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Top ten myths about Israeli policy

In the next few weeks, I will write a separate post about each of the top ten myths about Israeli policy, tackling the obfuscation and confusion that often characterize discussions of official Israeli positions and actions, at home and abroad. My top ten list appears below

Inspired by the fascinating series on constitutional myths in the United States (well, fascinating for American politics junkies like myself), by Garret Epps in the Atlantic, I have decided to create my own list of myths. This list refers to myths about current government policy in Israel. It therefore excludes the variety of cultural, social and historical myths surrounding Israel, in order to focus on the obfuscation and confusion that often characterize discussions of official Israeli positions and actions, at home and abroad.

The list is not ranked in any particular order. The various myths have been selected in order to highlight different policy issues, although relations between Jews and Palestinians get a very prominent representation, with half the items in the list. I tried to include myths that are both relatively widespread, and significant in shaping discussions of policy.

In the next few weeks, I will write a separate post about each myth, explaining its origins, significance and the reality it conceals. Here is the list (if you have suggestions for more items, feel free to add them in the comments, adhering to 972’s policy on commenting, of course):

Myth #1: Policy towards Palestinians and Arab states is governed by security concerns.

Myth #2: Separation between Jews and Palestinians is not based on a racist ideology.

Myth #3: In response to a flood of illegal immigrants, the government is working to reduce the number of work migrants.

Myth #4: Israel’s social safety net is better than that in the US.

Myth #5: Israeli Arabs receive fewer benefits because they do not have to serve in the military.

Myth #6: The government is afraid of the settlers and incapable of standing up to them.

Myth #7: The ultra-orthodox reap benefits from disproportionate political influence.

Myth #8: Women’s rights in Israel are largely the same as in other Western countries.

Myth #9: The High Court of Justice defends civil liberties and human rights.

Myth #10: All Jews are encouraged to immigrate to Israel.

Read more in this series:

Israel policy myth #1: Security is our first concern

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    1. The Face of True

      Truth #1: Policy towards Palestinians and Arab lands depends on expansionism.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Can’t wait for the series. It’s about time someone set the hasbaraniks straight.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Tony Collins

      Myth #n “Israel and the plight of the Jewish people is a unique case and requires ‘special’ solutions.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Philos

      Myth # 11: Israeli youth do not serve in the IDF out of automatic feelings of nationalism or duty

      (Rather it’s more like peer pressure)

      Reply to Comment
    5. David Michael

      Can you explain #9, because that is the only one I was not aware of…

      Reply to Comment
    6. Roi Maor

      Well, the High Court of Justice is Israel’s equivalent of the US Supreme Court. It rules on constitutional questions and is admired throughout the world as a bastion of liberalism and human rights jurisprudence. Wrongly, in my opinion. More on that, when I write the post.

      Reply to Comment
    7. David Neumann

      I am certainly looking forward for your explanation on “Myth #7: The ultra-orthodox reap benefits from disproportionate political influence.”
      It is certainly not a myth, and based on the structure of the political system in Israel, which rewards small single-focused parties.

      Reply to Comment
    8. David Neumann

      Just to expand on my previous comment:

      I do understand that for people like yourself, it is always satisfying to try to find the underdog, the oppressed and to stand up for a group when other aren’t. Indeed, this is the purpose of your article, to expose perceived “myths”. In doing so, it provides you with self-congratulatory feeling that you are able to think outside the box, differently to others and you are not simply conforming to others’ ideas,

      On the points on ultra-Orthodox Jews, you seem to be making the mistake many Israel are. The fact is, however, that Haredi Rabbis and MKs simply do NOT represent the ultra-Orthodox. Anyone who speaks out against them in that community, is harshly punished. Haredim are trapped in a cycle of poverty, due to the oppression inside their community. It is the harsh internal social pressure which prevents them from going to work or attaining an education.

      I would encourage you to look a bit deeper at this issue.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Roi Maor

      DAVID NEUMANN – Regarding your general comment, if the myths that I present are valid and important – and you have not argued otherwise for nine of the ten – then I fail to see your point.

      Regarding myth #7, your second comment is part of the answer to the first. If you read what I have written in the past, you will see that I have made the same point myself. But this is only part of the story, and I will elaborate when I write the full post on this myth.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Roi Maor

      Tony – can you elaborate?

      Philos – I sadly disagree. Although conscription is mandatory, young Israelis are often enthusiastic enough to specifically request a combat assignment, which is more dangerous and uncomfortable. Of course, attitudes towards military service sharply differ between social groups, which also tend to change their view over time. Maybe I will write a post about this…

      Reply to Comment
    11. David Neumann

      Thank you Roi for the response. I certainly look forward to your analysis on these 10 points.
      On some of the other “myths” I haven’t mentioned, I will explain why:

      Myths #1 & #2 would be impossible to prove one way or the other. Sure, you can find the odd quote from an early Zionist, MK or some right-win fanatic. However, your statement implies that there some institutional agenda going on and I fail to see how you can prove it. Unless, you sat in on the conspiracy meetings.
      I would hope that you go a bit deeper and explain why “racism” towards Arabs developed? Rather, than just stating that it exists.

      On Myth #4, you’d probably need an economist to do a detailed analysis.

      On Myth #6, it is quite clear that settlers can be quite aggressive, well organised and politically powerful. I fail to see how an Israeli prime minister can stand up to them. The last one who tried was assassinated. I would certainly be interested in your analysis of Rabin.

      Myth #8, is not really a myth. Most people accept that there is a deficit on womens’ rights. However, it very much depends on the neighborhood. Much like Gay Rights (which you haven’t mentioned), Tel Aviv is very Gay friendly compared to western countries. Jerusalem, on the other hand, is still a relic from the middle ages.

      I haven’t commented on the other “myths”, since I’m not well informed on those. But I await to read about them.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Another Myth for the list…

      Israel has a legally elected Government.

      According to the Declaration for the Establishment of the state of Israel, a Government must be elected under a constitution. There is no constitution. Israel has never had a legally elected Government.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Myth 11: Netanyahu has come out in favor of a Palestinian state. (An entity that can’t have an army or control its airspace, borders or coast is no one’s idea of a state, least of all Bibi’s. And where, in his view, is Palestine? To this day he has never specified a single inch of occupied territory that he is willing to relinquish, nor a single settlement.)

      Myth 12: Israel no longer occupies Gaza. (When you blockade a country’s coast and airspeace, that’s occupation, unless you want to call it something else, like aggression.)

      Myth 13: K-12 education in Israel is free.

      Myth 14: The Israeli media is left-wing.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Roi Maor

      Larry – great suggestions, thanks! Perhaps I will continue the series…

      Reply to Comment