Does Israel Oppress the Palestinian People?
Should the State of Israel be described as an "oppressive occupier" or "apartheid state?" Pastor David Blease with Gateway Center for Israel separates the facts from the fiction surrounding Israel's complicated relationship with the Palestinians - and offers evidence that while imperfect, Israel is still the freest country in the Middle East.
This video appears inMiddle East Conflict
Does Israel oppress the Palestinian people?
Many people over the years have accused Israel of being an occupational oppressor over the Palestinians. The most pervasive comment in our channels is often free Palestine. This comes from the belief that Israel is oppressing the Palestinians, but is that true? Let’s dive deeper into this claim.
Many claim that Israel is an apartheid state like South Africa in the 1940’s to 1990’s. But for a state to be an apartheid state, there must be an official policy that restricts certain people based on race, gender, or religion from rights like voting, education, transportation, etc. In Israel, Israeli Arabs have the same rights as Israeli Jews. They live side by side with one another. They attend the same schools, buses, and restaurants. They both vote and are elected into government positions. Arabs are not required to serve in the Israeli army, but many do by choice as they view themselves as Israelis.
Out of 2 million Arabs living in Israel, a poll done in 2020 found that 51% of them identify not as Palestinian, but as Israeli Arabs. 23% simply identify as Israelis. They don’t identify as Palestinians. They were born in Israel, and many of them fight to defend Israel. Israel is by far the freest country in the Middle East. You have the right to burn an Israeli flag in Israel, and many do. If you’d like to try flying to Iraq or Iran and burn their flag, I don’t think you’d make it home.
Many claim that the Palestinians fight against Israel to be recognized and that they desire their own state alongside Israel. But the truth of this is way more complicated because Israel has offered the Palestinians a two-state solution on multiple occasions. In November of 1947, the UN voted to make two states. Israel accepted the UN’s plan and the Palestinians said no.
In the year 2000 at Camp David, under the leadership of Bill Clinton, Israel agreed to a Palestinian state that gave the Palestinians all of Gaza and almost 95% of the West Bank. The Palestinians rejected the offer again. If the idea of a two-state solution was indeed a solution, here was the chance. With the whole world watching the Palestinian Authority rejected the proposition again. Israel tried again in 2008, and the Palestinians rejected the plan again. Often it wasn’t just dismissed, it was rejected as terrorist groups responded with suicide bombers and rocket fire into Israel. The Palestinian authority and the terrorist organizations like Hamas do not want a Palestinian state alongside Israel. They want a Palestinian state without Israel and a world without Jewish people.
As someone who has been to Israel more than once, it’s fascinating to me that we can claim that Israel is oppressing the Palestinians. Palestinians are welcome anywhere in Israel. They can walk freely through the land. Any Palestinian could enter into Jerusalem, worship in a mosque, and return home. Yet, if a Jewish citizen were to wander into a Palestinian run city, they would first be met with signs warning, no Jews allowed. Which one sounds more like apartheid to you? Israel is a land of free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion. It’s a free country. Is it a perfect country? Of course not. There are bad Israelis and bad soldiers, just like there are bad Americans and bad cops. But by and large, Israel has done more to protect the freedom of the Arab community and the Palestinians than any other of their Arab neighbors.
The temptation we have as Westerners is to see Israel as a more robust military force and assume that it means they are oppressing. We must understand that Israel is a hotbed of terror and war. Israel cannot afford to be lackadaisical, or people will be murdered in the streets. Resist the temptation to denounce judgment on Israel for every video of armed Israeli soldiers responding to threats. Some may be an abuse of power, but many are decisive attempts to stop terrorism and the murder of Israelis, both Jews and Arabs. Israel is not a perfect nation. No nation is, but is it an aggressive nation that oppresses the Palestinians? Absolutely not.