There has been so much talk in the Israeli and international press about the exclusion of women in Israel, haredi sectarianism, attacks on the Supreme Court and right-wing violence that you would imagine to yourself that Israel’s streets are burning, and filled with Tahrir Square-like mass demonstrations. It is true that there have been clashes between a violent fringe of the haredi community in Bet Shemesh and their National Religious and secular neighbours. It is also true that some settler youth attacked the IDF Ephraim Brigade HQ. And I am not denying that there are extremist haredim who are trying to force gender-segregated bus lines onto the general public. But to extrapolate from these events to a declaration that Israel’s democracy is dying is simply ridiculous.
Prof. Barry Rubin has picked apart these accusations in his usual elegant way. (Emphases are mine).
..new anti-Israel themes are generated without any evidence whatsoever.
The new one is the idea that Israel, and its democracy, are in danger (moderate version) due to internal extremism or are (radical version) falling apart altogether. At least two new commercially published books make this claim, as do scores of articles and even a speech by the secretary of state. …
Yet what actual evidence can be accumulated for all of this campaign? The Knesset had a bill to supervise foreign money received by non-government organizations, a law not so dissimilar from those in Western democracies. And? And? What else happened? Well, nothing at all.
Oh yes, a bus driver took it upon himself to tell a woman to sit in the back of a bus because her sitting elsewhere might disturb Haredi men. She took it to court and, of course, won. A man who is a member of a tiny extremist cult in a small town spit at an Orthodox eight-year-old girl, apparently he belongs to some extreme sect or is somewhat disturbed. Even the strictest reading of Jewish law does not justify such an action.
There were huge demonstrations against the actions of this one person or tiny sect. President Shimon Peres publicly called for protests and Jerusalem’s police chief asked rabbis to condemn such behavior. The state and the public is clearly against any violation of democratic norms. Oh, and incidentally this group in Bet Shemesh has something in common with those trying to blow this up into a big issue–they are anti-Zionist. Haredi extremists who are against accepting Israeli norms on the rights of women are also against accepting Israel altogether. So how are they examples of Israeli values and democracy? They aren’t.
In contrast, in Egypt political parties openly advocating the minimization of women’s rights received three-quarters of the Muslim vote. Polls show vast majorities favor death for converts from Islam, amputation punishments, etc.
Yet the doings of individuals–condemned by the overwhelming majority of the community–supposedly prove that Israel is illegitimate or non-democratic. It would be fascinating if Western countries were to be judged by such standards. Serial murderers? Child pornography? Mass killings in schools? Aha! They are terrible, illegitimate, and undemocratic. Wipe them off the map!
As previously noted an op-ed in the New York Times claims Israel – by far the country in the Middle East (and even in the world) that treats gays fairly – Israel’s army medical corps was commanded by an openly gay man when gays couldn’t even serve openly in the U.S. military, for example – is said to be persecuting homosexuals. A Palestinian teenager is said to be imprisoned for just throwing stones when the published indictment shows he was arrested for the possession of weapons and explosives. Israel is accused of being insufficiently enthusiastic and actually critical of the “Arab Spring,” a claim proven correct by events without anyone so admitting that they were wrong and the Israeli assessment was correct.
Trying to make Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a dictator, a New York Times reporter informs us that the government’s refusal to subsidize channel 10 is censorship and that “Mr. Netanyahu has strong influence over other media outlets: the state-owned Channel 1, State Radio and a freely distributed and successful newspaper, Yisrael Hayom, owned by a close American friend, the billionaire Sheldon Adelson.” Everyone in Israel knows that Channel 1 and Kol Israel are left-leaning and have never favored Netanyahu. The same applies to Channel Two, the most popular.
As for Yisrael Hayom, it was started because every other Hebrew-language newspaper– Yediot Aharnot with around 60 percent of the readership; Maariv with more than 30 percent, and Haaretz with around 12 percent (the preferred newspaper of the intelligentsia)–have been critical at best and hostile at most. Let me put it this way, saying that Netanyahu has strong influence over the Israeli media is only a bit more exaggerated than saying that George W. Bush had strong influence over the American media.
A large portion of Western television stories and articles on Israel is designed to give the worst possible impression of the county as dictatorial at home and evil in its foreign policy. We used to think the coverage was slanted but we never dreamed it would reach such levels.
The list is endless. Every day hundreds of stories are invented, distorted, or magnified. Hundreds of reporters and researchers are dedicated to searching out some alleged crime or evil in Israel, magnifying the tiniest incident into an international headlined story. Yet this same army of scribblers and talkers can’t seem to discover the radicalism of the Muslim Brotherhood or the intransigence of the Palestinian Authority.
… The near-monopoly in the mass media and in academia for a narrow range of opinion (in the “age of diversity”!); the dominance of ideology over professional ethics (in which the New York Times, for example, can run op-eds 90 percent of which are anti-Israel with no shame); and the failure of most Jewish organizations (the Anti-Defamation League has not yet discovered that left-wing antisemitism exists and actually tries to intimidate people from criticizing Obama!); along with other factors have created a bizarre atmosphere of conformity or else.
America and Europe are now divided into two groups, and I don’t mean “left” and “right.”
There are those who understand that the main threat in the Middle East is revolutionary Islamism, and those who think that the main threat is Israel. There are those who understand that Obama has done more than any previous president to undermine Israel’s security and those who believe he is the great defender of Israel because he keeps saying so.
How does one deal with this mess? The answer is to build and strengthen an alternative elite, an alternative media, and alternative ways of educating people. It is to demand evidence to prove claims that are made and logic in setting forward arguments.
We are not dealing mainly with Israeli sins … but with anti-Israeli propaganda disguised as news, analysis, and scholarship. This is not a series of regrettable errors but rather a war consciously aimed against Israel and not just Israel.
Read the whole thing – it is excellent.