Haaretz published new figures concerning Israeli immigration which show that in the first three months of 2017, aliyah decreased markedly from both the U.S. and France, two of the largest Jewish Diaspora communities. It was down by 25% in the U.S. and 29% in France. This contrasts with vocal predictions from Israeli leaders that not only the French community, but European Jewry in general was doomed after a string a Islamist terror attacks struck Jewish and non-Jewish targets in Belgium, France and Denmark. Similarly, Israelis confidently believed that hundreds of purportedly anti-Semitic threats against Jewish community centers here, along with desecrations of Jewish cemeteries, would cause Jews to flee the U.S. for refuge in the land of Israel. Authorities now believe that the phone threats were the work of an Israeli-American father and son, though their motives have not been explained.
The new results confirm earlier findings that aliyah decreased by 16% in 2016. Though immigration from Russia increased so far this year by 10%, it declined by 15% from Ukraine. It would appear to me that this reflects the increasing vulnerability of ethnic minorities and rising racism and political repression in Putin’s Russia; along with a stabilizing of Ukraine after it was buffeted by attacks by Russia and its subsequent annexation of the Crimea.
Unfortunately, none of these articles ever discuss Israeli emigration, which is substantial. It’s an important way to measure the level of Israeli commitment to their own society. A recent poll found that 33% of Israelis would emigrate if they had the opportunity to do so. Though it’s not clear how the respondents defined the term “if they had the opportunity to do so.”
Demographers estimate that somewhere between 5-12% (depending on varying studies and definition of terms) of the Israeli population has emigrated, with most of those coming to the U.S. As of 2011, the level of emigration of Israelis to England far outstripped the number of British olim immigrating there. Overall, there is a slight excess of aliyah to yerida, though if immigration rates continue to decline that could change.
Widening Social Rifts in Israeli Society
A new Israeli civil society NGO, Inward, is publishing a poll (Hebrew here) today coinciding with the new organization’s formal launch. The survey charts the attitudes of Israel’s various ethnic, religious and class sectors toward each other. The findings are alarming:
- 34% of Israeli Jews identify as “right-wing;” 12% identify as “leftist”
- While 46% of Israeli Jews defined their nationality as “Jewish,” only 41% defined it as “Israeli”
- 8% of “Arabs” described their nationality as “Israeli”
- 60% of Jews believed that the Ultra-Orthodox exploit the State (financially)
- 23% of Jews believe that “leftists” are “dangerous”
- 43% of Jews believe that “Arabs” are “frightening”
- 52% described “Arabs” as “dangerous”
- 35% of Ultra-Orthodox believe that “leftists” aren’t “trustworthy”
- 24% of Jews believe that Ethiopian-Israelis are “primitive”
- 62% of Jews believed that the strongest bond holding the country together is external threats
In contrast to the vastly larger number of right-wing to left-wing Israelis (34-12%), in America 36% define themselves as “conservative” and 24% as “liberal.” And this gap is declining as America turns less right-wing according to demographic trends. There is a huge vacuüm in Israeli society of liberal-left voters who simply don’t exist and consequently don’t impact Israeli politics or society. For Israeli rightists this seems a boon. But for anyone who believes a society must have a diverse electorate, this is a disaster.
I have long argued that if Israel is to survive, being “Jewish” must be restricted to a religious, rather national identity. The fact that more Israelis identify their nationality as “Jewish” rather than “Israeli” is deeply troubling. Consequently, it’s completely unsurprising that only 8% of Israeli-Palestinians define their nationality as “Israeli.” Why should they, considering how they are treated?
I was heartened by the finding that a majority of Israelis believe the ultra-Orthodox suck the taxpayers dry financially. Because of their educational system and social isolation, young Orthodox Jews do not receive the same education as secular Israelis. As a result, their educational and vocational choices are limited. Many Orthodox men study Torah while their wives work. As female education is even more restrictive than male, Orthodox women cannot perform highly-skilled jobs. All of this impoverishes this social sector and compels the State to step in and subsidize their lifestyle.
It was completely unsurprising that a large majority of Israelis found no internal cohesion that united the nation. If the plurality of Jews don’t even believe they are “Israeli,” then what domestic bond would there be? Israeli politics reflects this perfectly. Instead of running on platforms with positive, constructive visions, the parties run campaigns based on fear, racism and hate. These are not motivations that can be sustained over the long-term. The politics of nations need to be based on a strategy and a vision, rather than a set of short-term tactics (e.g. Bibi Netanyahu).
Identifying as “left” is out of vogue – for the past 5-10 years or so. Relates to the failure of Oslo, Intifada-2, Gaza withdrawal and aftermath, and the very vocal activities (and counter-activities) of far-left (btselem, shovrim shtika, NIF, Gisha, etc. etc) “civil society” organizations.
However the “left” isn’t exactly dead – they simply choose to identify as “Center”. Thus, Yair Lapid (a vain and empty populist), whose positions are basically mainstream “Avoda” (e.g. Rabin) – who identifies as “Center” currently leads (or is neck and neck with Bibi) in the opinion polls. And before – Kdima (which briefly almost replaced “Avoda” (which remained as a small secondary party) – also played the “center” card (though in that case – it did have ex-Likud members)..
Richard Silverstein says
Nonsense, the left, such as it was, died in 1977 when Begin arose to power. It’s slow decline began then & continues to the present day.
More nonsense. The Israeli right caused Oslo to fail by refusing to implement its provisions. The left had nothing to do with it, except insofar as they came under bombardment from the right & became too scared to do what they’d agreed to do when they signed it.
Now you’re bordering on outright bullshit. The Gaza withdrawal failed because of Ariel Sharon. The left had nothing to do with its failure & wasn’t even in power.
Only someone on the “far-right” would call lib Zio groups like these “far left.” They’re about as far left as the Labor Party which isn’t “left” at all.
More gobbledy-gook: You can’t be left wing, but identify youself as centrist. If you’re a centrist, you’re a centrist. Though in fact, much of what you call the left isn’t even centrist.
Rabin would be disgusted by Lapid & you know it. For all his faults, Rabin was a straightforward, honest man. He wasn’t an empty suit like Lapid. Rabin said what he believed & tried to do it. No one knows what Lapid will do. They know what he says, not what he will do. Odds are he will do nothing. Rabin could not be said to have “done nothing.”
So your argument is that Kadima, with its former Likud members, was somehow leftist, but only identified as centrist. Do you realize how lunatic this is?
I would like to see the stats on national identity once you exclude the ultra orthodox from the sample.
Richard Silverstein says
@ DH: Are you implying that Haredim are somehow not Israeli? Last I checked they not only were, but were the fastest growing sector of Israeli society. So I’m afraid you will have to be content with Haredim remaining within Israeli society & their views being fully reflected in such polls.
I take their word for it.
In any case – they are growing, but one more Haredi doesn’t mean one less in the other sectors, so it’s not that as if they are taking over. You also have to take in to account the rising number of Haredim enlisting and integrating in to Israeli society.
I have nothing against them being in the polls, but it’s not honest to present the data as it has been presented here, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”.
Richard Silverstein says
Several false premises here. As I said (& you seemed to ignore or minimize), Haredim (& Israeli Arabs) are growing at a far faster rate than secular or even modern Orthodox Israeli Jews (Haredi population growth is double that of non-Haredi Israelis). The power of Haredim politically is huge now & will continue to grow. As the percentage of secular Israelis continues to decline it will have a major & deleterious impact on society. IT will move closer & closer to a theocratic state–much like Iran is today.
As for Haredim joining the army, they are changing the army much more than the army is changing them. The vast majority of senior officers are settlers. Now add to this a rising number of Haredi officers as well in the future. That will turn the IDF from a people’s army to an army that defends theocracy and Jewish supremacy (which is already does).
It’s quite convenient to accept science & statistics which prop up your own prejudices, while rejecting them as false science or lies when they don’t. You’ve offered us a perfect example. You denounce the poll without offering any proof that it is wrong.
Richard offers this nugget: rising racism and political repression in Putin’s Russia;
How do come with this? As far as I can see their is no evidence for such a trend. Of course, there is some serious antisemitism in Russia. That can be seen in the comments sections in the number of English language Russian outlets I routinely read. But rising? Or rising political oppression? What are your sources?
Richard Silverstein says
@ ToivoS: I am not going to waste time explaining to you what is obvious to almost everyone else reading this blog; or anyone reading the newspapers about developments in Russia. You may want this blog to become a discussion forum about Russia and Russian politics. I don’t. So lay off.
I am not the one who brings up Russia. That is you. Problem is that you repeat mainstream memes about
Russia that are not supported by the evidence. Even if “almost everyone else” believes MSM anti-Russian propaganda, that does not make it true.