Paula R. Stern is CEO and founder of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company offering documentation services and training seminars. She made aliyah in 1993 when her oldest son was 6 years old. In March 2007, her son Elie entered the Artillery Division of the Israeli army and Paula began writing about her experiences as A Soldier"s Mother. The blog continues as Elie begins Reserve Duty and her son Shmulik is now a soldier. She recently opened a publishing house, helping other authors fulfill their dream to publish. Links to the Author's blogs: * A Soldier"s MotherPaulaSays...
Israel's democracy is a vibrant thing. For all that our enemies criticize alleged discrimination, according to the law, all our citizens are equal. A bit over 10% of the population of Israel is Arab. They vote and have elected many Arab parties and leaders who then stand up from the floor of our parliament and demand our destruction. They work against us as a fifth column, betraying information to our enemies and then running off if caught (for example, Azmi Bashara, who aided Hezbollah).
Israeli Arab schools are funded by the government; Israeli Arabs have access to medical care like all other citizens, get regular benefits, etc. Including, amazingly enough - suicide bombers who kill Israelis...and then expect the government to pay benefits to their surviving families (and for many years and perhaps still, Israel has done this).
I was in the hospital last week after my father had an operation. At least two of the nurses were Arab men - sweet, kind, helpful, educated and equal to the Jewish/Israeli nurses that serve with them. In the cafeteria, watching the monitor for hours as my father was transferred into the operating room, then to recovery and then finally back to his room - we sat among Arabs, waiting, watching, worrying as we were. There was no discrimination as they waited in line - in front of us, behind us - to buy coffee or a sandwich, to sit at a table, to look, to wait.
I went shopping last night when someone told me the price of tomatoes and other vegetables was skyrocketing (still don't know why). Half the checkout people were Arabs; the assistant manager is an Arab; most of the men who work in the meat department are Arabs; most of the men who stock and restock the fruits and vegetables are Arabs. To say we are an apartheid country is a vicious lie told by those who wish, despite the facts, to damage the image of Israel for others. Do the research and you'll understand the truth.
Yes, there is that moment each day when we and they pass through the checkpoints - and yes, they are scrutinized in the 10 seconds it takes to pass through while we are observed in the 5 seconds it takes us. That is a measure of discrimination brought about by need and not apartheid. Blacks in South Africa didn't blow up bombs, sneak into the homes of whites and slit the throats of their children.
There are reasons for this 5 second delay the Arabs face while we do not - legitimate reasons. The simplest is statistics - Arabs are somewhere between 99-100% more likely to be a suicide bomber than Jews. No, stop - do not put words in my mouth. I did not write that 100% of Arabs are terrorists (and there would be BBC quoting the last 5 words of that sentence). The vast majority of Arabs are NOT terrorists. The vast majority just want to live, as I do, as we do, in peace. That is what I firmly believe.
They want food for their children, medical care, a home, a job. So, to be clear - the vast, vast, vast majority of Arabs are not terrorists. BUT....yes, there is a but...BUT, the vast majority of terrorist are Arabs. Please, read that again - understand the difference and understand that if you fail to comprehend that, accept it, live with it and take precautions, people will die. Young children - like the three Fogel children murdered in their home, pregnant women - like Tali Hatuel and her four daughters, shot at point-blank range and murdered on the road from their home. And countless others.
The need to protect one's people is one of the ultimate signs of a democracy. Assad of Syria does not care about his people; Mubarak of Egypt didn't care; Muammar Gaddafi of Libya didn't care. Democracies care and so they enact laws and run governments to make lives better.
Eight years ago, in the summer of 2005, Israel's democracy was under the control of Ariel Sharon. He was swept into office by the votes of the majority of Israel. We voted him in with a clear plan of strength and security and in the end, he gave us neither.
He turned his back on his supporters, we who had brought him to office by implementing a unilateral evacuation of Gaza. In plain terms, this means he turned more than 20 Jewish communities to rubble, pulled people - figuratively and literally - from their homes without a plan in place to see to their needs. And for this agonizing sacrifice, he gained Israel humiliation as we watched the Arabs move into the areas where we had evacuated - to set up a mosque in a synagogue that remained (as they so often do); to set up a university of hatred; to launch rockets from the rubble at Israel's cities and civilians. Only months after doing this, Sharon broke away from Likud to form Kadima - a backwards party despite its name. I was glad when he left; I felt he had returned Likud to me, to the truth, to strength.
Eight years ago, our democracy was used against us to protect the government of the man and betray the people who put him in office. Kadima ran out of steam and Likud returned to power - another show of democracy.
And while Israel's democracy is alive and well, last night, again, it took a turn that I am not happy with. After weeks of speculation, Israel was heading towards new elections, another chance for the people to come forward and reiterate their choice and realign the government to any shifts that might have occurred in the last three years. But a few hours ago, in the dead of night, after secret negotiations, Bibi Netanyahu signed a unity agreement with Shaul Mofaz of Kadima.
By all polls I have seen lately, the Likud was in for a smashing victory in the election that will never be. Kadima was headed for self-implosion. Bibi has become their lifeline - betraying tens of thousands (likely more) of his "supporters." Years ago, Sharon took my vote and betrayed it. Last year, after 10 years as a Likud member, I took my vote back. It will not be with my vote that Bibi extends his mandate; it was not my support he betrayed last night.
What happened last night was legal. After weeks of speculation and even a first reading for a call for early elections to be held September 4, Bibi fooled many people. There is a story told that God was angry with the Israelites after leaving Ancient Egypt. He told Moshe (Moses) that he would destroy this nation and give him a new one to lead.
Moshe responded that if a chair could not stand on three legs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), how could it stand on one (Moshe)? In this case, my response to Bibi would be the opposite. The Likud party and the nation could stand on the strength of one but is likely to flounder on a chair made of three weak legs (Bibi, Mofaz, Barak).
Israel's democracy is alive and well. Just as it was legal but not democratic for Sharon to take my vote and betray it, what Bibi did last night was legal, but not very democratic. He was voted into office, not to betray, but to fulfill the will of his supporters. Last night, he betrayed his supporters. The answer to his actions will come - just as the answer to Sharon's actions led to Kadima's defeat and near-obliteration.
For now, Israel goes on a path led by leaders who may or may not have the strength to do what must be done. It is, indeed, a dangerous time for Israel given US elections coming up and Iran's ongoing belligerence. It is at times like this I turn to faith.
Above all else, Israel remains our home. What Ariel Sharon's weakness could not destroy, Bibi Netanyahu and his new unity government will not destroy either. Whoever leads this country, we have only One who truly determines our future. We will remember this in the months to come.
Tags:Gaza, kadima, Likud, Gush Katif, ariel sharon, Binyamin Netanyahu, elections, Disengagement Plan