In some political circles in the West, there is a tendency to consider Israel a “racist ” or “apartheid” country.
“I want you to know,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who heads the Congressional Progressive Caucus, recently said during an appearance at the Netroots Nation Conference in Chicago, “that we have been fighting to make it clear that Israel is a racist state, that the Palestinian people deserve self-determination and autonomy, that the dream of a two-state solution is slipping away from us, that it does not even feel possible.”
Jayapal’s statement is so far from reality it makes one wonder if she and those with similar opinions live in another world. Jayapal’s statement is, sadly, filled with falsehoods and smears. Israel does indeed have a sizable Arab community—roughly two million, or 20% of the population—who enjoy rights and liberties that for most other minorities in other countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia are still only a dream.
In addition to Muslim Arabs, Israel is home to other minorities, including Christians, Circassians, Baha’i and Druze. Unlike many other countries, especially in the area, Israel recognizes and respects the rights of all of these minorities. You are welcome to go to Israel and see for yourself. Most critics of Israel, however, would probably prefer not to be confused by the facts.
Jayapal, unfortunately, is also totally wrong about Palestinian Arabs not having a right to self-determination. They have full autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Some territory, according to the Oslo Accords, is still waiting to be negotiated, but for several years, the Palestinian leadership has seemed uninclined to come to the table. Israel has offered the Palestinians statehood—not just once, but on at least six separate occasions—most recently with the “Peace to Prosperity” plan outlined by the Trump administration.
Each time, the Palestinian leadership has rejected all offers—perhaps because they were only for 97% and not 100% of everything demanded; perhaps out of fear of seeming a traitor; perhaps because there might be a greater preference for a “cause” than for a solution—unless the solution entails the elimination of Israel. Perhaps, also, there was—and is—the hope that the international community will simply hand the Palestinians a state without the need for them to give anything on their end. Or perhaps there is just a strong aversion to signing an “end of conflict” resolution. In any event, each time there was an offer, the Palestinians not only rejected it, but did not even propose a counteroffer.
Muslim Arabs in Israel hold senior positions in all walks of life: senior posts in the Israeli parliament (the Knesset), the medical profession, private industry, various government posts and on the Supreme Court. There is also no legal obstacle for Israeli Arabs who wish to join the military or the police.
What about the rights of minorities of other nations in the region?
In Lebanon, Palestinians, according to UNRWA, “are socially marginalized, have very limited civil, social, political, and economic rights, including restricted access to the Government of Lebanon’s public health, educational and social services and face significant restrictions on their right to work and right to own property.” UNRWA also reports that Palestinians are still prevented from employment in 39 professions such as medicine, law and engineering.
“Palestinian refugees have been forced into abject poverty by the Lebanese government’s denial of their rights to remunerated employment, social security, public health care, public education and property ownership…. The Palestinian refugees are not asking for citizenship; they are simply asking to be afforded the rights given to other refugees around the world,” noted The Palestine-Israel Journal in 2008.
In Turkey, the Civil Servants Law of 1926 has made it virtually impossible for Christians and Jews to work as civil servants at state institutions. Consequently, thousands of non-Muslims lost their jobs. The law required that civil servants had to be “Turkish”—meaning Muslim. The condition of being “Turkish” was changed to “Turkish citizen” in 1965, but the 1926 law has continued unchanged. As human-rights lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz noted, “Not even one single non-Muslim army officer, policeman or judge exists in Turkey. Non-Muslims are absent not only from the security and judiciary establishment but from the public sector altogether.”
Today, only around 0.1 percent of Turkey’s population is made up of Christians or Jews. Yet these dying minorities are still exposed to pressures and rights abuses. The Assyrian community is still struggling to open its first primary school in Istanbul, with no support from the government. The first private Kurdish-language primary school, which was inaugurated in 2014, for instance, was closed down by the National Education Ministry in 2016. Turkey also refuses to resolve the Kurdish issue through democratic means and instead violently silences, arrests and even kills its own Kurdish citizens that request equal rights.
Turkey, a NATO member, still aggressively denies the genocide it committed against Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks from 1913 to 1923, and appears perfectly comfortable—as does the rest of the international community—with its 1974 invasion of Cyprus, where the Turks still occupy the north of the island and might be eyeing the south.
Perhaps, if Jayapal genuinely wants to help suffering people, she might focus on the more than 360 million Christians around the world who are being murdered and persecuted on a daily basis.
For instance, according to Open Doors: “Christians in Nigeria suffer persecution from an ingrained agenda of enforced Islamization, which is particularly prevalent in the north of the country and has gradually been spreading south.
“Since the northern states declared allegiance to Sharia (Islamic law) in 1999, this enforced Islamization has gained momentum, by violent and non-violent means. Attacks by Islamic militant groups have increased consistently since 2015… The violence is most pervasive in the north, where militant groups such as Boko Haram, ISWAP and Fulani militants inflict murder, physical injury, abduction and sexual violence on their victims. Christians are dispossessed of their land and their means of livelihood. Many live as internally displaced people or refugees.
“In the Sharia states of northern Nigeria, Christians face discrimination and exclusion as second-class citizens…
“The raids on Christian communities, and other forms of violence, lead to large numbers of Christians (and other Nigerians) being forced to live in camps for internally displaced people. Women and children are particularly vulnerable in these camps. Children suffer health issues, and women and girls are vulnerable to human trafficking.”
In recent testimony to a U.S. congressional subcommittee, Bishop Winfred Anagbe of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Makurdi in Benue State, Nigeria, decried what he called the “conspiracy of silence” between his government and the international community in response to what he said was genocidal violence targeting Christian communities in the African nation.
“For a long time, attacks by Islamic militants have not only killed thousands but have also displaced millions who now take refuge in camps scattered across the state,” he explained in his written testimony. The Christian Post reported on July 19, 2023:
“‘Schools, clinics, churches, markets etc., have all been destroyed in some areas. Since 2014, when I became bishop, I have lost territory to the Islamic militants masquerading as herdsmen. I have had to close 14 parishes because of the danger,’ he added.
“Anagbe also detailed how Benue state has been greatly impacted by mass killings that have led to ‘displacement and occupation of lands’ since 2009.
“But since 2014, he and other bishops in Benue have ‘lost parishioners on an almost daily basis.’
“‘[T]he killings of people, even pregnant women and children, and the occupation of their lands to cause the cessation of all economic activities mirrors the pattern of jihadi elements like the Boko Haram in other parts of Nigeria,’ Anagbe stated.”
The Palestinian Authority‘s persecution of Christians also merits urgent attention. “The ongoing international neglect of the plight of the Christians under PA rule,” noted Dr. Edy Cohen, “could lead to the disappearance of Christianity in the place where it emerged.”
The Christian population in the Bethlehem area “has dropped from 86% in 1950 to less than 12% today. Across the West Bank, Christians now account for less than 2% of the population….”
Ironically, Israel is home to the only Christian community in the Middle East that has grown in the last 75 years. While the number of Christians in the region has been dwindling, the population of Israeli Christians actually grew by 2%. “In Israel,” said Pastor Petra Heldt, a leading Christian scholar who has lived there for 40 years, “the Christian number is stable because there is freedom of religion. This is not true of Muslim-majority countries in the region.”
“As an Arab pastor,” said Pastor Saleem Shalash from the Home of the Jesus King Church in Nazareth, “I would prefer to live in Israel. The freedom we have in Israel we don’t have in the best Arab countries. We can practice our belief without persecution. And if there is persecution, we can call the police and they will protect us.”
In Iraq, the indigenous Yazidi community are still struggling to return to their native Sinjar region following the 2014 genocide by Islamic State. According to the Free Yezidi Organization, around 2,700 Yazidis are still missing after being kidnapped by ISIS, at least 83 Yazidi mass graves are awaiting to be unearthed in Iraq and around 180,000 displaced Yazidis still live in 15 internally displaced camps in the Kurdistan region there.
In addition, in 2022, the top Iraqi court revoked Yazidi parliamentary representation. The Iraqi Federal Supreme Court issued a verdict declaring the parliamentary representation of Yazidis and two other minority communities (Shabaks and Feyli Kurds) “unconstitutional”: minorities lost their quota seats and had to compete within other quotas.
The flight of Jews from Arab countries and Iran is another case of ethnic cleansing that is meticulously ignored.
Until the 1960s, approximately one million Jews lived in Iran and Arab countries, a region where the Jews had arrived roughly 3,000 years earlier. The majority of the Jewish populations in those Muslim countries were forced to flee their homes in the years after the establishment of the State of Israel. However, none of those governments responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Jewish people have apologized for this mass expulsion.
“Israel’s 1.5 million Arabs, whatever challenges they face, enjoy full rights to vote and to be elected in the Knesset [Israeli parliament], they work as doctors and lawyers, they serve on the Supreme Court.
“Now I’d like to ask the members of that commission, that commissioned that report, the Arab states from which we just heard, Egypt, Iraq and the others:
“How many Jews live in your countries? How many Jews live in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco? Once upon a time, the Middle East was full of Jews.
“Algeria had 140,000 Jews. Algeria, where are your Jews?
“Egypt used to have 75,000 Jews. Where are your Jews?
“Syria, you had tens of thousands of Jews. Where are your Jews?
“Iraq, you had over 135,000 Jews. Where are your Jews?”
A similar question could be asked regarding all religious and ethnic minorities in countries across the Middle East, Africa, Asia: Where are your minorities? And how have those indigenous communities turned into dying minorities under your rule?
The Hindu American Foundation notes:
“Abduction and forced conversion of Hindu girls is rampant.
“Approximately 1000 Hindu and Christian girls in Pakistan are abducted and converted to Islam annually. These girls, stolen from their family, are often forced to marry men twice their age, raped, sold into human trafficking rings, or forced into prostitution. Some Islamic seminaries teach that forcibly converting Hindu girls is equivalent to Haj-e-Akbari, or the greatest religious duty for a Muslim.
“Minorities live as second-class citizens due to discriminatory laws.
“The laws of Pakistan often contradict each other and lead to unequal treatment of religious minorities.
“For example, the Pakistan constitution theoretically guarantees religious freedom to all of its citizens under Articles 20-22. However, Islamic law introduced in 1977 imposes regulations and constitutional injunctions that deny equal protection and religious freedom to non-Muslims. Additionally, the Pakistani Constitution states that only a Muslim can be the president of the country and that all high officers must take the oath of office by invoking an Islamic prayer, regardless of their religion.
“Ancient temples are disappearing and new ones are under attack.
“[S]ince the country’s partition in 1947… [t]here have been numerous attacks on temples, pilgrimage sites, religious sites, and religious leaders and the government does little to stop the attacks or protect the sacred places and people.”
The Chinese Communist Party.
It is not exactly a secret that China has effectively wiped out Tibet and is currently torturing and enslaving Turkic Muslim Uighurs based in Xinjiang, in “modern day slavery,” according to a British tribunal, to the point of genocide—and targeting its citizens by using artificial intelligence.
The CCP is reportedly also in the process of gene-splicing to develop a lethal virus for biowarfare to kill people whose DNA is not Chinese while sparing people whose DNA is Chinese (here and here). It would be hard to think of an activity more racist than that.
When millions of people are systematically exposed to severe human rights abuses daily across the world for their religion, ethnicity, race, language, political views, or other factors, why are some activists obsessed only with Israel, where minorities do have rights and freedoms that are non-existent in other countries in the region?
What is it that makes them falsely call Israel “apartheid” but completely turn a blind eye to the ongoing genocide of Christians in Nigeria, the slavery of Uighurs by the Chinese Communist Party, the illegal invasion of Cyprus by Turkey, or the kidnapping and forced conversions of Hindu children in Pakistan, not to mention other human rights violations?
Israel, of course, like any country, has imperfections, but on the whole it is a remarkably open and tolerant state that actually tries its best, while under unremitting diplomatic, military and terrorist attacks, to assure the human rights of all its citizens, regardless of religion or race. Parroting false propaganda about Israel being “racist” or “apartheid” does not create better lives for the Palestinians. Why not instead try to encourage freedom of speech or modernizing its economy?
What sort of racism is it to be obsessed only with Israel, where the populations of minorities are rising and vigilantly protected, when in so many other nations, minorities are systematically murdered, tortured and discriminated against, with no state protection whatsoever?
Originally published by the Gatestone Institute.