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Israel Answers

IS IT SAFE TO VISIT ISRAEL?

Visitors Favor Israel

Tourists and business leaders alike flock to Israel. GLOBES, Israel’s financial daily, reports that pilgrimages, tours, vacations, and leisure bring the highest numbers of travelers, but due to Israel’s innovative climate, 11 percent of visitors come for business reasons. Apple, IBM, Intel, Google, and Microsoft deem Israel safe enough to invest multiple millions of dollars building R & D facilities in Israel. From India to Indonesia, the United States to the United Kingdom, from Nigeria to the Netherlands, and China to Chile, tourists flood tiny Israel—with a population of only 8.7 million. Tel Aviv, with its vibrant nightlife, and Jerusalem, with its holy sites, are just two examples of Israel’s cities, towns, and villages full of manifold things to do, see, and experience.

Tourists Feel Safe

The 24/7 news cycle often reports Israel in a negative light. While visitors know that terrorism lurks on Israel’s borders, they refuse to abandon their exciting plans to visit Israel. Most tourists feel safe in Israel—safer than in parts of their own cities and countries. Tour companies and the Israeli government maintain ongoing dialog regarding the safety of visitors. To top it off, the welcome visitors receive from Israelis is unparalleled. All Israelis are hyper-vigilant when it comes to security, but their intense celebration of life is evident everywhere in their daily lives and festivals.

Israel’s Tourism Increasing

First-time and returning visitors confirm the popularity and safety of Israel. Tourism to Israel is at an all-time high for 2017, with numbers some 25–30 percent higher than in 2016. The Ministry of Tourism notes that in 2016, first-time visitors reached 58 percent with 42 percent returning. Other 2016 statistics indicate that 56 percent of tourists were Christians made up of 41 percent Catholic, 26 percent Protestant and 22 percent Russian Orthodox. The Ministry also notes that 2,000 celebrities, opinion leaders, and tourist agents visited in 2016.

Tiny Israel, Lots to Do

Since Jerusalem is Israel’s capital city containing the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, 82 percent of all tourists visit the Holy City. The coastal city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa is next in line at 67 percent, with its modernity, outstanding restaurants, and beaches. Conde Nast magazine names Tel Aviv one of the world’s top travel destinations. The Dead Sea, Tiberias, and the Sea of Galilee are also popular. No matter what your interests, Israel likely has it: snorkeling, parasailing, snow skiing, archaeology, museums, hiking, concerts, churches, and synagogues.

Millions of first-time and returning visitors and 90+ airlines flying in and out of Tel Aviv say YES! It is safe to visit Israel!
 

- by Susan Michael, US Director, creator of IsraelAnswers.com and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network.

Why is Israel’s Modern Statehood a Miracle?

The story of modern Israel is amazing in itself, but when taken within the context of the history of the Jewish people, it is clearly miraculous. The only explanation for this epic tale is a biblical one.

Created to Bless the World

The uniqueness of the Jewish people is found in many aspects of their story but none more than in their beginnings. The story is found in Genesis 12:1–3 where God promises Abraham he would father a nation that would become a blessing to the world. The fact that Abraham’s wife Sarah was 99 and well past childbearing years makes the birth of their child, Isaac, a miracle—and proof that this nation is a fulfillment of God’s promise.

Given a Specific Land

Part of God’s promise to Abraham was the bequeathing of the land of Canaan as an “everlasting possession.” While Abraham himself only dwelt in the land as a foreigner, and died without seeing his descendants inherit the land, it surely came to pass hundreds of years later. After 400 years of slavery in Egypt, the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob entered the land of Canaan and established sovereignty over it.

Their Future Foretold

While many books in the Bible chronicle the story of the Jewish people and were written after the described events took place, the prophetic portions of Scripture foretold of many future events in the life of Israel and described in great detail how they would happen. These prophets foretold of two exiles and returns, and the centrality of the Jewish people in the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. Israel’s story is a fulfillment of the promises and prophecies found in the Bible, and as such provides living proof of the absolute accuracy of the Scriptures.

Their Survival Against All Odds

The calling on the Jewish people was to bless the world with God’s redemptive plan—and they would suffer greatly for it. The powers of evil would forever fight against God’s plan and the best way to stop that would be to destroy the people called to bring it about. That this tiny people group survived two exiles, centuries of persecution, and multiple attempts at annihilation is a feat so beyond the norm that it is indeed a miracle—one promised by God (Jeremiah 31:36; Isaiah 66:23).

The Unprecedented Return

The story of the modern-day return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland—the land of Canaan promised to Abraham 4,000 years ago—finds no parallel in human history. In the last 120 years or so, 3.5 million Jews have returned to their ancient homeland and reestablished national sovereignty there. This return from all the countries to which they had been dispersed was foretold in many verses, including Isaiah 43:5–6 and Jeremiah 16:14–15.

The Miracle of Israel

The day after the State of Israel was born five Arab countries with well-equipped armies attacked the fledgling nation. The newborn State had no unified defense force and many fighters were newly arrived Holocaust Survivors and refugees with no knowledge of Hebrew, equipped with few guns and inadequate supplies of ammunition. Their defeat of the vast Arab armies was nothing short of miraculous.

In the 70 years since, Israel has not known a day of peace and has had to focus its investments and energy on defense, yet is now leading the world in technology, innovation, medicine, agriculture, security, and disaster relief. The good heart of the Jewish people and their innate desire to Tikkun Olam (“repairing the world”) is increasingly making them a light to the nations.

The Future Glory of Israel

The Bible foretells of a day when it won’t be good deeds and accomplishments that will shine forth from Israel, but the actual glory of God. It will be so bright there will be no need for the sun nor the moon (Isaiah 60:3, 19), and the nations will come to worship the Lord there (Isaiah 66:18, 23). The birth of the modern State of Israel is a miracle, and there are even more to come.

- by Susan Michael, US Director, creator of IsraelAnswers.com and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network.

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THE RETURN OF THE JEWS TO THEIR HOMELAND?

A special term from the Hebrew Bible is used to describe the process of returning to the Land—Aliyah, which means, to “ascend.” It was used in ancient times in reference to Jewish pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem for the three great biblical Feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Thus, the process of making Aliyah today is seen as having spiritual meaning beyond the physical act of return.
 
Let’s see what the Bible has to say about the modern-day return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland—the Land of Israel.

There Are Two Returns

Isaiah 11:11 indicates there would be a day when God would raise his hand “a second time” to gather the children of Israel to their homeland. The first return was predicted by the prophet Jeremiah to take place after Israel had been in captivity for 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10), and according to Ezra 1:1 happened precisely as foretold. After 500 years of intermittent and partial sovereignty in the Land, the Jewish people were once again dispersed under the Roman Empire in AD 70. After 2,000 years, they have now returned and reestablished sovereignty. No other people group has managed to survive two exiles—much less one that was 2,000 years long—and then return to reestablish national sovereignty.

The Second Return is from All Nations

This second return was to be from every nation where they had been dispersed (Jeremiah 16:14–15; 23:3, 7–8; 29:14; 31:7–8), not just Babylon. Over the past 120 years or so, more than 3.5 million Jews have immigrated to the Land of Israel from all over the world—from the north, south, east, and west—in literal fulfillment of God’s promises (Isaiah 43:5–6).

A Banner to the Nations

The regathering of the Jewish people to their land is depicted as God’s banner to the nations (Isaiah 11:12). A banner was often a rallying point in military operations, and was carried to lead a formation, but often bore the name or image of that army’s God. Using this symbolism, the Hebrew prophet Isaiah considered the ingathering as a proclamation of God’s name and His character to the nations (Ezekiel 28:25).

The Return is not Based on Merit

The Mosaic Covenant was clear that living in the Land of Israel was a benefit of walking in obedience with God, and that even after exile, repentance would lead to Israel’s return. However, the Hebrew prophets spoke of a day when God would sovereignly gather His children back to the Land, not because of anything they had done, but to be a witness to the gentiles and to vindicate His name. The timing was up to Him (Psalm 102:13); He would do it (Jeremiah 23:3), and He would even use the gentiles to make it happen (Isaiah 49:22–26; 60:8–12).
 
God vindicates His name because it has been profaned before the nations through the disobedience and exile of His people (Ezekiel 36:22). He will demonstrate His holiness (Ezekiel 36:22–23) and His faithfulness, whether His children are deserving or not. It reflects His love and mercy toward them (Isaiah 60:8–10), as well as toward the world He plans to redeem and fill with His truth and glory for eternity (Psalm 102:16–22).

This Great Act of God Leads to Revival

The ingathering of the Jewish people in modern times holds great promise for Israel and for the world, as it heralds the soon coming of the Messianic kingdom. While it is a physical return with many logistical and practical aspects, it is a sacred thing because it is building a platform for the coming of the kingdom of God, when the glory of the Lord appears (Psalm 102:15–16) and He tabernacles with man (Ezekiel 37:26–27: Revelation 21:3).
 
That the gentiles are called to assist in this process is an amazing and holy thing. Isaiah 66:20 describes the act of gentiles bringing His people home—the people He loves and will use to bless the whole earth—as so sacred it is likened to “bringing an offering to the Lord.” What a wonderful image depicting the biblical significance of the return of the Jews to their homeland.

- by Susan Michael, US Director, creator of IsraelAnswers.com and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network.

How Can We Help Palestinian Refugees?

Seventy years ago, the United Nations voted to declare Israel a modern state. When Prime Minister Ben Gurion read Israel's Proclamation of Independence on May 14, 1948, he urged the Arab population to remain “on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all bodies and institutions.” The Jewish population danced and sang on Israel’s streets. Their joy was short-lived.

The Cause of the Refugee Problem

Arab armies from Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon attacked the nascent state the next day. Their leaders ordered Arabs to leave their villages and cities promising a quick victory and return to their homes. The roughly 160,000 Arabs who stayed have grown into 1.5 million Israeli-Arab citizens with full rights in a thriving country with Hebrew and Arabic as the official languages.

Most, however, left—roughly 720,000. A few years later, the Jordanian newspaper Ad Difaa quoted one who had fled to Jordan saying, “The Arab governments told us, ‘Get out so that we can get in.’ So, we got out, but they did not get in.”

The 1947 UN Partition Plan had provided for two states, one for Jews and one for Arabs. Had Arab leaders accepted the UN solution, those who fled in 1948 would now reside in their own state. There would be no Palestinian refugees. The Jews accepted the UN Plan, and even though more than 850,000 Jewish people had to flee Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria in 1948, Israel absorbed all of the ones wishing to resettle in their ancestral homeland.

The UN Has Not Helped

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the main agency working with the 22.5 million refugees worldwide. Its goal is resettlement in one of 37 countries with programs to do so.

However, a second and separate agency was created for Palestinians—the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). UNRWA’s goal is not to resettle Palestinian refugees but to “protect and assist” them. It has even expanded the definition of a refugee to include descendants. This means that in addition to the roughly 20,000–30,000 original refugees still alive today, UNRWA has added another 5.3 million Palestinians to its registry.

UNRWA itself has been a burgeoning bureaucracy of 30,000 staff members with an annual budget of $800 million. It is in UNRWA’s own interest to perpetuate the problem, because solving it through resettlement would mean the end of its existence.

UNRWA is Part of the Problem

UNRWA has fueled the Palestinian refugee problem for decades by treating the Palestinians differently than other refugees and holding out hopes that have not, and likely will not, materialize—to return to ancestral homes. No other refugee population in the world benefits from a specialized agency nor do descendants of refugees have hope of repatriation efforts.

Donor countries have given $6 billion to UNRWA since 1950 with the United States as the largest donor nation. But instead of solving the problem, UNRWA uses Palestinian refugees as political pawns in a campaign against Israel. Even worse, many UNRWA employees are affiliated with Hamas, teaching and promoting hatred among young people and hiding weapons in their facilities in Gaza.

What Are Some Practical Solutions? 

UNRWA must give the Palestinians an honest assessment of their future and change its charter to adopt similar resettlement goals as UNHCR. Only those refugees without citizenship or permanent residency in their host country should be registered as a refugee. All funding to UNRWA should be redirected for the purposes of resettlement and the agency put on a five-year plan to shut down.

Refugee camps in the West Bank governed by the Palestinian Authority and in Gaza under Hamas should be shut down. Future donations to these governments should be allocated for the absorption of the refugees, and if the Palestinian authorities refuse, the refugees should be offered the right to resettle elsewhere.

Working together, Israel, UNHCR, and UNRWA can identify bona fide refugees and implement affordable, effective plans. Putting UNRWA out of business and redirecting its budget into fresh, workable solutions would be a godsend to the Palestinian refugees.


- by Susan Michael, US Director, creator of IsraelAnswers.com and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network.

Does the United States Benefit from its Alliance with Israel?

Like a diamond with many facets, Israel shines in its value to the United States. Our ally enhances our national security and economy, and improves our quality of life.

National Security

On the national security front, since Israel’s expertise in fighting terrorism is second to none, US and Israeli military train in joint exercises with exotic names like Austere Challenge, Juniper Cobra, and Reliant Mermaid. This training includes missile defense training and search and rescue.

Israel’s military intelligence leads the world in its expertise. Former head of the US Air Force Intelligence Maj. Gen. George J. Keegan Jr., estimated back in the 1970s that Israel’s intelligence value exceeded “five CIAs.” Today, terrorism challenges have exponentially increased Israel’s worth.

Former NATO Supreme Commander and US Secretary of State Gen. Alexander Haig (deceased) viewed Israel this way: “If there would not be an Israel, the United States would have to deploy real aircraft carriers, along with tens of thousands of US soldiers, which would cost tens of billions of dollars annually, dragging the United States unnecessarily into local, regional, and global conflicts.”

In battlefield medicine, Israel’s expertise in combat and development of post-traumatic stress treatment directly helps our American troops. Israel often takes our military hardware and improves it. For example, Israel created an underside reactive armor for our Bradley tanks which has saved more than a thousand US soldiers from IEDs.

In addition, US police commissioners, police chiefs, and sheriffs rely on Israel’s law enforcement practices, and conduct cooperative programs in both countries. Our airline security is effectively increased due to the Transportation Security Administration learning how to improve their proficiency by working closely with experts at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport.

Economic

In the economic arena, statistics show that Israel invested more than $25 billion in the United States in 2015. Thirty states have official cooperative agreements with Israel in the fields of technology, agriculture, energy, business, and homeland security.

According to Myron Brilliant, the executive vice president and head of international affairs for the US Chamber of Commerce, our economic relationship with Israel is extensive: the United States has the oldest free-trade agreement with Israel—30 years—which now produces more than $40 billion annually. Israel imports more goods from the United States than any other Middle East nation, even though it is only 2 percent of the region’s population. And because Israel excels in innovation, 250 multinational companies have operations in Israel; two-thirds are US companies like Apple, Intel, Microsoft, IBM, and Cisco.

Medical Innovations

Israel’s medical innovations are another vast resource for Americans. The list of Israeli medical innovations is extensive, but just a few of their medical advances include: Re-Walk, a robotic exoskeleton that enables paraplegics to walk; Ice Cure, which penetrates benign breast tumors in a ten-minute ultrasound procedure; the Total Lift Bed, which places hospital patients in an upright position; and fingertip monitors, which aid in sleep disorders and cardiac ailments.

Is Israel a benefit to the United States? Facts say a resounding “YES!”
 

- by Susan Michael, US Director and creator of IsraelAnswers.com

IS MEDIA COVERAGE ACCURATE ABOUT ISRAEL'S MILITARY ACTIONS?

The United States and Israeli militaries are closely aligned with similar ethics policies governing their actions. Although the media often characterize Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operations as crimes, let’s take a reality check. Here are examples of context and facts which demonstrate the humanitarian bedrock of Israel’s military personnel.

Twisted Facts Abound

In 2014, Israel conducted Operation Protective Edge, and common headlines were, “Israel Bombs Gaza.” Most news reports omitted the context that terrorists had rocketed southern Israel’s civilians for years on end, during which Israel demonstrated great restraint while almost daily her frightened citizens ran for cover from incoming rockets. Other articles with headlines such as, “Israel Kills Civilians in Gaza” made no mention that Hamas terrorists purposely hid themselves inside their own civilian population, cruelly turning them into human shields, and had used apartment buildings as weapons storage sites.

One of the best-kept secrets during the war were the protective measures taken by Israel to save the lives of civilians in Gaza. Those measures included the Israel Air Force dropping pamphlets in Gaza warning the population to take shelter before they attacked a known weapons cache or rocket launcher. Thousands of warning phone calls were also made from Israel into Gaza before attacks. After all that, Israelis also rerouted in-flight missiles if civilians were observed in harm’s way in the last few seconds. It seems Israelis were more protective of Gaza’s civilians than its Hamas terrorist government.

Checkpoints a Necessity

Accusations about Israel’s checkpoints are also skewed and lack context. Due to decades-long, deadly terror resulting in the murder of thousands of Israeli civilians in restaurants, buses, and homes, Israel is forced to maintain checkpoints and conduct searches. They don’t prefer to do this but necessity calls for it, because armed terrorists have been found hiding in ambulances and suicide bomb-belts have been hidden under Palestinian women’s burkas.

Checkpoints are certainly inconvenient for Palestinians who work inside Israel or need to travel to Israeli hospitals for treatment. Despite the challenges, however, thousands of Palestinians daily go in and out of the checkpoints to their needed destinations.

Stopping Weapons Transfers

Israel’s Air Force is excoriated when it conducts targeted bombing runs into Syria, yet from the beginning of Syria’s unraveling Israeli leaders have been clear they would bomb any detected weapons transfers from Iran to Hezbollah. The weapons transfers continued unabated, and now that the war is slowing down, Hezbollah is pulling out of Syria to again focus its energy on using those weapons to destroy Israel.

IDF Humanitarian Aid

An underreported yet powerful example of the IDF’s humanitarian character is the field hospital on the Syrian border where they have rescued more than 5,000 wounded Syrians who make it to safety. If the wounds are serious, the IDF transports them to Ziv Medical Center, a hospital in northern Israel. Through translators, the Syrian patients express shock, then gratitude for the skillful and kind treatment they receive. Although Israel and Syria have no peace treaty, Israelis still provide humanitarian aid when possible.

It’s useful to recall Benjamin Franklin’s quote when you are forming your opinion about Israel’s military and media coverage of its actions: “Half a truth is often a great lie.” 

- by Susan Michael, US Director and creator of IsraelAnswers.com

DOES ISRAEL RECEIVE THE MOST US FOREIGN AID?

Israel’s detractors and even uninformed friends often complain that Israel receives more US foreign aid than other nations. Let’s clear away the debris of misinformation to look at the facts.

The Big Picture: US Foreign Aid Budget

First, take a moment to ask yourself: What percentage of the US budget goes toward foreign aid? Your answer might be 10% or even 25%. It’s much less. Foreign aid is only 1% of our annual budget and includes both economic aid and security assistance.

Foreign Aid to Israel

US foreign aid to Israel is only 6% of the 1%, and it is security assistance—not economic aid. This financial aid designated for military expenses is critical to Israel’s small budget.

Comparing defense spending in several countries as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the US allocates 4.35% for its defense, the United Kingdom 2.49%, and China 1.99%. Tiny Israel spends more than 5.8% of its GDP, the highest in the industrialized world. Surrounded by a sea of terrorist threats, they are forced to allocate a higher percentage of their GDP on their military budget—around $55 billion in 2016.

Countries Costing the United States More

Nevertheless, Israel is not the largest recipient of US foreign aid. Afghanistan costs American tax payers $4.7 billion per year from both the economic and security assistance budgets.

The $3.1 billion in security assistance to Israel is far less than what the United States spends on other countries if you also take into account the larger Department of Defense budget for things like overseas military bases. There are 48,828 American soldiers stationed on Japanese soil costing the American tax payer $27 billion per year. US troops are also stationed in Germany costing $21 billion and in South Korea $15 billion. Moreover, these American troops may be expected to enter a war if these nations are threatened.

In contrast, Israel does not ask for or want American soldiers to fight their battles. While the United States and Israel closely cooperate on multiple levels, the only US service personnel on the ground in Israel are a few dozen stationed at an Israeli facility housing a US military radar installation.

Most Aid to Israel Stays in the United States

Approximately 75% of Israel’s $3.1 billion annual foreign aid never leaves American bank accounts because funds are used for weapons manufactured right here at home in defense industry plants throughout the country. Thus, US foreign aid to Israel is essentially a way of subsidizing the American defense industry while strengthening the military capabilities of its strategic ally.

Among many other benefits, Israelis also improve our weaponry. For example, they invented a Bradley tank under-carriage reactive armor that blows explosions from Improvized Explosive Devices (IEDs) outward, thus saving more than 1,000 American soldiers serving in Iraq.

Both Democrats and Republicans in the US Congress agree that Israel’s value to US security is incalculable. Congress demonstrated this by renewing a ten-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that increased foreign aid to Israel to $3.8 billion annually beginning in 2018.

Compared to the costs the United States would incur if Israel did not have our backs in the Middle East, this is a small price to pay. Without Israel the United States would be forced to maintain American military bases throughout the region with protective air and sea patrols. This would cost many times over what we pay now in foreign aid to Israel.  

- by Susan Michael, US Director and creator of IsraelAnswers.com

HOW IS A SMALL NATION LIKE ISRAEL PROVIDING SIGNIFICANT HUMANITARIAN AID AROUND THE WORLD?

Israel was one of the first countries to send a team of disaster management experts, mental health experts, and engineers to Houston after hurricane Harvey hit last week. This team, sent by IsraAID, is working together with local authorities and is seeking to provide emergency assistance to those in need and to help rebuild the community of Houston, TX.

Even though just the size of New Jersey, Israel has achieved acclaim all over the world with its humanitarian aid efforts. With the advent of the modern Jewish state in 1948, Israel set its course to embrace its biblical history of charity, “repairing the world,” known in the Hebrew language as “Tikkun Olam.” Isaiah 1:16–17 sums it up: “Devote yourself to justice, aid the wronged, uphold the rights of the orphan, defend the cause of the widow.” This value permeates Israeli society which transports Tikkun Olam to nations in need.

Several agencies oversee Israel’s world impact including MASHAV, established in 1957 under Prime Minister Golda Meir. As an arm of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, MASHAV runs Israel’s official humanitarian assistance program. MASHAV’s training courses have impacted the lives of millions living in poor nations by enabling 270,000 participants from 132 nations to return to their countries to improve agriculture, medicine, water, and other necessities.

IsraAID, a non-profit, non-governmental organization, focuses on disasters and long-term support. Since its establishment in 2001, it has been on the ground in nearly every major humanitarian crisis in the 21st century. Their civilian and Israel Defense Force personnel, including medics, doctors, search and rescue teams, and post trauma experts, often arrive in the earliest days of a disaster.

For example, when Haiti’s 2010 earthquake hit, IsraAID’s team was the first on the scene, saving thousands of lives. They set up a world-class field hospital recently named in a ceremony by the World Health Organization as “the number one in the world.” At the time, The New York Times reported, “Years of dealing with terrorist attacks, combined with an advanced medical technology sector, have made Israel one of the nimblest countries in disaster relief.” IsraAID has helped in 140 countries.

Israel even reaches out to its enemies in overt and covert ways. Ziv Hospital located in the northern Israeli town of Tzfat has treated more than 2,000 seriously wounded Syrians who make it to the Syria/Israel border.

In another fascinating outreach, Israeli humanitarian aid volunteers undertake dangerous missions from Israel into Syria to deliver medicines, food, and other necessities to hundreds of thousands of desperate Syrians. They secretly go to countries without diplomatic ties to Israel.

One of its leaders describes their work: “We are a group of Israeli citizens who love their homeland and believe in a Jewish tradition and culture that values compassionate, open-minded respect for the sanctity of human life and dignity. We believe we are blessed to be born in a democratic country that enables its citizens to travel to challenging and dangerous places ... Israel feels a moral and ethical duty to become ‘the voice of the voiceless’ ... even among some of our toughest and cruelest enemies.”  

How Does Israel Treat Palestinians?

Ride around Israel with an Arab taxi driver, and he will readily tell you he prefers to live under an Israeli government. Various polls indicate that 60 to 78 percent of Arabs in East Jerusalem share the same opinion. How can it be that most Arab residents of Jerusalem would choose to live under Israeli governance rather than Palestinian?

West Bank Under Israeli Rule

A few facts will supply insights. At the time of the 1967 Six-Day War waged by five Arab nations against Israel, Arab residents of the West Bank—biblical Judea and Samaria—lived a third-world life. Although Jordan had occupied the area for 20 years, low life expectancy, malnutrition, poor education, infectious diseases, and child mortality were widespread. Fewer than 60 percent of all male adults were employed.

During the 1970s, under Israeli administration, the West Bank and Gaza then grew into the fourth fastest-growing economy in the world. By 1986, 92.8 percent of the population had electricity around the clock compared to 20.5 percent in 1967; 85 percent had running water compared to 16 percent in 1967. Not one university had existed in the territories, but by the early 1990s, seven such institutions were in operation boasting 16,500 students.

Under Israeli governance the adult illiteracy rate had plummeted to 14 percent. More than 100,000 Palestinians worked in Israel, and many more worked in the 2,000 industrial plants that Israel built in the West Bank. Mortality rates fell significantly and life expectancy rose from 48 to 72 years by 2000. Childhood diseases like polio, whooping cough, tetanus, and measles were eradicated.

Palestinian Government Corruption

Since 1995 the Palestinian people have been ruled by the Palestinian Authority (PA) government. Whereas Israel had spent millions of dollars dramatically improving public services like electricity, water, roads, universities, and clinics, Palestinian leaders are lining their own pockets with donations from many nations designated to help the Palestinian people. When Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat died in 2004, he was worth some $1 billion. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is said to be worth around $100 million.

The PA’s corruption, embedded in Palestinian society, is one reason the Palestinian population prefers living in Israel. An egregious example of government corruption hurting the Palestinian people is found in the PA’s health care program where medical services are often supplied to the one who pays the largest bribe.

Even in recent years when 95 percent of Palestinians have been ruled by their own government, Israel has built a new regional business center in the West Bank which serves Israeli and PA personnel. In 2015, 190,000 Palestinians entered Israel for medical treatment, and trucks filled with humanitarian aid and goods for Gaza increased by 108 percent. A designated medical unit in the Israel Defense Force offers on-site medical care to Palestinians in cooperation with Palestinian hospitals.

Israeli Checkpoints

Although various outbreaks of violence have marred the relationship between Jews and Arabs since the 1920s, the Second Intifada from 2000–2005 marked a dreadful turning point. More than a thousand Israelis died at the hands of suicide bombers detonating themselves on buses and in restaurants. The Israeli government finally implemented a passive solution by building security fences to hinder or slow down terrorists. This resulted in a 95 percent reduction of Jewish deaths, but necessitated checkpoints manned by the IDF.

The checkpoints remain a burden on both the Palestinians and the Israelis. The Palestinians feel trapped and inconvenienced. The Israelis don’t know who is going to wield a knife or a gun, or wear a bomb belt, to kill more Jewish people if allowed through the checkpoint.

Protecting the Palestinian Authority

One benefit of Israel’s security apparatus, including the wall and checkpoints, is that it has kept the PA government in power. The PA’s number one existential threat is the Hamas terror organization that would like to take over the West Bank just as it did Gaza. While growing disenchantment with the PA government may eventually give way to a Hamas takeover from within, Israeli security has been doing all it can to prevent a hostile takeover from without.

Summary

Despite these complex political problems, Israel has done much to better the lives of the Palestinian people over the last 50 years. They should demand as much from their own leaders.
 

Did the Jews Steal the Palestinians’ Land?

A common accusation against Israel is that the state is founded upon land stolen from the Palestinian people. A quick review of history reveals a far different story.

 

Ancient History

The Jewish people’s connection to the land goes back some 4,000 years when, according to the Bible, God bequeathed it to the Jewish people through an unconditional covenant with Abraham. The Bible also records the Israelites’ settlement of the land and the establishment of the Davidic Kingdom there. Over the next 3,000 years the Jewish people suffered two exiles; however, a Jewish presence always remained.

The second exile began when Roman forces destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70, slaughtered many Jewish inhabitants, took others into captivity to Rome, and caused many others to flee. In AD 135, Emperor Hadrian attempted to remove all traces of Jewish identity from the area by building a pagan city he named Aelia Capitolina over Jerusalem and erecting a temple to Jupiter on the Temple Mount. He also renamed the area of Judea “Palestine” after the Philistines, the ancient enemies of the Israelites.

Paganism eventually gave way to Christianity in Rome, and the Christian Byzantine Empire ruled over the region of Palestine for some 300 years until the Islamic invasion of the seventh century. After that, Islam ruled the land of Israel for some 1,400 years until the defeat and breakup of the crumbling Ottoman Empire in World War I.

International Backing of the Modern Return

In 1920, the Allied countries of Britain, France, Italy, and Japan met in San Remo, Italy to decide what to do with the areas in the Middle East vacated by the Ottoman Turks. At this conference, they resolved to establish mandatory trusts over these areas for their respective indigenous inhabitants. These mandates were viewed as “sacred trusts” intended to prepare the areas for self-rule by the indigenous peoples. The 1917 Balfour Declaration had already declared Great Britain’s support for the establishment of Jewish sovereignty in Palestine, in recognition of the ancient Jewish claim and connection to the land of Israel. Former British diplomat Lord Curzon called the Balfour Declaration Israel’s “Magna Carta.”

On July 24, 1922, the fifty-one members of the League of Nations, which was later succeeded by the United Nations, unanimously adopted the British Mandate for Palestine. This decision was based on international recognition that the Jewish people were indigenous to the land of Israel. It thus enshrined into international law the legal right for Jewish people to settle anywhere in western Palestine, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

Professor Eliav Shochetman, an expert in international law at Hebrew University, explains: “The right of the people of Israel to the Land of Israel was recognized by the League of Nations in 1921…From this moment on [the Balfour Document] became accepted by all of the nations” When the League of Nations ended and the United Nations was established, the UN Charter contained “ a special clause, no. 80, in which it is said that all of the rights that were recognized in international law by the League of Nations still exist and are still binding . . . there is no document in international law that grants rights of sovereignty to anybody other than to the Jewish People. This is the legal position,” according to Shochetman.

Land Purchases and Statehood

Several waves of Jewish immigration in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries resulted in economic development and job opportunities for the local population. Therefore, as the Jewish communities grew, so did the Arab population. Jewish organizations and individuals bought property from private landowners—many absentee—often paying exorbitant prices for barren desert and malaria-infested swamps. Upon statehood, Israel assumed title over any public lands once held by the Ottoman Empire.

Palestinian Grievances

After the UN Partition Plan of 1947, the Jews declared statehood, were recognized by the United Nations, and were admitted as full voting members to the international body. Israel’s founding was legal and accepted by the international community as such. However, the new Jewish State was immediately attacked by the surrounding Arab nations.

During the 1948 War of Independence, many Arab peoples living in areas now under Israeli sovereignty were displaced. Their displacement occurred for several reasons, including Arab leaders urging them to flee and promising their return after victory in a few short weeks. Most Arab refugees never left “Palestine” itself since they traveled a few miles to the other side of the fighting, while others crossed over into bordering Arab nations with the same language and ethnicity. Unfortunately, these Arab nations did not welcome their brethren, choosing instead to put them into refugee camps where many remain to this day.

Israel’s Proclamation of Independence, issued May 14, 1948, invited the Arab inhabitants of the land to remain in their homes and become equal citizens in the new state. The 160,000 Arabs who remained in Israel kept their homes and properties and are today Israeli citizens who enjoy the freedoms and opportunities afforded them by the region’s one and only democratic country. There are some 1.7 million Arab citizens of Israel today.

Meanwhile, in the wake of their defeat in 1948, the Arab states forcibly expelled more than 800,000 Jewish citizens and stripped them of all their property—constituting a much larger theft of land and belongings and a larger refugee problem than that claimed by the Palestinians. While Israel absorbed these Jewish refugees, the Arab countries did not absorb the Palestinian Arab refugees.

Summary

Hence, it is true that some Arabs lost their residences by vacating them in 1948 only to realize they were unable to return once the fighting stopped. It is also true that some Arab individuals have lost their homes due to Israeli military or security measures. And while any legitimate grievance should be recognized and compensated, the problem is small compared to the large amounts of land Israel obtained legally and the number of Jews who lost their properties in Arab countries. Therefore, it in no way calls into question the legitimacy of the Jewish State.


Susan Michael is the USA Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and creator of the IsraelAnswers.com website.

 

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