I recently spoke with a Palestinian Muslim friend of mine. To protect his safety, I can offer no more details than that.
And that is precisely the point. Let me tell you why.
The Israeli-Arab conflict has been one of ongoing and endless consternation for the world, particularly for the parties involved. In the last decade or so, it has been clouded with more fog and propaganda than perhaps ever before in its 100-year history. Unlike any other time in its existence, Israel is facing forces that don’t just disagree with it or believe it is oppressing the Palestinians, but that believe Israel itself is an illegitimate state that stole land from the Palestinians and therefore has no right to exist. The rallying cry of many in the demonic and largely anti-Semitic BDS (Boycott-Divest-Sanctions) movement has been “From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free!” In other words, their goal is not simply a change in Israel’s behavior, but the destruction of Israel itself.
Most are not aware that the vast majority of Palestinians are under the day-to-day sovereignty of their own government, the Palestinian Authority. And what is the record of this government? In short, my friend and others have suffered far more at the hands of their own Palestinian Authority than the Israelis, and if given the choice, many of them would much rather live under Israeli sovereignty than Palestinian.
Yes, that’s right, a Palestinian Muslim told me that. Ironically, when I first met him, he was vehemently opposed to Israel. His feelings towards Israel are still ambivalent and complex, which is understandable, but they are quite different now.
So what changed them?
First, he was able to visit Israel after being granted a permit to do so. He saw what life was like for Israeli citizens (including Arabs). He told me that, as far as he could tell, seeing life under Israeli sovereignty versus Palestinian sovereignty was like seeing “Heaven and Hell.”
Second, he knew someone, a fellow Palestinian, who was a fighter in the first Intifada and had experienced both Israeli and Palestinian jails. This person had diabetes, and in the Israeli jails, my friend told me he had nothing to worry about: His medical needs would be taken care of. It was when he was in the Palestinian jails that he was very afraid for this person, for his medical needs were not even considered or bothered with. “My enemy at least treats us like human beings. But what about my own people? They treat us like animals.”
What does he see as the great distinction between Israel and the Palestinian Authority? “Israel is governed by law, and the Palestinian Authority is not. It is a group of thieves and wannabe dictators. They do whatever they want.” He even noted that the Israeli soldiers were governed by law. They could by no means do whatever they wanted, and if they did go beyond the confines of the law, they were punished.
When Palestinians were brought before an Israeli judge for alleged crimes, he said they were given a fair shot, and if there was not enough evidence to hold them, they would be released. Not so with the Palestinian Authority. They detain without warning, and with no judicial recourse. In Israel, however, even former presidents and prime ministers are not immune, as evidenced by the case of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was recently convicted of taking bribes while in office. “But,” my friend asked, “what happens to the government officials of the Palestinian Authority who have $1 million wedding parties in Qatar from international aid money meant to help the Palestinian people while their own people languish in poverty? Nothing.”
Under the Palestinian Authority, Palestinians do not have religious freedom, freedom of speech, or any other of the human rights that we take for granted in the United States, and which are guaranteed by law for Jews, Arabs and all other citizens of Israel. I cannot reveal my friend’s name, his age, who he knows, where he lives, or anything of that sort, because his life would likely be in danger. He tells me there are many Palestinians who feel the exact same way he does, but they dare not speak out because they would face prison time, hefty punishments, or even death.
What has he concluded from all of this?
“Israel deserves this land, not because of their connection to it, but because they are a country of law and human rights. This is why I respect them. They treat me like a man. My own people treat us like dogs.”
This is the true and often untold story of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Israel is not a perfect country, and there have been cases of human rights abuses. On this there is no question. But no other country, when faced with comparable circumstances, has been able to maintain its democratic character and the rule of law as robustly as the state of Israel has. It is a light in the midst of indescribable darkness. How do Arabs and Muslims fare in Syria? In Iraq? In Egypt? In Saudi Arabia? In Jordan? How do Palestinians fare at the hand of their own fellow Palestinians? None of them have the same rights as Arabs and Muslims in Israel, and none of them even have the sorts of protections Israel imposes on itself in its treatment of the Palestinians.
A final word to the Christians out there who have allowed their mushy hearts to blind their eyes and puree their minds: Stop. Stop taking the spoon-fed, de-contextualized propaganda, and stop acting like both sides are equally culpable. They are not. Stop spouting idiotic nonsense about everybody just “loving” one another in the name of their false Jesus who more often resembles a hippie than the Jesus of scripture. You are doing a grave disservice to both Israelis and Palestinians, and it is a travesty. STOP.
Media wishing to interview Joshua Charles, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.