Letter: Arabs most free in Israel

Hassen Al-Shawaf presents himself as adept in Middle East issues, so Hassen, please allow me to ask you a question. If Arabs aren’t free in Israel, as you claim, can you name a single Arab country in which they enjoy better conditions? At this point I’m sure that Hassen is speechless, as it is a rhetorical question. Not a single Arab country exists in which Arabs live under democratic, free conditions. It is ironic that the only free Arab elections occur in Arab-Israeli towns such as Nazareth. Perhaps he simply forgot to read the reports of what happens to homosexuals, feminists and political dissidents in Arab countries. The answer is that they are brutally tortured, if not killed. According to the Arab Human Development Report, compiled and published by Arab researchers, out of seven regions in the world, Arab courtiers have the lowest freedom score. How many Arab trade unions exist in Arab countries? How many independent Arab news outlets are there? What is the status of poetical opposition? Not only is Israel a bastion of political freedom and human rights, it is a haven for cultural and ethnic diversity in the Middle East, home to immigrants from at least 103 countries, including many refugees from Africa who were turned away by other nations. I urge you to research how many people are immigrating to Syria or Saudi Arabia per year.

With regard to his characterization of the poor conditions in Gaza, it is surprising that he simply forgets that it is largely the fault of the corrupt Palestinian leadership that there is virtually no infrastructure; Arafat and his coterie spent money on weaponry and suicide bombers rather than hospitals, roads and economic development. Furthermore, Palestinians, even those living in refugee camps, are often much better off than residents of surrounding Arab countries. I’ll bet that Mr. Shawaf doesn’t know that according to FAFO Report 427, 80.7 percent of Palestinians refugees owned refrigerators, while 75.5 percent owned washing machines. Compare those statistics to Sudanese or Balkan refugees. Though one cannot fault Mr. Al-Shawaf for his lack of knowledge, perhaps he should have spent a little more time examining Israel’s neighbors before castigating Israel, an oasis of freedom.

Eli Wald

sophomore in LAS

president, Illinois Israel Public Affairs Committee