Israel’s new boycott law is currently a hot topic. Many are criticizing it as undemocratic and a violation of free speech. Comparisons are being made to other — much older — democracies, but remember they haven’t always been bastions of fairness.
Take the United States. Originally, only white male property owners were allowed to vote. In 1850, when the United States was 74 years old, the property ownership requirement was removed and then most white males were allowed to vote. Women got the right to vote when the country was 144 years old.
The abhorrent practice of slavery was legal here for the first 89 years of our history. While it was abolished in 1865, African-Americans were not given full and equal rights until the country was 188 years of age.
Beginning September 2011, gays and lesbians in the military will not be discriminated by the armed forces as policy for the first time in 235 years.
Israel is only 63 years old. It has many great accomplishments. People of all faiths, colors and heritage are treated equally. Arab men and women living in Israel have more rights than anywhere else in the Middle East. Is Israel perfect? Does Israel make mistakes? We all know Israel lives in a difficult neighborhood and faces many problems – some challenge its very existence. Israel is a young country.
I have full faith in the Israeli people, their democracy and their supreme court. Allow them time for discussion and process to decide if the new laws are fair or unconstitutional.
Stuart V. Pavilack
(The author is executive director of the Zionist Organization of America-Pittsburgh District.)