LETTER TO THE EDITOR, 19 OCTOBER 2014
I was surprised by the letter from Erica Lyons, founder of Asian Jewish Life (“HK and Israel have much in common“, October 12). She is wrong when she claims Palestinians in Israel have equal rights and that Israel is similar to Hong Kong.
No one in Hong Kong has ever been killed with a bulldozer, as was the case with American peace activist Rachel Corrie, who was crushed to death in March 2003 while trying to block an army bulldozer that was demolishing a Palestinian home. No Israeli has been implicated.
Israel is also the only country today that detains minors and subjects them to military trial. In 2013, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child estimated that 7,000, mainly teenagers, had been arrested and detained between 2002 and 2012.
As for claims of free assembly, why, then, were two unarmed Palestinian teenagers killed by Israeli snipers in May 2014?
In mid-July, four young children playing on a beach in Gaza were killed by an Israeli gunship, and, yet again, no Israelis were punished.
Why else are a growing number of soldiers joining Breaking the Silence, an Israeli group that collects testimonies from soldiers about immoral practices of the Israeli military in the occupied territories?
While Ms Lyons wrongly claims Israel left Gaza in 2005, the nine-year blockade has turned Gaza into the world’s largest open-air prison.
On the political front, Knesset member Hanin Zoabi, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, has been barred from most parliamentary activity for six months for speaking against the Gaza bombardment.
It is also Israel that recently confiscated nearly 400 hectares of Palestinian land in violation of international law, one of many land grabs since 1948. While Israelis live under civil law, Palestinians live under draconian Israeli orders and are subject to military courts.
As for claims Arabs enjoy equal rights, I urge Ms Lyons to read the June 2007 report by the Israel Democracy Institute, where about 56 per cent of Israeli Jews publicly voice their opposition to full equality for Arabs and 78 per cent reject the idea Arab parties should join the government or any crucial decision-making body.
No amount of smooth talking can change facts unless the root causes of this conflict are resolved, that is, an immediate halt to illegal settlements in the West Bank, removal of the Gaza blockade and just treatment of the indigenous population of what is now Israel, the Palestinians.