It is often the case that candidates for higher office are asked questions on the campaign trail that are designed to bait them into saying things they may regret. The purpose of this handbook is to provide tools and resources for any candidate running for office on how to best respond to biased questions about Israel. The following suggested answers and information in this handbook aim to be as objective as possible, with all information being based on facts.
1. Security Assistance to Israel
American security assistance to Israel overblown, unnecessary, or “special
America has long provided security assistance to its allies, and the security
threats Israel faces are unlike any others.
- The U.S. does not provide defense aid
to Israel out of some impulse to altruism or charity; it does so because
Israel’s defense and safety give direct benefit to U.S. national security, and
that is not conditional.
- Israel is a strategic ally and pivotal
balancer against regional hegemon Iran and its state-sponsored terror, in
particular, State Department-designated terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah.
- On the ground, the program breeds close defense cooperation that greatly improves U.S. military effectiveness in the Middle East, ranging from joint military exercises to the development of missile defense technology, as well as the sharing of vital intelligence and counterterrorism tactics, cyber security technology, and battlefield medicine.
- Security assistance to Israel is also highly integrated with the American economy, with 75% of it ultimately going back into U.S. jobs and businesses.
2. Israeli – Arabs Rights
Q: Is Israel an apartheid state?
A: No. Despite it being a “Jewish and democratic
state”, the Arab minority in Israel enjoys equal rights and protections under
the law. The treatment of Arabs by the State of Israel cannot be compared in
any way to the treatment of the black majority in South Africa under apartheid.
There is no Israeli ideology, policy or plan to segregate, persecute or
mistreat the Arab population.
- Arabs are
well-represented in Israel’s democratically elected parliament. Minorities in
other countries in the Middle East are not usually afforded such rights.
- It is common that
at least one Supreme Court seat is filled by an Israeli- Arab justice.
- Apartheid was a uniquely repressive system, through which South Africa’s white minority enforced its domination over the black and other non-white racial groups. No such laws exist in Israel.
3. West Bank and Gaza
Q: Is the West
Bank an “occupied” territory?
A: No. Israel captured the West Bank in 1967 in a
war of self-defense. Since 1967, the Palestinians have rejected every Israeli
overture, missing opportunity after opportunity to peacefully resolve the
dispute through negotiation.
- As long as the
future status of the West Bank is subject to negotiation, Israel’s claim to
this disputed territory is
no less valid than that of the Palestinians.
international law, true occupation occurs only in territories that have been
taken from a recognized sovereign, and the Palestinian authority is not. The
last recognized sovereign of the West Bank and Gaza was the Ottoman Empire,
which ceased to exist following the First World War.
- As the West Bank
had no prior legitimate sovereign, under international law these areas cannot
be considered as “occupied” Arab or Palestinian lands, and their most
accurate description would be that of “disputed” territories.
- Israel withdrew
from the Gaza Strip completely in 2005. The area was taken over by the Hamas, a
U.S State Department-designated terrorist group in 2007. Today Hamas brutally
oppresses women, political opponents, Christians, and other minorities. The
strict security policy including checkpoints, security barrier and more, is to
ensure the safety and security of Israelis from terrorist activities.
A major part of the funding designated to the Palestinian people has been shifted to a corrupted Palestinian leadership.
4. Human Rights
Q: Do you think Israel meets international
standards of human rights?
A: Yes. Israel is a vibrant democracy that
respects the rule of law and has a strong judiciary which upholds the rights of
“Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty” ensures the protection of civil and
human rights for all.
- Israel’s Declaration of Independence is another legal source that guarantees
freedom of religion and conscience, and equality of social and political rights
irrespective of religion.
- Israel allows
Palestinian residents of the West Bank to appeal to the Israeli courts to seek
5. Religious Freedom
Q: Why can’t Israel accept other religions?
A: It does. Israel’s laws, Court rulings, and
liberal democratic values protect the freedoms of conscience, faith, religion,
and worship, regardless of an individual’s religious affiliation. Christians,
Muslims, Jews and others are free to practice their religion in Jerusalem and
all other places in Israel.
- Although Israel
describes itself as a Jewish state, all religious groups have freedom to
practice and maintain communal institutions in Israel. According to the 2009 U.S.
Department of State report, “The Israeli Basic Law on Human Dignity and
Liberty provides for freedom of worship and the Government generally respected
this right in practice.”
- Israel’s Declaration of Independence, promulgated in 1948, is another legal source
that guarantees freedom of religion and conscience, and equality of social and
political rights irrespective of religion.
- Holy sites in the
city of Jerusalem are open to worshipers of all religions. Israeli
authorities ensure the safety of all worshipers in this volatile setting. It is
an offense under Israeli law to cause damage to any place of worship or to any
object sacred to any religion with the intention of affronting the religion of
any class of persons.
6. LGBTQ Rights
Q: Why does Israel treat the LGBTQ community as
A: It does not. Israel’s LGBTQ persons enjoy all
protections under the law. There is more work to be done, but Israeli culture
embraces gay rights as an element of basic human rights, something that is
certainly not a given in the Middle East, making Israel the outlier.
- Members of the
LGBTQ community are an integral part of society who serve in the IDF, the
Knesset, and the Government. The LGBTQ community in Israel is thriving.
- Israel is the
only country in the Middle East where you can be openly gay and not be afraid
for your life.
- The Supreme Court
of Israel has ruled that same sex married couple can register as such in
official state records.
- Every year
several cities in Israel hold LGBTQ Pride parades. The Tel Aviv Pride is the
largest, with over 250,000 participants from all around the world.
7. Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)
Q: Is BDS is an apolitical movement aimed only
at making Israel comply with international law?
A: No. One of the aims of the Boycott,
Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS Movement) is the delegitimization of
Israel as a Jewish State, which is a fundamentally anti-Semitic position.
- One of the
leaders of the BDS movement, Omar Barghouti, has said that he opposes “a Jewish
state in any part of Palestine.”
- By focusing
solely on Israel’s alleged abuses, BDS ignores countless other worse human
rights abusers around the world.
- By including in
its stated goals protecting the right of Palestinian refugees to return to
homes they lived in prior to Israel’s establishment — something Israel
considers an existential threat to its Jewish character — the movement is
effectively calling for the end of the Jewish state.
- U.S. House Resolution
246 passed in July 2019, officially opposes the Global Boycott, Divestment, and
Sanctions Movement (BDS Movement) targeting Israel. It includes “opposing
efforts to target United States companies that are engaged in commercial
activities that are legal under United States law, and all efforts to
delegitimize the State of Israel;”
President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital deny the
Palestinians of the right to call Jerusalem the Capital of Palestine?
Not at all. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital does not have any
bearing on the identity of the future Palestinian Capital. This will be up to
the two sides to negotiate in a peace agreement.
- In 1995, the U.S.
Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act
requiring America to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Proponents
said the U.S. should respect Israel’s choice of Jerusalem as its capital and
recognize it as such.
- Jerusalem has
been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years and the capital of Israel
for over 70 years.
- Moving the
embassy is an important step forward towards peace, for there is no peace that
does not include Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
- Israel has
declared numerous times that it remains committed to the status quo in the holy
- Jerusalem served
as the Jewish people’s historic capital since King David made it so in 1004
BCE. Jerusalem remained the capital until its destruction by the hands of the
Romans in 70 CE and the subsequent loss of Jewish independence.