in some parts of the U.S., it is banned in Israel.
While homosexuality and sexual diversity are either outlawed or severely censured in almost all Middle Eastern countries, Israel hosts some of the largest and liveliest celebrations of LGBT life in the world. Tel Aviv is rightfully dubbed the Gay Capital of the Middle East.
Israel even grants asylum to members of the LGBT community living in areas under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, where there is harsh, often violent punishment of sexual minorities, and no legislation to protect their rights.
Israel is an exemplary citizen in the community of nations. In the face of natural disasters worldwide—hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis—the Jewish state’s response with medical help and food supplies is unparalleled. Tiny Israel is usually one of the first countries to send aid.
The IDF observes some of the strictest rules of engagement in the world in order to protect civilians in war zones. Such policies often put IDF troops at risk by sending them on the ground into dangerous areas rather than employing tactics like carpet bombing, which could lead to the deaths of many innocents.
Alleged violations of the IDF’s rules of engagement by soldiers—such as the death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh—are seriously investigated and severely punished when proven, which Akleh’s was not.
Finally, Israel is far from a colonial settler state. It was founded by indigenous Jews returning to their homeland in opposition to colonial rule, and its founding was legitimized under international law by the United Nations.
Israel also strictly adheres to the letter of the international protocols and treaties to which it is a party. For example, despite constant lies that Israel disobeys the Geneva Conventions against occupation, Israel has never relocated its citizens to the territory of another nation.
In short, Israel is one of the world’s most moral, enlightened democracies—few nations can match its expansive civil rights, legal protections for minorities, equality of liberties and opportunities and adherence to international law. No wonder the EIU 2021 Democracy Index ranked Israel the world’s 23rd most successful democracy—ahead of the U.S., Spain, Italy and 139 other nations.
Far from being a white colonial nation, an oppressor of Arabs or a violator of human rights, Israel is one of the freest, most diverse and law-abiding countries in the world.
James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship with the United States.