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News Opinion Readers Respond

Yes, Israel is a democracy [Letter]

William Cooper completely misstated the rules of Israeli citizenship in a recent letter to the editor ("Israel is not a 'democracy,'" Feb. 4).

Jewishness is not a prerequisite for citizenship here, as attested to by the 21 percent of Israeli citizens who are non-Jewish Arabs, as well as others who are neither Jewish nor Arab but citizens of Israel, nonetheless. Moreover, all citizens of Israel have the same rights under the law — and they vote. Just ask any of the Arab Members of the Knesset who rely on those Arab votes to get elected.

Mr. Cooper's suggestion that Arabs have been living in the Holy Land for thousands of years defies the historical record. While there have always been small numbers of non-Jews in Israel, the large influx of Arabs from surrounding areas seeking work among the growing Jewish population a century ago created the "Palestinian" nation of today. Arabs then, as now, were unable to establish a functioning economy that could support their own growing population. Arabs from all over the Middle East migrate to other lands today for precisely the same reason. This doesn't make them indigenous to Europe, Australia, etc.

The boycotts that Mr. Cooper seems to be so fond of have the prime intention of damaging Israel, without regard for the welfare of the Palestinians. The current SodaStream case is an excellent example of this. There are many excellent reasons for denouncing these boycotts, as well.

While Israel's democracy is certainly flawed and imperfect, precisely the same could be said about America's as well. Mr. Cooper's argument against Israeli democracy is unfounded and not supported by the facts. His willingness to ignore the crimes of regimes in the rest of the Middle East while inventing unfounded criticisms against Israel speaks volumes about his true interests.

Finally, pointing out that anti-Semitism exists isn't "name-calling." It is instead taking bigots to task for their obvious bigotry. Had such people truly been interested in human rights, freedom and democracy, at least for the Palestinian people, they would have made a fuss about the lack of such rights and freedoms for people living under Arab control both in the territories and elsewhere in the region.

The truth is in Israel that Arabs have more rights, freedoms, protections and privileges under the law — both in theory and in practice — than anywhere else in the Middle East. Mr. Cooper's arguments against Israel simply don't square with the facts.

Jake Livni, Jerusalem, Israel

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