It’s almost Pesach, when the thoughts of Jewish bloggers turn to plagues and freedom. Plagues we certainly have. In addition to the coronavirus, Africa (and possibly the Middle East) is about to experience one of the paradigmatic Biblical plagues, swarming locusts.
We have freedom, too. Leaving aside the corona-related restrictions – which are becoming significantly more severe in Israel around the holiday – Jews in Israel are among the most free peoples in the world. For example, academic freedom is almost unlimited, as illustrated by this article in the wonderful English Edition of Ha’aretz, in which seditious Ben Gurion University professor Neve Gordon argues that the coming impact of coronavirus in Gaza will be Israel’s fault. He’s right that there are few test kits and ventilators there, insufficient hospital beds, and countless other deficiencies that, if the virus spreads widely there, will prove deadly. But of course he’s wrong about whose fault it is.
Recently, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar threatened that if Israel doesn’t give Gaza ventilators, they would take them by force and “stop the breathing of 6 million Israelis (apparently he means only the Jewish ones, since there are 8 million if you count Arabs).”
Gaza certainly doesn’t lack money. Europe, Turkey, and Qatar continue to send aid and invest in projects there. Israeli officials estimate that between 2014 and 2017 Hamas spent about $120 million on tunnels (which have now been neutralized by an even more expensive Israeli project of an anti-tunnel barrier along the border). That’s equivalent to quite a bit of medical equipment. And that’s just tunnels. It doesn’t include the rockets and the villas, malls, and resorts of the Hamas leadership.
Gordon says that Israel has “occupied” Gaza for 40 years, and “continues to control its borders.” His definition of “occupation” is strange, since normally you have to be present somewhere in order to occupy it; but leaving this aside, Israel does not limit the ingress of most medical equipment and supplies to Gaza. It’s true that some electronic equipment is considered “dual use,” (civilian and military) and therefore requires special permission to be imported. But that is a question of extra time, not prohibition. The rules about dual-use items came about from bitter experience, after (for example) chunks of metal pipe imported from Israel returned home in the form of Qassams, and steel rebar ended up reinforcing concrete tunnels.
The biggest hospital in Gaza, al-Shifa Hospital – which boasts a Hamas military command center in its basement – was built by the British in 1946 and was Gaza’s only hospital until after 1948. It was greatly expanded and renovated by Israel during the period 1967-1993. Other hospitals were built with money from various foreign sources (indeed, I haven’t found evidence of any hospitals built by Hamas; if anyone knows of any, please comment).
Gordon refers to the “de-development” of Gaza, a concept attributed to the deranged misozionist Harvard “scholar” Sara Roy. It is certainly true that the conditions of life in Gaza have deteriorated recently – they were much better in the 1967-1993 period than before or after – but the simple and correct explanation that this is due to the diversion of resources away from the welfare of the general population and toward weapons and infrastructure, as well as the enrichment of the Hamas elite, escapes him.
Gordon insists that Arabs in “occupied” Gaza don’t have freedom. But their leaders are doing exactly what they want. Does anyone doubt for a moment that if, through some miracle, they would stop trying to kill us, Israel wouldn’t fall over herself trying to improve the lives of the people there?
Gordon has been fighting against the State of Israel for years while living in it and working at a state-supported university (he is currently on sabbatical in London, but he retains his position in Israel). And we let him do it.
Here are a few short takes on other important freedoms that we have in Israel:
What about freedom of the press? Yes, Israel has military censorship, which sometimes unjustifiably holds up the publication of embarrassing facts. But Israel also has (in Ha’aretz, naturally), Gideon Levy, the anti-Jewish Jewish journalist. Can anybody imagine what would happen to a Russian Gideon Levy? Actually, we don’t need to imagine – the dangers of being a journalist in Russia are well known (to be fair, Russian journalists are as often murdered by local hoods as by the government).
Israel also shines in the area of freedom of religion. The Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, is accessible to Jews through one entrance for limited hours. Jews (and Christians) are not permitted to bring any “religious objects,” and are subject to arrest if they are caught praying, which can include moving one’s lips or even crying (I recommend that you read the link to get the full flavor of the situation). If they are thirsty, they may not drink from the water faucets on site, which are reserved for Muslims to wash themselves.
Muslims, on the other hand, have several entrances available, and unless there is tension related to terrorism, unlimited hours during which they can visit. They can pray, and sometimes Arab kids play soccer there. Freedom.
Now consider freedom to bear arms. That is an interesting one. It is hard for a private citizen to get a pistol permit, and long guns are almost unheard of in civilian hands. But almost every male Jewish Israeli between the ages of 19 and 40 has the right, more correctly the obligation, to take a month out of his life every year and, er, bear arms (when I was here in the 1980s, it was six weeks a year until age 55). And that is in addition to two years of mandatory service, which women also serve.
But what about Arabs? Although Druze and Bedouin citizens serve in the IDF, most Arab citizens are not required to do so. But – here Israel proves to be special again – illegal weapons are rife in Israel’s Arab towns. Even automatic weapons. So they can bear arms whenever they want to, and are not limited to one month a year.
The American Bill of Rights includes the right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure. And in Israel you have nothing to worry about – unless someone claims you owe them money! If that happens, they have recourse to a system called hotza’a lefoal by which a creditor can lock up a debtor’s bank account, make it impossible for them to leave the country, and charge outrageous fees and interest. But as long as you pay your cellphone bills and don’t have an angry ex-spouse, you have nothing to worry about.
So you see, here in Israel we have so much freedom that we can afford to give it to academics and writers who take the side of our enemies, to Muslims who deny our right to worship at our holy places, to members of the various Arab mafias, and to mobile phone providers.
We have so much freedom, in fact, that we don’t need the more traditional plagues.
Your point about our freedom is well-made. But there is also a question of our being self-defeatingly ‘free’, Consider those members of Knesset who have at various times supported terrorists and other enemies of Israel. Consider the fact that Jews forbid themselves from praying at their own holiest site.