FACTS ON THE GROUNDSunday 17/06/2018

As a Jewish millennial, I considered myself very informed on the situation in the Middle East, specifically with regards to Israel. After studying the conflict in college and receiving a degree in Middle Eastern Studies, I believed that I had developed a nuanced perspective from what I believed to be a diverse set of sources. However, when I began working at the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, I realized just how much of the picture I was missing and how much I still had to learn. The anti-Israel bias in the Western media became clear both in terms of how they portrayed the different sides in the conflict and especially on the information that they withheld from the public.

The BDS movement attempts to use this flow of information to its advantage.  BDS leaders would have you believe that the only way to end the suffering of the people in the region is to boycott Israel.  The movement conveniently leaves out any information that negatively portrays the Palestinians and their government as well as any information that reflects positively on Israel. It is due time for information to flow more freely and honestly so that people might truly understand the situation on the ground.  With distorted facts come distorted opinions that do nothing to further dialogue or peace.

One of my first projects required me to research the difference in standards of living between that of Arab-Israeli women and those in Arab countries throughout the region.  My research taught me a number of things.  For example, while one can walk through the streets of Israel and see Arab women doing as they please, women are forbidden from many things in Gaza, like smoking hookah in public or running the Gaza marathon.  Certainly more alarming, while Israel has a law making rape – including spousal rape – a felony punishable by 16 years in prison, a man in the Palestinian Authority could avoid prosecution for rape or sexual assault if he marries his victim due to a “marry-your-rapist” law.

I am shocked by the world’s silence regarding these laws targeting women in the Arab world.  Yet, the United Nations dedicates extensive time towards chastising Israel for its treatment of women. With an increased focus on women’s rights, it is now time that the women under the control of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas receive the same attention and support from the international community.

My next projects focused on the BDS movement, something I fortunately had little interaction with on my college campus.  There were stories circulating about the movement and its successes in convincing people of Israel’s supposed evils.  BDS makes claims that Israel discriminates against the Arabs living in the country and highlights the harsh restrictions that Israel imposes on the movement of Palestinians.  In reality, Arab-Israelis are an integral part of society, both academically and professionally.  Arab-Israelis serve as Knesset members in both Arab and non-Arab parties and make up 16.1% of students in Israeli universities.  Additionally, Arab citizens of Israel enjoy equal rights under the law, the same as their Jewish counterparts. In terms of the supposed “restriction of movement,” people blamed the security fence, which was built for and succeeded in preventing terror attacks.  And even with this fence, over 100,000 Palestinians enter Israel every day for work. All this proves that these claims of discrimination are drastically exaggerated in service of a clearly dishonest agenda.

When reading about the region in the United States, it seemed that every little incident in Israel would be front-page news.  The media loves pointing out Israel’s flaws, highlighting any instance that could be portrayed as an example of Israeli maltreatment of the Palestinians or its own Arab citizens.  What was lacking was a comparable scrutiny of the governing bodies of the Palestinians. When the media does report on Hamas’ mistreatment of its citizens in Gaza, albeit infrequently, the Palestinian Authority does not receive any condemnation but is ignored for its corruption and the abuse of its people. In reality, Hamas steals electricity from its citizens while encouraging them to kill family members suspected of aiding Israel.  At the same time, The Palestinian Authority works hard to silence any dissent, torturing journalists and others who attempt to speak out about the government’s abuses.  In addition, rarely does one hear about the Palestinian Authority paying monthly salaries to families of terrorists. These are just some of the many abuses of power occurring in the Gaza Strip and West Bank that the Western media fail to adequately report.  But why are these things not common knowledge among my peers?  Where is the outrage from people who claim to care about human rights?

The BDS movement tries to change the narrative and distort the facts on the ground.  It hopes that the incomplete and false media coverage of the situation will influence people to have a negative perception of Israel and to blame it for the conflict.  This requires us to do our own research and learn the truth so that we do not let the BDS movement dictate the narrative and forge it as one of hate and lies.

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