To the editor:

In his column “ASA stance is counterproductive to dialogue” (10/28), Nelson Moussazadeh cites misleading facts and offers patently false statements to prove that Israel is a victim of the undemocratic Arab countries surrounding it.

Moussazadeh says Israel is the “only true democracy in the Middle East, granting full citizenship rights to its entire population.” Israel has controlled the Occupied Territories for 36 years. The Palestinians living there don’t have any human rights, let alone voting rights.ÊIsraeli apologists say this is because Israel hasn’t officially annexed those lands, but the fact remains that more than half of the people who are subject to the whims of the Israeli government have no say in the political processes governing them.

But one need not go so far as the Occupied Territories to refute the myth of an Israeli democracy. Over 50,000 taxpaying Arab Israeli citizens live in some 40 villages that the Israeli government refuses to recognize. Despite being located within Israel’s borders these villages are denied running water, electricity, access roads, health care, education and phone service. The inhabitants of unrecognized villages hardly enjoy “full citizenship rights.”

Moussazadeh’s next line of attack suffers from a problem of selective reporting. While stating that a million Jews were expelled from Arab lands, he forgets that over half the population of Palestine had to leave its homeland in 1948, the great majority of them forcibly expelled. Moussazadeh talks about “the diversion of water from tributaries necessary to Israel,” but overlooks the fact that Israel routinely diverts water from Palestinian towns in the Occupied Territories to Jewish settlements, which are themselves illegal under international law. While mentioning that “Israel’s avowed enemies” are developing weapons of mass destruction, he neglects to mention that Israel was the first country in the region to develop nuclear weapons. It’s only logical for “Israel’s avowed enemies” to follow suit to keep up.

This isn’t to say that Israel’s transgressions justify those committed by Arabs. But if this is what Moussazadeh relies on to distinguish the “only democracy in the Middle East” from its neighbors, his case is quite weak. Time and again I hear calls for a “democratic Palestine and a secure Israel.” A true road map to peace would entail a democratic Israel and a secure Palestine. Because a truly democratic Israel would treat all its subjects equally and a secure Palestine would be economically viable and able to control its borders; this means a single state, both democratic and secure, with Israelis and Palestinians living together as equals.

Saqib Bhatti ’04

Oct. 28, 2003