Sunday, January 01, 2017

  • Sunday, January 01, 2017
  • Elder of Ziyon
One of the easiest ways for people to make their points about what Israelis and Palestinians supposedly want is by cherry-picking surveys on the matter and then using those results as proof.

Causal readers of the articles generally aren't attuned to the specifics (or quality) of the surveys and give outsized importance to them.

Bernard Avishai in The New York Times uses a combination of pseudo-statistics and his own observations to make sweeping generalizations that, in the end, have little basis in reality.

Mr. Friedman’s allies in Israel’s right-wing Likud Party and its nationalist and Orthodox coalition partners see the land, including the West Bank, which they call Judea and Samaria, as holy. They regard any strategic territorial compromise entailing a withdrawal of Israeli sovereignty as sinful. In this respect, they benefit politically from the violence produced by the occupation.
Perhaps 40 percent of Jewish Israelis hold these attitudes, which imply others, such as theocracy over Supreme Court defenses of individual dignity, or privileges for Jewish citizens over Arab citizens, whose right to vote they consider provisional. A clear majority of these rightists want the release of Yigal Amir, who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. They see Europeans as anti-Semitic unless proven otherwise, Reform Jews as apostates, and Islam as terrorism’s gateway drug. Last week, the editor in chief of Haaretz, Aluf Benn, warned that Greater Israel zealots have moved to control the news media, schools, courts and army. “That means replacing the heads of cultural institutions and threatening a halt to government funding for those who don’t go with the flow,” he said.
People in Tel Aviv are cut from different cloth. Invite friends from Tel Aviv to dinner in Jerusalem, and they raise an eyebrow, as if you’re asking them to leave Israel for the ancient Kingdom of Judea.
The ethos of Tel Aviv — which runs, in effect, up the seaboard to Haifa — reflects the attitudes of another 40 percent of the Israeli Jewish population, which declares itself secular. One can slice the data many ways, but these Israelis see themselves as a part of the Western world and Israel’s Jewishness as custodianship of a historic civilization, not Orthodox rabbinical law.
Zionism, to them, means a culture. There may be a sentimental attachment to the rhetoric of Zionism’s insurgent period around independence: “redeeming” the land of Israel, “answering” the Holocaust, building a “majority” of people with J-positive blood, and so forth. But for most liberal Israelis, Zionism concretely means building a modern Hebrew-speaking civil society that can assimilate all comers.
There are some less liberal, who might call themselves “centrists.” They fear (or loathe) Arabs — about a third of secular Israelis would entertain expulsion — and have given up on the Oslo peace process, if not the two-state solution in the abstract. Yet they think the occupation, for which their conscripted children provide the backbone, should be run according to civilized norms. They fear (or loathe) settlers, too. In 2016, reflecting on the influence of the settlers, senior military and political leaders worried publicly about the growth of Israeli “fascism.”
Avishai divides up Israeli society into 40% religious fanatic bigots, 40% enlightened secular humanists, and 20% part-time bigots. He cites no figures to back up these claims outside a link to a Pew article that doesn't ask those questions.

But that Pew article links to another Pew poll which shed some, but not enough, light on how Israelis are divided. And the situation is far more complex and very different from how Avishai says.

Starting with that poll, we see that a strong plurality of Israeli Jews, 42% saying continued settlement building helps Israel's security to 30% saying it hurts Israel's security, with 25% saying it makes no difference.

Avishai's 40% figure for the Tel Aviv-style Jews is clearly wrong. But so is his characterization of secular Jews in Israel.

On that same question, among secular Jews, the numbers are flipped: 42% say settlements in the West Bank hurt Israel’s security, while 31% say they help, and the rest think they do not make much difference or do not take a position either way.

Which means that less than 20% of Israelis - 42% of 40% - have the viewpoints on settlements that Avishai implies.

This isn't the only way that the 40% who define themselves as secular don't espouse the views Avishai claims they do. In every way, they are far more to the right than he says.  For example, 36% favor expelling some Arabs from the country (the survey question was very vague so it is unclear how they interpreted the question.)

Most Hilonim, 62%, place themselves in the political center, and 24% on the Right, with only 14% identifying with the Left. This directly refutes most of Avishai's thesis.

The Hilonim who belong to political parties most commonly are affiliated with Likud, again contradicting Avishai's implication that Likud is a party that supports a theocracy in Israel.

The Pew survey goes on to say that 87% of Hilonim say they hosted or attended a Seder last Passover, and about half (53%) say they at least sometimes light candles before the start of the Sabbath.

Avishai is equally wrong in implying that 40% of Israelis are fundamentalist religious fanatics. Only 18% identify as hareidi or dati. And even many datiim would not recognize themselves as Avishai describes them.

Israeli society is much less religiously conservative than Avishai claims, but much more politically conservative.

If Avishai so badly mischaracterizes a survey that he clearly read, how can you believe anything he writes about how Israeli society is? Avishai is not just spinning facts - he is knowingly lying about them.

And the New York Times fact checkers are doing exactly what they always do when the "facts" support their biases - they don't bother checking them.

(h/t POTerritory)

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