FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East strongly rebukes America Magazine for the disgraceful editorial "Israel at 60" (May 26 edition) in which it asks whether Israel can be both Jewish and a democracy.
"This is part of a disturbing trend to question the legitimacy of a Jewish state," says Rev. Dr. Bruce Chilton, the Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College. "Arab Israelis have equal rights under the law. That discrimination still exists is wrong and requires change -- but if the existence of discrimination against a minority population means that a nation is not a democracy, then there is no democracy on the face of the earth."
The poll commissioned by the Knesset Channel asked Israelis if as part of a negotiated agreement establishing a Palestinian state, there would be justification to demand that Arabs relocate to Palestinian territory. "That is quite different from a unilateral expulsion, which is what the America editorial implies. Why the willingness to latch onto any glimmer of a negative Israeli image and distort and magnify it for America's readers?" asks Sr. Ruth Lautt, OP, Fair Witness National Director.
The majority of Israelis were either totally against relocation or believed that relocation should be based upon loyalty to the Jewish state or proximity to the new Palestinian state. 29 percent believed that all Arabs should relocate.
"America's attempt to paint inter-ethnic hostility as existing only on Israel's side is offensive to fair-minded people," says Rev. Dr. Peter Pettit of Muhlenberg College. "In light of 60 years of declared war, one might ask how many Jews remain as voting citizens in neighboring Arab states. If Israelis see virtue in having current Israeli Arabs affiliate with a Palestinian state, is that anything more insidious than a pragmatic assessment of social bonding? If queried, where might a majority of Palestinians suggest that Jews live under a two-state solution? "
In spite of existing tensions Israel has made an effort to acknowledge and improve the problems Arabs face in a Jewish majority nation. One example is a recently instituted Affirmative Action program that will ensure 8 non-Jewish cadets out of each class of 20 to 30 in Israel's elite Foreign Service.
"That America ignores efforts like this calls its motives and judgment into question," according to Fr. James Loughran, Director of the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute. Contact: Christians For Fair Witness on the Middle East