34. Critic of Israel distorts facts

Aly Abul Kheir claimed in a June 5 letter [30] that Israel is not a democracy and that her Law of Return is racist.

He bases his claim on one sentence in the State Department's 1989 Country Reports on Human Rights which says that, "Israel's Arab citizens have not shared fully in the rights granted to and the duties levies on, Jewish citizens." But, in Mr. Abul-Kheir's letter, he left out the "duties" part of the quote, which totally changes the meaning of the sentence from what Mr. Abul-Kheir claims it means.

The sentence refers to post-service benefits received by those Israelis who serve in the military. Israeli Arab citizens are not required to serve in the military but some volunteer. Those that do receive the same (GI) after-service benefits that Israeli Jews receive. The report does not say that Israeli Arabs have fewer rights than Israeli Jews. Nowhere in this report is there the slightest criticism of Israel's land ownership or leasing laws as Mr. Abul-Kheir suggests when he claims that Arabs can't buy or lease land in Israel. His claim is not accurate.

To say that Israeli Arabs are denied the right to buy state lands is a half-truth. Israeli Jews cannot buy state lands either. Both, however, can and do lease it.

State lands comprise 78 percent of the land in Israel and that land can be leased by Israeli Arab or Israeli Jew alike. The Jewish National Fund owns 12 percent of all the land in Israel, which is only leased to Jews. The remaining 10 percent is owned privately and can be rented, sold or leased as the owners choose.

Israeli Arabs comprise 18 percent of the population and they live throughout Israel in homes they own or lease. They farm land that they own or lease.

This same State Department report did say that "Israel is a democracy with strong guarantees of freedom for all religious faiths and that Israeli citizens have a range of civil and other rights generally comparable to those in advanced Western democracies."

James Davidson, Briarcliff Manor

July 9, 1991

For a rebuttal see [35]