The debaters at Oxbridge are superb wordsmiths. I stand in awe of their use of words and the developments of their arguments. But this one really stands out. Excerpts:
When you compare Israel to its regional neighbours, it becomes clear just how roguish Israel is. And here is the fourth argument [EE: read the entire piece for the other arguments]: Israel has a better human rights record than any of its neighbours. At no point in history, has there ever been a liberal democratic state in the Middle East -- except for Israel. Of all the countries in the Middle East, Israel is the only one where the LGBT community enjoys even a small measure of equality.
In Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, and Syria, homosexual conduct is punishable by flogging, imprisonment, or both. But homosexuals there get off pretty lightly compared to their counterparts in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, who are put to death. Israeli homosexuals can adopt, openly serve in the army, enter civil unions, and are protected by exceptionally strongly worded ant-discrimination legislation. Beats a death sentence. In fact, it beats America.
Israel’s protection of its citizens’ civil liberties has earned international recognition. Freedom House is an NGO that releases an annual report on democracy and civil liberties in each of the 195 countries in the world. It ranks each country as “Free,” “Partly Free,” or “Not Free.” In the Middle East, Israel is the only country that has earned designation as a “free” country. Not surprising given the level of freedom afforded to citizens in, say, Lebanon -- a country designated “partly free,” where there are laws against reporters criticizing not only the Lebanese government, but the Syrian regime as well. I’m hoping Ms. Booth will speak about this, given her experience working as a “journalist” for Iran.
Iran is a country given the rating of “not free,” putting it alongside China, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Myanmar. In Iran, as Ms. Booth I hoped would have said in her speech, there is a special “Press Court” which prosecutes journalists for such heinous offences as criticizing the Ayatollah, reporting on stories damaging the “foundations of the Islamic republic,” using “suspicious (i.e., Western) sources,” or insulting Islam. Iran is the world leader in terms of jailed journalists, with 39 reporters (that we know of) in prison as of 2009. They also kicked out almost every Western journalist during the 2009 election. (I don't know if Ms Booth was affected by that.)
I guess we can’t really expect more from a theocracy. Which is what most countries in the Middle East are. Theocracies and autocracies. But Israel is the sole, the only, the rogue, democracy. Out of every country in the Middle East, only in Israel do anti-government protests and reporting go unquashed and uncensored.