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The Truth according to Breaking the Silence: An Analysis of Testimonies

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In recent years, the Breaking the Silence organization has released a
series of publications that expose a database of IDF soldier
testimonies from their service in Judea and Samara, as well as the
various Gaza operations. Based on these testimonies, Breaking the
Silence has concluded that the IDF is in a moral and ethical decline.
This decline, they explain, is the direct result of the continuous
existence of the “occupation” policy.

In light of the organization’s statements about a systematic moral
deterioration of the military system, we have conducted research in
which we have carefully examined 100 of the total testimonies
presented by BTS – according to select criteria: incident time and
location, military layout, described damage type, context, etc., in
order to deeply examine BTS’ testimonies and the validity of their
conclusions.

The research suggests that there is no correlation between BTS’ claims
and the conclusions suggested by their presented testimonies. Our
research indicates several fundamental problems that impair the
validity of BTS’ conclusions regarding the IDF’s warfare practices and
its routine conduct with civilians

 

to the full research…

Total Fertility Trends in Israel

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Total Fertility Trends in Israel:Total Fertility Trends in Israel: How did the Demographic Time Bomb become a Demographic Miracle? Summary Researchers and policy makers periodically air the claim that the Arab population between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean is growing at a rate double to that of the Jewish population, a fact that will, in the near future, lead to the negation of the Jewish majority. This concern, known as the “demographic time bomb”, stands at the heart of a dispute among different demographists and arouses an intense argument in Israeli academic and public discourse. The objective of this paper is to construct an accurate picture of the demographic reality in Israel and to assess the true dimensions of the demographic threat.As is well known, two mechanisms determine the size of a population: life expectancy at different ages and the rate of fertility.  In this paper, we examined the trend of the total fertility rate among population groups living in Israel according to nationality, religion and different settlement regions over a range of periods. Furthermore, we compared this trend with the development of the total worldwide fertility rate and of the populations of different countries in the Middle East. An analysis of the data gathered revealed both trends of growth among the Jewish and Arab populations during the last 60 years and expectations for the future. A summary of the main findings is presented below:

• At the beginning of the 21st century, a turnaround was registered in the fertility level of the Jewish population: Total Jewish fertility had previously declined for 45 years, from the beginning of the 1960s until the end of the century. Until 1995, the total fertility rate among Jews in Israel was the lowest of all Middle Eastern countries and significantly lower than the total fertility rate among the Arab population living in Israel. However, the total Jewish fertility rate began to rise rapidly from 2001, reaching 3.16 children per woman in 2016. This figure was higher than the total fertility rate in 10 of the 15 Middle Eastern countries surveyed and higher than the total fertility rate of the Arab population in Israel, Judea and Samaria, and Gaza. In only 4 countries in the Middle East – Iraq (4.06), Yemen (3.77), Egypt (3.30), Jordan (3.18) and in the Gaza Strip (3.91 or 4.30 depending on the estimation of the US Census Bureau) – was the total Arab fertility rate higher than that of the Jews in Israel.

• The last decade’s demographic figures for the population of Israel indicate a continued increase in total fertility among Jews and a constant decline among the Arabs, in all Israel’s administrative districts. In contrast to the trend of a sharp increase in Jewish fertility in Israel, during the last 56 months, the total fertility of Israel’s Arab population declined by 61.1%, from 7.99 children per woman in 1960 to 3.11 in 2016. Among Sabras (native born Israelis), who constitute 76.3% of the country’s total Jewish population, the total fertility is even higher – 3.25 children per woman. An examination of the demographic figures of Israel’s population according to ethnic origin and religion reveals that in 2016, the difference between total fertility of Israeli Muslims and that of the Sabras had narrowed to only 0.04 children.

• The turnaround in total fertility among Jews and Arabs occurred as a result of changes in the trends of births among these two populations. In only the last 16 years, the number of births among Jews increased by 47.2% compared to an increase of just 7.5% among Arabs. If in 2001, 2.18 Jewish babies were born for every Arab baby, in 2017 this figure had increased to 3.1 Jewish babies, a difference of 42.2%.• Until 2005, total Jewish fertility was the lowest in all of Israel’s administrative districts. In 2016 however, total Arab fertility was higher than that of the Jewish population only in the Central and Southern Districts. Furthermore, if in 2005, the total Arab fertility in the Central District was higher by 2.29 children per woman, in 2016 the difference was only 0.28 children per woman.

• The difference between the total fertility rate among the Jewish and Arab populations, has narrowed in the last 18 years from 7.28 children per woman in 1998 to 2.25 children per woman in 2016. If the current 17-year declining trend in total fertility among the Arab population in the Southern District continues, it may draw level with that of the Jewish population by the mid-2020s.

• The total fertility rate of the 399,300 Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria in 2016 stood at 4.98 children per woman and was only 0.47 lower than that of the 250,800 Arbs living on the Southern District.

• Estimates of the US Census Bureau (USCB) even indicate a constant trend of decline in total fertility among the Arabs of the Palestinian Authority. Until mid-2017, the USCB estimate for 2016 indicated a total fertility rate of 2.71 children per woman among the Arab population of Judea and Samaria and 3.91 children per woman among Gazan Arabs. In an updated estimate issued in mid-2017, the USCB amended the 2016 figures to 3.33 children per woman for Judea and Samaria and 4.30 for the Gaza Strip. However, even according to this estimate, the total fertility among the Arab population in Judea and Samaria declined by 58.1% within 40 years from a peak of 7.95 children per woman in 1976. Furthermore, the total fertility rate among the Arab population in Gaza declined by 47.1% in only 25 years, from 8.13 children per woman in 1991. This trend indicates that the decline in total fertility among the Arabs of Judea, Samaria and Gaza was sharper than that registered among Israel’s Arab population.

• According to the new USCB estimates, the total fertility among the Arab population of Judea and Samaria is expected to decline to 3.14 children per woman in 2019 and to 2.14 in 2050. According to the same study, the total fertility rate in the Gaza Strip will reach 3.14 children per woman in 2025 and 2.12 in the year 2050.
In summary, not only do the fertility figures presented above not support the concern of a “demographic time bomb”, they in reality testify to a demographic turnaround in favor of the Jewish population resulting from an increase in the total fertility rate. This increase is expected to continue into the future, even if at a slower rate.

to the full research…

The Expulsion Law

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On July 20 2016, the Knesset passed the final approval of “The Expulsion Law” according to which, a serving Member of the Knesset may be removed from his position if three quarters of the Knesset Committee members determine that he has incited to racism or expressed support for an armed struggle against the State of Israel.[1] This law has aroused protests among many members of the Opposition and certain organizations such as Adalah (The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel) that present themselves as being concerned for the rights of Israel’s minorities. According to them, the law constitutes a mortal blow to the values of democracy. They further claim that its sole purpose is to expel Arab Knesset members.
In order to attempt and resolve the issue, we have chosen to study the state of affairs in countries possessing characteristics and regimes similar to those of Israel i.e., democratic nation states. Accordingly, the study presented below examined limitations imposed on political parties and on members of parliament in twelve democratic states, members of the OECD. The study surveyed the existence and actual implementation of legal preventative measures that restrict the foundation or registration of political parties seeking to participate in elections, and also retroactive steps including disassembly or disqualification of a party after its foundation, and suspension or expulsion of a serving member of parliament.

This publication constitutes a complementary study to two relevant studies on the subject published by the Knesset Research and Information Center (hereinafter: RIC) that were conducted in 2006 and 2016 and that, among others, is based on their findings.
This study reveals a clear picture:

Not a single country granted its citizens the full and unrestricted right to vote and be elected.

  • Six of the twelve countries surveyed impose limitations on the registration of political parties.
  • Nine of the twelve countries surveyed enable the suspension or legal disqualification of a political party.

A combination of the findings of our study with those of the RIC from 2006 and 2016 reveals that:

  • Fifteen of the twenty-eight countries surveyed impose limitations on the activity of political parties.
  • Fifteen of the twenty-eight countries surveyed enable the suspension or legal disqualification of a political party.
  • Eight of the twenty-four countries surveyed implement expulsion or suspension of a member of parliament for different behavioral offences, aside from any legal proceedings that may be initiated.

A summary conclusion of the three studies reveals the existence of substantial limitations on political activity (mainly of political parties), of differing levels of severity, while making use of a range of legal and constitutional procedures. A comparative view of the existing arrangements in the different countries suggests that the “Expulsion Law” represents a unique version in relation to parallel laws around the world. Nevertheless, when considering the Supreme Court’s practical disregard for the existing legislation, and given the restrictive and stringent circumstances regarding its activation, it serves as a legitimate (and some would say, even necessary) defense mechanism for creating a fitting balance between freedom of expression and stability of the democratic regime.

[1] Jonathan Lis, After Stormy Debate Knesset Approves Law Allowing Ouster of Lawmakers, Ha’aretz, July 20, 2016. https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.731962

to the full research…

Hafkaat Kiddushin

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This position paper presents the proposed law that seeks a legally mandated solution for the problem of aginut (the situation whereby a spouse is ‘chained’ to a marriage) resulting from the husband’s refusal to grant his wife a get (a halakhic divorce), or from her refusal to accept a get.  A get ends the marriage. The proposed law is based on a mechanism that was suggested in the Babylonian Talmud to enable the Beit Din (Rabbinic Court), in severe circumstances, to annul the validity of the betrothal that the couple had originally mutually entered. This mechanism is termed hafka’at kiddushin (retroactive annulment of the betrothal).

As explained in the paper, the authority for such retroactive annulment is given not only to the Beit Din but also to the ‘kahal’ – the community. In other words, the community in which the couple lived, also has the authority to decide on implementation of the retroactive annulment of a betrothal in those cases in which the members of the community see fit. In contemporary circumstances, the ability to make such decisions “in the name of the community” can be understood to reside with our elected representatives i.e., the members of the Knesset. The central recommendation of Professor Berachyahu Lifshitz,[1] the author of this paper, is that the harsh reality of aginut created by recalcitrant husbands, should lead the Knesset to legislate the use of hafka’at kiddushin as a means of solving the problem, thereby saving women from this tragic plight.

[1] Berachyahu Lifshitz is a professor of law, senior research fellow at the Institute for Zionist Strategies, the former dean of the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University, an expert in Jewish Law and laureate of the EMET Prize awarded under the auspices of the Prime Minister of Israel.

To the full research…

A Jewish Majority in the Land of Israel

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By Yakov Faitelson

Growth trends and population forecasts have played a significant role in the political landscape of the Middle East, especially over the thorny question of Israel and the disputed territories. The notion that the Jewish majority of Israel is in danger of being swamped by Arab fertility has repeatedly been used as a political and psychological weapon to extract territorial concessions from the Israeli government. In September 2010, U.S. president Barack Obama referred to the so-called “hard realities of demography” that threaten the survival of the Jewish state.

Such a conclusion is wrong. Analysis of long-term demographic developments leads to quite the opposite conclusion: In the long run, a strong Jewish majority, not only in the state of Israel—as this author projected almost twenty-five years ago and the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics recently reaffirmed—but also in the Land of Israel is quite possible.

Population growth for the Land of Israel at the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century will be influenced by the Arab and Jewish natural increase rates reaching a convergence point based on similar live birth and mortality rates. It will also likely be influenced by continued Jewish immigration, including a new, possibly strong wave in the near future following the prolonged world economic crisis and manifestations of rising anti-Semitism around the globe. Repatriation will also be encouraged if the Israeli economy continues to be strong in the near future, an increased likelihood based in part on the huge gas and shale oil fields recently discovered in Israel. The share of Jews in the total population of the Land of Israel may also increase as a result of continued Arab emigration that may include Israeli Arabs as well. According to the results of the first-ever survey on political-social attitudes of Arab youth in Israel, conducted by the Baladna Association for Arab Youth and the Mada al-Carmel Arab Center for Applied Social Research, both in Haifa, 25 percent of the Arab youth in Israel want to emigrate.

Every country has a natural and objective carrying capacity limit for the population living on its territory and, in this respect, Israel is no different than any other. With that in mind, demographic projections can and should be used as a tool for planning by the state as well as by municipalities to avoid mistakes that can damage vital infrastructure and public services, such as health, education, and welfare systems. Ignoring the impressive demographic changes of the last twenty years in Israel has produced heavy burdens on Israel’s health system due to a lack of hospital beds and a scarcity of medical personnel. Overpopulated classrooms and a lack of qualified teachers is another such consequence.  Similarly, lower than necessary construction starts in the residential sector is causing pain for young couples.

Developing proper demographic policies can be important tools for planning national security needs to assure internal order and the security of the state’s borders. Jerusalem must bear in mind that without developing such a professional, comprehensive, and long-term demographic policy, it will be very difficult to reach the vital goals of assuring a stable and secure future for generations to come.

For the full research (in Hebrew)

The demography of Jerusalem

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In the research, Ya’akov Faitelson, using statistical and comparative data, presents the demography of greater Jerusalem and its anticipated patterns of growth in the coming years.

One of the findings charts the rapid growth trend in the Jewish sector, relative to other sectors. An unexpected finding, is the fact that, in contrast to the center of the city, there is no migration of Jews from greater Jerusalem. The purpose of the research is to create a foundation for the formulation of a demographic policy appropriate to each of the regions in the country, starting wit the Capitol. Faitelson offers innovative suggestions and recommendations for a plan of action.

For the full document (hebrew)

Demographic Trends in the Land of Israel (1800-2007)

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he demographic “population bomb” has been perceived for decades as a looming threat to Jewish democracy in Israel. Lately it has been repeatedly cited as a justification for far-reaching territorial concessions. However, many recent studies seem to cast doubt on this threat. The Jewish majority in Israel has been fairly stable for decades, and the gap in birthrates has greatly narrowed.

A new study by Yaakov Faitelson brings a unique historical perspective to this issue. Looking at the past, we see that Jews in the land of Israel have been concerned about demographics since the 19th century, yet the Jewish population and majority has been steadily increasing for generations. Looking at the future, we see that careful demographic projections suggest that the Jewish majority in the land of Israel will likely be fairly stable for another generation. This doesn’t mean that the demographic make-up of the local population is not a valid concern, but it does suggest that there is no justification for panic.

To The Full Research Article (In Hebrew)

Demographic Trends in the Educational System

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In his new study, Yaakov Faitelson uncovers demographic trends among the various populations in the State of Israel, and their influence on the educational system. The study shows that the rate of growth of the wider Jewish population is considerably higher than the Central Bureau of Statistics’ forecast, while the various minority populations grew in line with the lower end of CBS’s forecast range. These trends significantly influence the nature of Israel’s educational system.

According to the study’s conclusions, the data indicates continuous rapid growth in the Jewish first grade student body in the coming years, the stability or slight decrease in first grade students in Arab education, and a decrease in the percentage of Ultra-Orthodox students out of all Jewish students.

To The Full Research Article (In Hebrew)

Civics Studies , Education or Unidirectional Indoctrination?

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Dr. Yizhak Geiger

In the past few years, the study of Civics has become an integral part of the Israeli curriculum.  This development, which is positive in its nature, was accompanied by fundamental failures such as inadequate preparation of the core curriculum and the publishing of unsuitable textbooks and materials. These steps were taken without proper public discussion and granted too much power to the current dominant ideological group in the Israeli academia, when it allowed it to design the curriculum according to its will and to leave a long term impression on the conscious of the citizens ofIsrael and the future of the State.

This position paper demonstrates that this failure is a painful blow on four dimensions: Zionist education, democratic education, the teaching of critical thinking, and the chance of reducing the tension between the various sectors of Israeli society.  The full position paper, by Dr. Yizhak Geiger, civics teacher and former member of the civics committee in the Education Ministry, presents the situation report in detail and includes summaries and recommendations. Included in his recommendations are: revising the values and viewpoints included in the core curriculum, stressing the importance of supervision over the implementation of this plan, rewriting the tests and developing new literature in the subject.

 

Downloadable Documents (In Hebrew):

 

  1. Position Paper on Civics Studies – Operative Recommendations.

 

  1. Abstract – Civics Studies , Education or Unidirectional Indoctrination?.

 

  1. Meeting Of The Knesset Education Committee Concerning The Paper

 

  1.  Bias In Civics Studies- Select Examples

 

  1.  Teaching of Civics– Full follow-up report 2012

 

 

Teaching History in Israel and the World

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Prof. Yoav Gelber

Abstract

For years, Israeli society has been in a state of bewilderment.  It has been experiencing conflict over its identity, sources of authority and ethos. The line of division is the Six Day War – the elimination of the existential threat eroded the ethos of one for all in favor of self-fulfillment.

Under market and political pressures, educational institutions – universities, colleges and schools – speculate over the quality of their national purpose (and if they even have one), over their social function and over their academic and educational direction.  The public controversies over the teaching of history in universities and schools reflect the Zionist movement’s loss of direction.  Historians consider the contradictions between the extent and profundity of scientific work on the past and their desire to influence the present by means of participation in debates in the public sphere.  Often the submission to the constraints of the media lowers the level of historical discussion and confines it to the framework, language, time and scope of television talk shows and newspaper opinion columns.

In academia, the discipline of history has been split into a number of sub-disciplines, to the extent that it may be becoming too eclectic.   Despite the scope of the disciplines and the variety of their subjects, the position of the discipline of history in Israel is on the decline.  The number of students is dwindling, and the relative ease of acceptance is often what persuades students to choose history, and students are met with the postmodernist, post-Zionist and relativist approaches of some of their educators, who are intolerant of other approaches.  These trends tailor the character of high school history teachers to be less qualified and more conformist.

In an era of mandatory education, when history classes are obligatory for at least some years, the entire population is exposed to the curriculums, syllabuses, textbooks and teachers of history.  Schools in general, and specifically history classes, are a key tool that influences the “collective memory” and instills it in our youth.

Since the nineties, post-Zionist academic scholars seeking to destroy the Israeli “collective memory” blamed the public school system for indoctrinating students (as they claimed), and instead of instilling values originating from national history they emphasize the postmodernist view which presents different narratives and their political functions.  However, unlike universities, schools must educate their students, not provide them with disciplinary training.  The dubious contemporary Israeli practice – concealing national history by merging it with world history – reverses the proper order in which things should be done.

A curriculum must present the few basic concepts that a society wishes to instill in (or teach) its future generation, and not what students (or their parents) wish to acquire (or learn). There will always be discontented teachers, parents and students. Teachers will adapt the curriculum to their personal approach to teaching and to history, and to a certain extent this is legitimate. Certain parents will always be critical of the curriculum and they have the means at their disposal by which they may and even should be able to partially influence it.  Better students will not be satisfied with what their school has to offer and may be directed to additional sources of information beyond the textbook.  Other students may have difficulty grasping the basic concepts presented in such a curriculum, but the large majority should fall between these two extremes and should be the target population the curriculum attempts to reach.

To The Full Position Paper (In English)