At the onset of my comments, I would like to disclose that I am a native of Israel, and that Israel is the only country of which I have ever been a citizen. Yet, I find it abhorrent that an event that celebrates equality could ignore the abundance of evidence in the media and in the findings of human-rights organizations, which indicate that Israel is far from the exemplar of a progressive democracy that offers equality to all its inhabitants, as it so frequently tries to convince the West that it is.
I have no doubt that among the diverse readership of this publication are people who will vehemently reject my arguments, but I, as a responsible queer Israeli citizen, currently residing in Philadelphia, feel the urge to make them nonetheless. Equality does not end with the LGBTIQ community. And while it is true that Israel is more progressive than its neighbors, and indeed than some of the 50 United States when it comes to its treatment of its queer population, it cannot take the same pride in equal treatment of ethnic minorities, both within the borders of Israel proper and in the territories that it occupied in 1967.
As my space is no doubt limited, I will focus on one persistent example that has received quite a lot of international media attention: the plight of the Bedouins in the Negev desert. This nomadic Arab population has been largely denied access not only to water, electricity and education, but also to their own lands, ownership of which predates the founding of the state of Israel. Even attempts to “equalize” their rights by serving in the Israeli army, unlike most other Arab citizens of Israel, do not change the blatantly racist policies and attitudes of both the Israeli government and a great deal of the Israeli populace. These are not pleasant words for me to write, and probably for anyone to read, but the facts are well documented, and I urge you to research them further.
It is not too late for the organizers of Equality Forum to admit that they have erred. There are a few (sadly, only a few) other countries out there that really do exhibit equality. It is with great shame and sorrow that I confess to you that the country in which I was born and raised is not one of those.
— Uri Horesh