Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Israel and Its People Continue to Be at the Forefront of Humanitarian Efforts

Israel and its people continue to be at the forefront of humanitarian efforts; progressive policies for women, gays, and other minorities; scientific innovations and technological advances; and assisting thousands of refugees and victims of natural disasters around the world regardless of their religion, race, or nationality.

Here are some important facts to know about Israel's extraordinary achievements.

Since its rebirth in the late 1940s, Israel has absorbed and assisted waves of refugees arriving from countries all over the world. Refugees from Yemen, Vietnam, Sudan, Ethiopia, Yugoslavia, Libya and Sudan are now proud Israelis.

Israel is only the size of New Jersey, yet it now has tens of thousands of refugees from war-torn Sudan, Eritrea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Ivory Coast, and the Congo and hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants.

Humanitarian Aid:
The Israel Defense Forces have responded to earthquakes all over the world, including Mexico, Armenia, Turkey, El Salvador, India and Peru, and Indonesia. Israel sent aid supplies to Sri Lanka in response to the 2003 flood, and Israel was among the first three countries to provide aid to the victims of Southeast Asia’s 2004 Tsunami.

In 2010, Israel was the first country in the world to immediately respond to the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti. Israel sent a team of 250 doctors, nurses and rescue workers and set up the first makeshift hospital and surgical center for the victims, saving hundreds of lives.

Medical/Technological Advancements:
Israel has fueled countless technological advancements that help the world, including the discovery of a natural bacterium controlling mosquitoes, helping to prevent river blindness and malaria in 11 African countries. Israeli doctors also travel the world to treat preventable blindness and ocular disease, setting up “eye camps” to people who would not otherwise have access to the technology and treatments. The Israeli organization, Save a Child’s Heart, treats children from all over the world who suffer from heart disease, providing free heart surgeries.

Israel is forging the path in alternative energy, with its company Solel placing solar panels in California’s Mojave Desert, reducing U.S. dependence on oil by 2 million barrels of oil per day. Moreover, The U.S. and Israel are official partners in working toward creating joint projects relating to alternative energy.

Woman’s Rights/Arab Women’s Rights:
Arab women are more educated and have more economic, social and political freedoms in Israel than any other country in the Middle East. Women are full participants in Israel’s government system. Women represent the same percentage of the labor force as the United States at 45 percent.

Gay Rights:
Israel is at the forefront of gay rights issues, prohibiting workplace discrimination in 1992, allowing openly homosexual soldiers to serve in 1993, and granting spousal benefits to same-sex couples in 1994. LGBT organizations and community centers are active throughout Israel, continuing to advocate for LGBT rights.

Diversity In The Country (Tolerance):
Arab Israelis are full citizens, even holding 12 seats in the Israeli government. Twenty percent of Israel’s population is not Jewish, and are free to practice their religion and customs as they choose. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where the number of Christians is growing, and Israel is home to the Ba’hai religion’s world headquarters.

Given these facts about Israel and what it has done for the international community, here are a few questions and statements for propagandists who are trying to create ill will toward Israel:

1) Can you name another country in the region that has done so much for desperate asylum seekers? You can’t.
2) Can you name one Arab country that offered to take in Sudanese refugees? You can’t.
3) Can you name the one country in the Middle East where women and minorities enjoy not only full citizenship, but also have active roles in government? Israel
4) Which Middle Eastern country gives more aid to countries and people in need around the world, despite its small size? Israel.
5) Which is the only country in the Middle East that openly supports gay rights? Israel
6) Which country in the Middle East has women and gays serving in the government and military? Israel.

When Does anti-Zionism Become anti-Semitism?
It is perfectly legitimate to criticize Israel's policies. Israelis do it all the time in blistering debates. But criticism crosses the line into classic anti-Semitism when it exhibits what Natan Sharansky calls the "Three Ds."

Delegitimization: The Jewish State has no right to exist. Israelis do not belong in the Middle East.

Double Standards: Israel is condemned harshly for self-defense measures and social problems that are seen as acceptable or inevitable in other nations.

Demonization: Through distortions and lies, Israel is depicted as the world's most evil and dangerous country, and the claim is made that if the Jewish State ceased to exist, the Middle East's and the world's main problems would be solved.

The Link: Anti-Semitism is hatred for Jews, their communities and their way of life. It includes demonizing and dehumanizing Jews as a group. Anti-Zionism is hatred for Israel, the modern center of Jewish life and continuity. This is why many people claim that Anti-Zionism, or hatred for Israel, is a modern variation of classical anti-Semitism. "Anti-Semitic bigotry is no less morally deplorable when camouflaged as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism," according to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. 1 People of goodwill must try to see through anti-Israel propaganda in order to foster reasonable dialogue.

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