To the editor: Israel is the only true democracy in a turbulent Middle East. While every democracy struggles with challenges and Israel is not unique in this sense, Israel has continuously worked to fully integrate its Arab citizens into its society. Israeli Arabs enjoy full civil and political rights under the law and have equal representation in Israel's parliament.
Israel's government recently approved a five-year, $3.84-billion plan to improve infrastructure and services provided to the Israeli-Arab community. This decision includes measurable allocation goals in education, public transportation, employment and community services.
UCLA professor Saree Makdisi's Jan. 8 op-ed article, "Why Israel's schools merit a U.S. boycott," is part of an aggressive global campaign that distorts the true nature of Israel. He is apparently motivated by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which, rather than promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians, directs its efforts toward delegitimizing and defaming Israel.
Israel's universities are open to all students, regardless of religion or ethnicity. A significant percentage of students at Israel's universities are Arab citizens who enjoy equal educational opportunities available to all students and researchers. Universities in Israel are staffed by Jewish and Arab faculty working side by side to advance the pursuit of knowledge.
David Siegel, Los Angeles
The writer is consul general of Israel to the Southwest.
To the editor: As an educator and Israeli citizen, I do not take issue with Makdisi's data. However, two salient points come to mind.
First, there are many joint Israeli-Palestinian and Jewish-Arab non-government organization that are working diligently to address and correct the inequities in educational accessibility. Hand in Hand, for example, recently announced it is adding another bilingual Jewish-Arab elementary school in Haifa.
Second, I engage in water resource management and collaborate with scholars at several Palestinian universities, including Al-Quds, Birzeit and An-Najah. For Makdisi to suggest that a boycott would not affect Israeli (or Palestinian) scholars but only "call for a break in institutional cooperation" is naive. There can be no collaboration among Israeli and Palestinian scholars without institutional support.
Makdisi should research what is being done to open doors rather than call for closing all of them
Michael Davidson, Altadena
To the editor: When Makdisi discusses schools that are "overcrowded and poorly equipped, lacking in libraries, in labs, arts facilities, recreational facilities," is he talking about the schools in Watts? Could Makdisi tell us what percentage of the student bodies at UCLA, Harvard and Princeton are black?
Wouldn't it be better to clean our own house first before throwing stones at Israel? I would like Makdisi, who teaches not far from Watts, to do a study and write an article about the shabby state of affairs in our own backyard and call for a boycott of our own institutions of learning.
I for one do not trust any of the educational associations that are ready to boycott Israel's academic institutions. I would like to hear the other side of the story first. Israel should have its say before a boycott is declared.
Rhya Turovsky, Pasadena