27. Israel guarantees Arab freedoms

In his letter to the editor of April 17 [21], Medhat Credi complains that Israel is not a true democracy because everyone of every religion cannot automatically become a citizen of Israel.

I would like to point out that virtually no democracy accepts everyone who applies. Every legal alien can only enter this country under a restricted quota system which many people consider discrimination. At this very time the United States continues its policy not to admit Kurds.

What are the facts about Israel?

17 percent of the total population are non-Jews, most of them Arabs, and some Druze. Like all other Israeli citizens, they have full rights to vote and to hold elective office. Both Arabs and Druze hold seats in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. It is official policy of the Israeli government to foster language, culture and traditions of the Arab minority. Arabic is an official language in Israel, together with Hebrew. Israel's Arabic press is the most vibrant and independent of any country in the region: there are more than 20 Arabic periodicals. They publish what they please, subject only to the same military censorship as Jewish publications. There are daily TV and radio programs in Arabic. Arabic is taught in Jewish secondary schools. Israeli universities are renowned centers of learning in the history and literature of the Arab Middle East. The literacy rate among Israeli Arabs is 95 percent virtually the same as for Israeli Jews. 95 percent of Arab children attend school, probably the highest ratio of any Arab population anywhere. All religious communities in Israel enjoy the full protection of the state. Israeli Arabs--Muslims, as well as many Christian denominations--are free to exercise their faiths, to observe their own weekly day of rest and holidays, and to administer their own internal affairs. The holy sites of all religions are administered by their own authorities and protected by the government.

In contrast to the non-Israeli Arab world, Arab women in Israel enjoy the same status as men. Israeli law grants women equal rights, including the right to vote and to be elected to public office, prohibits polygamy and child marriage, and has thus vastly changed the status of women to far above that of any country in the region. Israeli health standards are by far the highest in the Middle East. Israeli health institutions are freely open to all Arabs, on the same basis as the Jews.

Lawrence Newman, Katonah

April 30, 1991

For a rebuttal see [28]