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November 28, 2014 / 6 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Israeli Jews’

Israelis, U.S. Jews Differ Dramatically On Obama

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

   Have American Jews abandoned Israel in favor of President Obama? This is a central question in the minds of Israelis today.

 

   In a poll of Israeli Jews conducted in mid-June by the Jerusalem Post, a mere 6 percent of respondents said they view Obama as pro-Israel. In stark contrast, a Gallup tracking poll in early May showed that 79 percent of American Jews support the president.

 

   These numbers seem to tell us that U.S. Jews have indeed parted company with the Jewish state.

 

   No American president has ever been viewed as similarly ill disposed toward Israel by Israelis. With only 6 percent seeing the administration as friendly, it is apparent that distrust of Obama is not a partisan issue in Israel. It spans the spectrum from far left to right, from ultra-Orthodox to ultra-secular. But with his 79-percent approval rating among U.S. Jews, it is clear the American Jewish community is quite sympathetically inclined toward Obama.

 

   Appearances of course can be deceptive. And it is worth taking a closer look at the numbers to understand what they tell us about American Jewish sentiments regarding Obama and Israel. First, however, we should consider what it is about Obama that makes nearly all Israeli Jews view him as an adversary.

 

   The Jerusalem Post poll showed a massive divergence between Israeli Jews and Obama on the issue of Jewish building beyond the 1949 armistice line. The Obama administration has refused to budge in its hard-line demand that Israel end all Jewish building in north, south, and east Jerusalem as well as in Judea and Samaria.

 

   For its part, the Netanyahu government has refused to bow to this demand. Seventy percent of Israeli Jews support the Netanyahu government’s handling of the issue with the Obama administration and 69 percent oppose a freeze on Jewish building.

 

   Beyond Obama’s agitation on the issue of Jewish construction, Israelis are dismayed by what they perceive as the generally hostile approach he has adopted in dealing with the Jewish state. This approach was nowhere more in evidence than in his speech to the Islamic world in Cairo on June 4.

 

   It wasn’t just Obama’s comparison of Palestinian terrorism to the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, the American civil rights movement and antebellum slave rebellions that set people off. There was also Obama’s inference that Israel owes its legitimacy to the Holocaust.

 

   It is that claim – Obama repeated it during his visit to Buchenwald – which forms the basis of the Islamic narrative against Israel. It argues that Jews are not indigenous to the Middle East, and that the only thing keeping Israel in place is European guilt about Auschwitz. Not only do Israelis of all political stripes reject this as factually false, they recognize it is inherently anti-Semitic because it ignores and negates 3,500 years of Jewish history in the land of Israel.

 

   With Israeli distrust of Obama so apparent, and so easily explained, two questions arise: How has Obama managed to maintain American Jewish support despite his unprecedented unpopularity in Israel? And what is the likelihood that when push comes to shove, American Jews will stand with Israel against the president they so admire?

 

   Obama’s great success in maintaining support among American Jews owes much to the fact that most American Jews do not pick up the same messages from Obama’s statements as do Israeli Jews. Whereas Israeli Jews recognize that it is morally obscene, strategically suicidal and historically inaccurate to suggest that Israel has no rights to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and that Jews have no right to live there, American Jews do not intuitively understand this to be the case. Consequently, while Israeli Jews recognize Obama’s calls for a total freeze in Jewish construction in these areas as inherently hostile, most American Jews do not.

 

   Beyond this, for the past 15 years, Holocaust education – more so than Zionist education or Jewish religious education – has become the hallmark of American Jewish identity. As a consequence, American Jews may not see anything objectionable in Obama’s inference that Israel owes its existence to the Holocaust.

 

   If the divergence in U.S. Jewish and Israeli attitudes toward Obama is simply a consequence of a lack of American Jewish awareness of the significance of Obama’s positions and policies for Israel, then the disparity in views can be easily remedied by a sustained issues awareness campaign by Israel and by American Jewish organizations. For many of Israel’s core American Jewish supporters, such a campaign would no doubt go a long way in energizing them to challenge the administration on its positions vis-?-vis Israel.

 

   But there are other factors at work. According to the American Jewish Committee’s 2008 survey of American Jews, some 67 percent of American Jews feel close to Israel. These numbers, while high, are not significantly higher than similar support levels among the general U.S. population. (A survey of general American sentiment toward Israel conducted this month by the Israel Project shows that support for Israel has dropped by 20 percent in the past nine months – from 69 to 49 percent. Presumably, Jewish American support for Israel has also experienced a drop.)

 

   More significantly, the AJC survey showed that in the lead-up to the 2008 presidential elections, only three percent of American Jews said a candidate’s position on Israel was the most important issue for them. Indeed, according to survey after survey of American Jewish opinion over the past decade, U.S. Jewish support for Israel, while widespread, is not particularly deep. This sentiment lends to the conclusion that American Jews will not abandon or temper their support for Obama simply because he is perceived as being hostile to Israel.

 

   The picture, then, is a mixed bag. Support for Israel against Obama will likely rise as a consequence of a sustained educational campaign among American Jews about the issues in dispute and their importance for Israel’s security and national well-being. But even in that event, it is unclear how dramatic the shift would be. Given the shallowness of U.S. Jewish support for Israel, no doubt many American Jews will not care enough to reassess their positions on either Israel or Obama.

 

   The one bit of encouraging news in all this is the persistence of support for Israel relative to Palestinians among rank and file Americans. Palestinians are supported by a mere five percent of Americans.

 

   No doubt it is this disparity that is motivating leading Democratic politicians – most recently Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez from New Jersey – to publicly distance themselves from the administration’s Mideast policies.

 

   If U.S. Jewish leaders and pro-Israel activists can educate just a fraction of the American Jewish community, and motivate them to stand with Israel in a significant way against administration pressure, this will likely motivate still more lawmakers and politicians from both parties to maintain support for Israel against the administration. Certainly it will help convince Israelis we haven’t been abandoned by American Jewry. And that in itself would be no mean achievement.

 

 

   Caroline Glick is senior contributing editor at The Jerusalem Post. Her Jewish Press-exclusive column appears the last week of each month. Her book “The Shackled Warrior: Israel and the Global Jihad,” is available at Amazon.com.

Lying About Discrimination With Statistics

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

     Mark Twain once said there are three sorts of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
 
      Of the last group, the worst are “advocacy statistics.” These are fabrications by advocacy groups that invent “statistics” to advance political agendas. There are lots of these around, and they’re familiar to all of us. They range from the supposed ten percent of humans who are homosexual, to the make-pretend numbers of Iraqi civilians who supposedly died in the Allied invasion of Iraq, to estimates of the numbers of Palestinian refugees, to the instances of college date-rapes alleged by feminist groups.
 
      In Israel lately, several groups trying to paint Israeli Arabs as victims of discrimination have become masters at turning out false advocacy statistics. And these are generally eaten up and taken at face value by Israel’s leftist journalists and the Bash-Israel world media.
 
      Consider the press release recently put out by the group calling itself Sikkuy: The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel.” Sikkuy checked and found out that Israeli Arabs have lower life expectancy than Israeli Jews. That, argues the group, proves that Israeli Arabs are ipso facto victims of discrimination.
 
      Haaretz, Israel’s far-left Post-Zionist daily, concurs: “The data also reveals that the mortality rate for Arab infants under the age of 12 months is double that of their Jewish counterparts…. The data suggests that the Arab minority in Israel suffers worse conditions than those of the Afro-American minority in the U.S. or the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland.”
 
      As usual, Haaretzgets its facts wrong. Life expectancy at birth in Israel is estimated (1995-99 data) as 76.5 for Jewish males and 74.4 for Arab males; 80.4 for Jewish females and 77.8 for Arab females.
 
      I know what you’re thinking: These numbers seem to show blatant discrimination against males and in favor of females (for both Jews and Arabs). Such a reading would of course be absurd. After all, females have longer life expectancy than males in all human societies and even among most mammal groups. So the gender gap has nothing to do with discrimination. As it turns out, neither does the gap between Jews and Arabs.
 
      Haaretz’s claim that Israeli Arabs have lower life expectancy than black Americans does not hold up much better. Israeli Arabs not only have higher expectancy than black Americans, they also have life expectancy no lower than all Americans, all races combined. They also have higher life expectancy than the population of Ireland.
 
      Next, Haaretz is convinced that any gap in life expectancy must reflect discrimination. Does it? Let us note that in every country in which policies of official anti-Semitic discrimination exists or existed, Jews also had a higher life expectancy than non-Jews. They were healthier even though they were victims of official discrimination. So life expectancy gaps hardly prove discrimination.
 
      So what, then, explains the disparity between Jewish and Arab life expectancy rates in Israel? Sikkuy and the Post-Zionists at Haaretz attribute it to differences in accessibility to medical services. But anyone who has ever been in an Israeli hospital or clinic knows that such a claim is nonsense. One sees Arabs there in numbers proportioniate (if not higher) to their share of the population – including plenty of Arab physicians and nurses. I myself shared a room with an Arab after major surgery and our stories became the basis for my book The Scout.
 
      Haaretz itself almost stumbled on part of the answer when it noted the difference between Israeli Arabs and Jews when it comes to infant mortality. Haaretz claims infant mortality for Arabs is twice what it is for Jews. Another Haaretz lie. It is slightly higher for Arabs, 6.6 per thousand vs 5.3 (for male babies, and a similar gap for females) – but Arab infant mortality in Israel is considerably lower than the rates in the U.S. and Ireland.
 
      As it turns out, infant mortality has little to do with accessibility to medical treatment and a great deal to do with congenital birth problems, especially low birth weight – which are much more commom in babies born to teenage mothers than to other mothers.
 
      Now, whilee teenage girls getting married is a common occurrence among Israeli Muslims, it is all but unknown among Israeli Jews and Christians. All of which means that disparities in infant mortality, which explain a considerable portion of the Arab-Jewish gap in life expectancy, have nothing to do with discrimination and everything to do with age-of-marriage decisions and choices.
 
      The score: Demography One, Haaretz/Sikkuy Zero!
 
      But that is only part of the lying. Israeli Arabs have a much higher rate of cigarette use than Israeli Jews. Haaretznotes this in passing, but only to help prove how discriminatory Israel is. If Arabs smoke more, it must be because they are victims of discrimination, Haaretz suggests with a straight face.
 
      Then there is the matter of differences in schooling. For reasons not entirely understood, schooling is associated in most countries with higher life expectancy. Israeli Arabs on average have considerably less schooling than Jews because they drop out of school more often. And let’s not hear any nonsense about Israeli universities discriminating against Arabs, because they all discriminate in favor of Arabs under affirmative action.
 
      So, does Israel discriminate against Arabs? There is considerable real statistical evidence pointing to no discrimination at all against Arabs in Israeli labor markets, at least none serious enough to be reflected in wages. And there is no serious evidence that there is discrimination against Arabs in accessibility to health care.
 
      Perhaps Sikkuy and groups like it should speak out against Arab terrorism, which discriminates against Jews and raises Jewish mortality rates, or about the apartheid conditions that exist in all Arab countries.
 
 
      Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at stevenplaut@yahoo.com.
 
Want to comment or read more on this topic?  Visit Steven Plaut’s post on The Jewish Press Blog at http://thejewishpress.blogspot.com/2007/04/stop-apartheid-discrimination.html

Israel’s Anti-Democratic Anti-Racism Law

Wednesday, March 30th, 2005

In 1977 Israel’s criminal code was changed. Section 144A was added, making “racism” a crime. Racism was defined as “persecution, humiliation, demeaning, displaying animosity, hostility, violence or strife towards a population group or parts of such a group, all on the basis of skin color or membership in a racial or ethnic-national grouping.” It is still on the books and is being enforced these days with new vigor.

At first glance, the law seems innocuous enough. After all, who can be in favor of racism or against attempts to eliminate it?

But the main problems in this law quickly become clear. First, the law criminalizes some expressions of speech and so infringes free speech. Second, the definition of “racism” in the law is so vague as to render the entire law arbitrary and useless. Third, in its implementation and enforcement the law has already been used in an arbitrary and anti-democratic manner for partisan purposes.

There is a clear and present danger that the law can be used in other anti-democratic ways by people seeking to suppress free speech for those with whom they disagree, simply by labeling these opinions “racist.” This is not just a theoretical potential danger but is increasingly the reality in Israel. Rather than defeating extremist ideas by exposing them to sunlight and forcing them to compete in the marketplace of ideas, the anti-racism law criminalizes certain arbitrarily chosen forms of expression.

The law has become a bludgeon to suppress free speech selectively, used against some right-wing Israeli Jews. At the same time, there has never been any attempt to prosecute Arabs or left-wing Jewish extremists under the same law.

The immediate motivation for the framers of Israel’s law was the activities of some followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the Jewish Defense League and later a right-wing parliamentarian and political activist in Israel. The law’s purpose was to suppress the freedom of speech for these and some other fringe groups among Israeli Jews.

But even the campaign against Kahanism under the anti-racism law is highly problematic. First, it is not entirely evident that Kahanist ideology is racist, or at least more racist than that of many other groups whose statements are usually regarded as protected speech. Kahane himself is commonly regarded as a racist for certain unpleasant epitaphs he allegedly applied to Arabs. But does that necessarily make anyone defining himself as a follower of Kahane a racist? Karl Marx also used uncouth epitaphs when speaking about Jews, black people, and others. Should everyone in Israel defining himself as a Marxist be arrested for racism?

It is true that Kahanists have advocated the “population transfer” of Arabs by forcing them to leave Israeli territory or subsidizing them to leave. But, strictly speaking, even advocacy of “transfer” is not the same as racism, and a person can conceivably be in favor of it for reasons having nothing to do with racism or bigotry. Many decent people consider the population transfer that took place in the Punjab in 1948 to be the least of evils and a reasonable solution to the Indian-Pakistan conflict.

Israel has long been full of people, including politicians, who advocate transferring the entire Jewish population out of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. No one has ever been prosecuted for such advocacy under the same law that allows the prosecution of Kahanists for their advocating “population transfer.” True, those other people say they want this in order to achieve peace, but the Kahanists say the same thing.

Most of the problems with the anti-racism law became clear soon after it was passed by the Knesset. One of the first cases prosecuted under the law was the State of Israel against Rabbi Ido Elba (Docket 2831/95). Rabbi Elba had published a 14-page article on rabbinic law concerning murder. His thesis was that in the Torah there are separate rabbinic laws applying to killing of Jews, covered in the part of the Ten Commandments prohibiting “murder,” and the killing of Canaanite non-Jews living among Jews, which was prohibited under a separate law given to all descendants of Noah. That was the essence of Rabbi Elba’s “racism.”

The article was a scholarly exercise in explaining rabbinic laws and especially the commentary by Maimonides on manslaughter. Elba emphasized that killing of Canaanites living among Jews was strictly forbidden, except if they were warring against Jews. Elba never advocated killing non-Jews in the article and never even stated whether he agreed or disagreed personally with the approach of Maimonides or other commentators on the questions he was surveying.

But the article was published shortly after the massacre of Arabs in Hebron by Baruch Goldstein, and the public and the politicians were looking for a target to prosecute for anti-Arab racism. In April 1995 Rabbi Elba was convicted under the anti-racism law. He was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment (two of the years being a suspended sentence). The Supreme Court upheld the conviction and the sentence the following year.

The vagueness of the anti-racism law is also problematic. The law’s language was formulated and thought through so poorly that it would make statements like “I do not want to date non-Jews,” or “I do not like red-headed women” to be crimes. Should reading certain passages in the Bible be prohibited because they offend some modern ears? There already have been demands to cancel Israel’s Law of Return (which grants immigration rights to Jews) as a purported violation of the anti-racism law.

As another example of its arbitrariness, the law makes advocating discrimination against a demographic group “racism.” But Israel is full of groups advocating discrimination against Jews as part of “affirmative action preferences” and, of course, discrimination against males. Virtually every Arab NGO and political party in the country is on record in favor of this, as are most groups on the Jewish Left. Such statements clearly comprise “advocacy of racist discrimination” under the anti-racism law. And yet not a single person has ever been prosecuted in Israel for advocating affirmative action discrimination. Why not?

A no less important question is why “racism” should be a crime at all. Racism is, after all, a belief or a feeling, albeit an evil one. Since when is it the business of democratic regimes to ferret out what people feel or believe in the privacy of their hearts? Do we really want a Racism Patrol inspecting bars and poker games, hunting down individuals making racist statements on chat boards or in salons?

Criminalizing public expressions of racism in the media is no less undemocratic. The world is full of statements of poor taste, intolerance, bigotry, and stupidity, but these are regarded as protected speech in democratic regimes. Democracy means we all have the right to say stupid and offensive things. The day offensive speech is prohibited will be the day democracy is replaced by totalitarian tyranny.

The anti-racism law is not merely an assault on free speech and expression in Israel, but is itself arguably the most racist law Israel has on its books. From the start, it was apparent that it would not be used against any form of racism except that allegedly espoused by the Kahanists. The prosecutions turned comic and absurd. A Kahanist was indicted and convicted of racism for selling shirts with the slogan “Where there are no Arabs there is no terrorism.”

In contrast, racism by Arabs or bigotry by Israeli leftists has never been prosecuted. When a prominent writer with communist ties made comments justifying Hamas mass murders of Jews, he was not prosecuted as a racist.

Israel’s Stalinist political parties, supported mainly by Israel’s Arabs, have never been banned or prosecuted under the anti-racism law, even while their leaders call for terrorist violence against Jews and for the destruction of Israel. Israeli professors, artists, and intellectuals endorsing and justifying Arab terrorism against Jews or declaring Jews to be not entitled to any form of self-determination have never been prosecuted. Neither have those making disparaging comments about the Jewish religion or the Bible.

Israeli Arab students, demonstrators and others chanting pro-violence or pro-terror slogans, or calling for Israel to be annihilated, have also been exempt from anti-racism prosecution. Not a single case of indictment against an Arab anti-Semite or an Israeli Jewish leftist anti-Semite has taken place since passage of the law.

Arguably the worst form of bigotry inside Israel is anti-Orthodox bigotry. What makes it so pernicious is the fact that in polite Israeli society it is often not even regarded is barbarous to denounce Orthodox Jews in the most horrendous language. The Israeli newspapers and electronic media are full of people making openly anti-Orthodox disparagements. Not a single anti-Orthodox bigot has been prosecuted.

But the worst part of the anti-racism law is that it is part and parcel of a much broader assault against free speech in Israel. It has been used together with Israeli laws against “incitement” to intimidate political dissidents. Ever since the Rabin assassination, accusations and indictments for “incitement” have become common bludgeons used for partisan purposes against political antagonists in Israel. It would not be an exaggeration to say that “incitement” has been the label of choice attached by many Israeli politicians to any statement or expression with which they happen to disagree.

In most democracies, “incitement” is not a crime at all. At most, “incitement to perform a crime” is added as an incremental charge against people indicted for perpetrating the crime itself, in cases where prosecutors seek a more severe sentence for that same crime. But prosecutions for “incitement” by itself are virtually non-existent. Even statements endorsing crime and murder, such as by protesters calling for political assassination, are protected speech and not crimes, unless they are part of the actual planning and preparation to carry out real crimes.

While the attempt to criminalize dissidents as “inciters” was largely the work of the Israeli Labor Party and its allies after the Rabin assassination, it has been co-opted by the Likud. Over the past year, there has been a dramatic increase in threats by the Sharon government to expand the uses of prosecution for “racism” and “incitement” as a means to suppress the opposition to the Gaza disengagement plan. Those who demanded that a national referendum be carried out as a pre-condition for implementing the plan were denounced by some Likud leaders and the media for “racism and incitement.”

Free speech is alive in Israel, but it is wounded and threatened. It is coming under increasing assault as the internal political divisions in Israel deepen. Besides prosecution of those utilizing free speech and saying things of which the political establishment disapproves, there are growing open threats from the government to use the police, intelligence services, and “preventive detention” without trial to bully opponents of government policy into silence.

The very fact that assaults against free speech for “racists” are so popular in Israel, especially among the chattering classes, illustrates how shallow, conditional, and dubious is the commitment to democracy by so many Israelis.

Steven Plaut is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steven_plaut@yahoo.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/israels-anti-democratic-anti-racism-law/2005/03/30/

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