James Zobgy’s recent commentary “US passports scoffed at by Israel; US stands by” (Aug. 24) misleads readers through omissions. Zogby, the founder and president of the Arab-American Institute, falsely asserts that “in the past year Israel has continued…their practice of discriminating against persons of Arab descent” and cites the stories of what he implies to be two disinterested parties to advance this allegation.
The author cites two specific individuals who he claims were detained, interrogated and denied entry into Israel at Ben Gurion International airport—and relies exclusively on their accounts to allege mistreatment. Zogby identifies the two men, George Khoury and Habib Joudeh as simply “American citizens of Palestinian descent.”
Yet, Joudeh, identified only as a “pharmacist” by Zogyby, has been the vice president of the Arab American Association of New York since 1994. The director of that association, Linda Sarsour, has falsely accused Israel of ethnic cleansing and has dismissed reports of attacks by terror group al-Qaeda as conspiracy theories.
George Khoury—identified only as a “professor” and “deacon at his church”—is an anti-Israel activist who has previously alleged that as a nation, the Jewish state commits crimes “daily.” By failing to disclose the background, biases and associations of the two men, but uncritically recounting their unsubstantiated allegations, the author misleads readers.
Zogby also claims that “because both men were of Palestinian descent, Israel would not honor their U.S. passports or recognize the men as American citizens. Both were told they had to acquire Palestinian IDs and then, as Palestinians enter the West Bank.” However, for identifying the men as Palestinian Arabs and not as American citizens, it’s not Israel that Zogby should be faulting. It’s the Palestinian Authority.
According to Article 5 of the Palestinian National Charter those born in what is today land governed by the Palestinian Authority—as both Joudeh and Khoury were—are Palestinian. Apparently Israeli officials were following a definition made by the Palestinian National Charter. Unless Zogby is advocating that American officials should nullify Palestinian laws, rules for entry for those defined as Palestinian are well-known and publicly available.
Israel—similar to most other countries—has laws and procedures that stipulate points of entry. Unless individuals are approved in advance and special permission granted, entry to Israel for those classified as Palestinian Arabs is through the Allenby Bridge border crossing.
That two men with unmentioned histories of anti-Israel advocacy attempted to subvert long-standing, well-publicized procedures and cross into Israel illegally instead of by the Allenby Bridge crossing—as thousands of others have done—seems to indicate a purposeful attempt to create an anti-Israel narrative.
As for Zogby’s claim that Israel discriminates against “persons of Arab descent” in general, it overlooks that the last national elections in Israel were overseen by an Israeli Arab and that Arab citizens in Israel have increased their representation in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Israeli Arabs have sat on Israel’s Supreme Court and been appointed to cabinet-level positions. Arab citizens in Israel, a minority, have vastly greater social, economic and political rights than in most Arab countries, rights equal to those of the Jewish majority. By way of contrast, the small populations of Jews remaining in Arab countries have no such comparable rights, often in law, always in practice.
The numerous omissions in the author’s commentary indicate an agenda that, without essential context, leaves readers ill-informed.
Durns is media assistant for the Washington D.C. office of CAMERA—the 65,000 member Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America