Thursday, October 21, 2010

(INFO) Israel In The World: Myth VS Reality

“Israel is a desert and they all ride camels”; “Your women wear kaffiyehs”; “Israelis only eat falafel”… You’ve probably come across many myths and misconceptions about Israel and Israelis during your travels abroad, or in encounters with foreigners here in Israel. To help you become public diplomats, we’ve compiled for you the most prevalent myths that you’re liable to run into, along with the true facts, so that you can bring them up in conversation, and help change perceptions of Israel.

Myth: Israel is a religious country

False. Although Israel is defined as a Jewish country, and even though the overwhelming majority of its residents are Jewish, most of them are not religious. Forty-four percent of the Jewish population in Israel defines itself as secular-nonreligious; 27% as traditional-nonreligious; 12% as traditional-religious; 9% as religious; and 8% as ultra-Orthodox.

Myth: Israel is a military dictatorship

False. Israel is considered one of the most stable democratic states in the western world, and certainly in the Middle East. Despite the wars we’ve been through and the ongoing terrorist attacks and threats, most of the country’s citizens live far from the areas in which military activity takes place. The Israeli army functions based on strict moral guidelines which emphasize respect for civilian life and property. The IDF is called the “Israel Defense Forces” for good reason, its job is to defend. As opposed to dictatorships, Israel also enjoys complete freedom of the press, as evidenced by our use of the Internet – among the highest in the world.

Myth: Israel is a primitive country

False. Israel is known for innovation in the sciences and its creative power in art, culture, technology and medicine. Israel leads the Western World in cancer survival rates, and is a medical superpower in the field of fertility and birth. In culture, Israel takes second place in the world in the number of books published per capita. In academia, the rate of those with advanced degrees among 25-35 year-olds is 35% in Israel, similar to the rate in the United States, and more than that of Sweden and Japan. In almost every branch of science, technology, economics and culture, Israel ranks among the top countries according to worldwide studies.

In its 62 years of statehood, Israel has succeeded in reaching impressive, unprecedented achievements. The state’s accomplishments today compare favorably with those of countries that are older, larger, wealthier, and stronger than it, and in some realms even leave the competition far behind.

Many countries throughout the world enjoy the fruits of Israeli developments in all areas, including high-tech, the Internet, medicine and culture.

In this section you will find the most distinctive breakthroughs in all realms – medicine, science and technology, agriculture and many others.

When you are travelling abroad, as you marvel at the architecture, art and culture, and hear about the medical triumphs and educational systems in Western countries, it would be a good idea to recall some of Israel’s achievements, so you can share them with the people you meet and let your hearts swell with pride in the state you departed from and will be so glad to return to...

See the following:

Myth: The Israelis really don’t want peace

False. Seven wars and terror activities lasting more than six decades during which Israel was forced to defend its citizens has not altered the peace-loving nature of Israelis who continuously seek new ways to achieve mediation and compromise, talks and coexistence. We have encountered difficulties and challenges on the road to establishing peace with the Palestinians and other neighbors and we pray for the day when our attempts will succeed. History proves that Israel has made extensive concessions for the sake of peace with its neighbors Jordan and Egypt. Israel will never lose its hope for peace.

Israel is one of the most widely scrutinized countries in the world. Israel’s relations with the Arab world supply the media with topics for reports, some of them as unfolding news coverage and others as premeditated stories.

The way the Israeli-Arab conflict, both with the Palestinians and Arab states or other Islamic countries, is perceived in the world affects the global public opinion of Israel, as well as inflating false myths and prejudices and increasing their dissemination around the world.

What are the roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict? How does Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria tie in with peace? What is the importance of the Golan Heights and what is its connection to Israel’s relations with Syria? The answers to all these questions and others are presented below according to topic, for your convenience. Each section provides short summaries of important points in our shared history with the Arabs and Palestinians. The abstracts are meant to provide you with tools, information and tips that will serve you during discussions with people you come across while you are abroad or with tourists in Israel. By shedding light on the facts from our viewpoint, any one of you can be an agent of real change, and encourage patience and sympathy for our Israel.

See the following:

Myth: Palestine has always been an Arab country

False. Palestine was never an Arab state, and there has never been a “State of Palestine”. The term was coined to punish the Jews following the Bar Kochba Revolt against the Roman Empire. It refers to the Philistines, the Jews historic rivals for control of Israel’s coastline. The Arabic language became dominant following the Muslim invasion in the 7th century. No Arab or Palestinian state ever existed in the Land of Israel. When the pre-eminent Arab-American historian Prof. Phillip Hitti of Princeton University testified against the Partition Plan before the Anglo-American Commission, he claimed that “throughout history, there has never been such a concept as Palestine”.

Myth: The relations between Israel and the Palestinians is the source of global terror

False. Muslim terror is active throughout the world with no connection to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Palestinian refugee issue, Israel-US relations or the existence of the State of Israel and its policies. Terror has been rampant ever since the middle of the 20th century in various places across the globe, and the Palestinian problem is not what caused its spread. The West, as far as Islamic terror is concerned, constitutes an obstacle to fulfilling Muslim aspirations for expansion. Western values (freedom of religion, freedom of speech, a free press, a free market, free education, democracy, etc.) are a moral threat to the existence of dictatorial Muslim regimes.

See the following statistics for Islamic Terrorism by year:
2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010

According to Resolution 242, Israel is supposed to return to the ’67 borders and allow the Arab refugees to return

False. The resolution specifies withdrawal from territories without defining the borders as the lines of June 4, 1967. The UN Security Council has decided that, since there was no reference in the resolution to a full withdrawal, any future peace agreement would require that Israel withdraw from “territories” and not “all the territories” conquered during the war. Therefore, the State of Israel deems it quite proper to conduct negotiations to achieve safe, recognized borders that do not risk Israel’s security (Israel’s core was only 9 miles wide in 1967). Resolution 242 also refers to a fair solution to the refugee problem without addressing the scope of the solution in detail. Israel does not view the resolution as anchoring the right of return, whereas the Arab side maintains that the resolution guarantees full return.

Myth: In the near future there will be an overwhelming Arab majority in Israel

False. This is a completely groundless claim. The trend of a lower birthrate that is sweeping the Muslim world is reaching Israeli Arabs and the Palestinian population as well. Research studies show that the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) publishes data inflating the number of births by 32% and including the number of émigrés in their population censuses. This myth exists due to people relying on sources that distort the statistics. Every forecast by the demographic establishment over the past hundred years has predicted a majority of Arabs between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, but was disproved each time. That’s because the Jewish birthrate was underestimated, the Arab birthrate was overestimated, and the balance between Arab emigration and potential Jewish immigration was disregarded.

Myth: There’s no peace because of the settlements

False. The roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict do not lie in the size of the state but in its very existence. Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are also liable to be perceived as settlements in the Arabs’ eyes. The Palestinian Authority sees the roots of the conflict as being the “1948 settlements,” whereas the facts show that the settlements were founded after the 1967 war. People should be reminded of the fact that, despite our historic and official right to the land, Israel uprooted 25 settlements in Gaza and Samaria in September 2005 as a significant step towards reaching an agreement with the Palestinians. Unfortunately, this move was interpreted by the Palestinian side as weakness and the breakdown of Israeli resilience. Since then, the smuggling/building/launching of rockets at Negev towns has only escalated, Hamas’ power has increased, and two wars have broken out – the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead, which led to the Goldstone Report, increased pressure on Israel from the international community and to ever more radical Arab demands on Israel.

Myth: Millions of Palestinian refugees are not allowed to return to Israel

False. Firstly, remember this basic fact: A majority of the Arabs in the Land of Israel before the War of Independence (1948) settled here as refugees after leaving Arab countries. Secondly, desertion by the Palestinian leadership as early as 1947 led to the collapse of morale among the Palestinian public and the abandonment of their homes. The British Commissioner urged the Jewish and Arab minorities in mixed cities to evacuate. The Jews refused and stayed put, while the Arabs complied and fled. We are talking about 320,000 Arab refugees. It’s also vital to point out that the endless discussion of the Palestinian refugee issue ignores the fact that 820,000 Jews escaped or were expelled from Muslim/Arab countries and also became refugees. Thankfully, Israel was there to take them in, while most Muslim countries were reluctant, if not totally against, taking in Arabs who fled during the war.

Myth: Israel’s problems with the Arab states extend from the Palestinians' plight

False. Arab countries have not moved to actually improve the Palestinians' status. Their attitude toward the Palestinians has always been ambivalent – on the one hand, they portray the Palestinians as a suppressed extension of the Arab people, and emit sound bites against this supposed oppression and injustice, on the other hand, leaders of the Arab nations see the Palestinian issue as a tool rather than a goal. It is neither a central tenet of their policy nor a main factor in determining policy towards the West or even towards Israel. According to the facts it often even appears that the Arab leaders consider the Palestinians a potentially subversive element and fear the “Lebanonization” of their countries. (source)

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