KEY FINDINGS ABOUT RELIGION AND POLITICS IN ISRAEL Pew Research Center. Michael Lipka, March 8, 2016
For a small country, Israel holds a place of great importance for three of the world’s major religious groups. The modern Jewish state is not only the “Promised Land” for Jews, but the only country in the world where they form a majority of the population. For Christians, Israel is the “Holy Land,” because it is the place where Jesus’ life and death unfolded. And, for Muslims, Jerusalem is the place where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.
Although Israel’s religious significance dates to ancient times, the country still receives frequent international attention due in large part to near-constant religious, ethnic and political conflicts. As part of its effort to better understand religion around the world, Pew Research Center has conducted a comprehensive study of religion in Israel, where there are major divisions not only between Jews and Arabs, but also among the major subgroups of Israeli Jews.
Here are several of the key findings from that report, which is based on an extensive survey of more than 5,000 Israelis, conducted in late 2014 and early 2015:
1 Israeli Jews are largely united on the need for their nation to be a homeland for Jews, regardless of their origins. Across the spectrum of religious observance, Israeli Jews almost unanimously (a combined 98%) support the right of Jews around the world to move to Israel and receive immediate citizenship (also known as making aliyah). A big majority (91%) also say a Jewish state is necessary for the long-term survival of the Jewish people – perhaps in large part because about three-quarters of Israeli Jews (76%) see anti-Semitism as common and increasing around the world. A large majority of Israeli Jews also agree that Israel should give preferential treatment to Jews (79%).
2 Israeli Jews are far from a homogeneous group. Virtually all Jews in Israel identify with one of four major religious subgroups: Hiloni (“secular”), Masorti (“traditional”), Dati (“religious”) and Haredi (“ultra-Orthodox”). Hilonim are the least religious and make up roughly half of Israeli Jews (49%). Overall, Datiim (sometimes called Modern Orthodox Jews) generally follow Jewish traditions, but they are more integrated into modern society than Haredim and tend to lean to the right politically, especially on issues pertaining to the conflict with the Palestinians. Masortim occupy the religious middle ground, but they appear to be declining as a share of Israeli Jews, while Haredim make up an increasing share (currently 9%).
Large differences in religious observance among Jews of different backgrounds
3 Jewish groups consistently disagree on a range of specific public policy issues, with more religiously observant Jews saying, for example, that Israel should shut down public transport on the Sabbath (as it mostly does); secular Jews almost universally say public transport should remain running. Jews of varying levels of religious observance also take starkly different positions on some key aspects of the Jewish state. For instance, in a hypothetical conflict between democratic principles and Jewish law (halakha), ultra-Orthodox Jews overwhelmingly say Jewish law should take precedence (89%), while an equally large share of secular Jews say democratic ideals should take priority.
4 About eight-in-ten (81%) Israeli adults are Jewish, while the remainder are mostly ethnically Arab and religiously Muslim (14%), Christian (2%) or Druze (2%). Overall, the Arab religious minorities in Israel are more religiously observant than Jews. And these groups all are largely isolated from one another socially; there is virtually no religious intermarriage in Israel, and strong majorities of Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze say all or most of their close friends belong to their own religious group.
5 Perhaps the strongest indication of the major fractures in Israeli society is that roughly half of Israeli Jews (48%) say Arabs should be transferred or expelled from Israel while a similar share (46%) disagree with this. In addition, Israeli Jews and Arabs disagree on whether the country can be a Jewish state and a democracy at the same time. About three-quarters (76%) of Israeli Jews believe this to be possible, but relatively few Israeli Arabs (27%) agree. And a shrinking share of Israeli Arabs believe Israel and an independent Palestinian state could coexist peacefully (74% believed this in 2013, compared with 50% in the new survey). Few Jews (10%) say Palestinian leadership is sincerely seeking a peace settlement, while few Israeli Arabs (20%) think the Israeli government is genuinely pursuing peace.
6 Together, Israel and the U.S. are home to about 80% of Jews globally, and there are strong bonds between the world’s two largest Jewish populations. Most Israeli Jews feel they share a common destiny with U.S. Jews and think U.S. Jews have a good influence on Israeli affairs. American Jews also harbor warm feelings about Israel. Our 2013 survey of U.S. Jews found that most say they are either “very” (30%) or “somewhat” (39%) emotionally attached to Israel, and that caring about Israel is either essential or important to what being Jewish means to them. More than a third of Israeli Jews have traveled to the U.S., and a similar share of U.S. Jews have been to Israel.
7 Israeli Jews overall are more religious than U.S. Jews, partly because Orthodox Jews make up a greater share of their population. But Israeli Jews also are more religiously polarized than U.S. Jews: They are more likely than U.S. Jews to say they go to synagogue either weekly or never, while Jewish Americans are far more likely to attend synagogue on an occasional basis (e.g., a few times a year, such as for the Jewish High Holidays). Jews in the two countries also have different political ideologies: About half of U.S. Jews (49%) identify as politically liberal in an American context, while only 8% of Israeli Jews place themselves on the left of the Israeli political spectrum. These two political spectrums (liberal/moderate/conservative in the U.S. and left/center/right in Israel) represent different constellations of views on political, economic and social issues in each country. Nevertheless, in both Israel and the U.S., religious Jews tend to lean more to the right, while more secular Jews are centrist or liberal.
TOPICS: CHRISTIANS AND CHRISTIANITY, JEWS AND JUDAISM, MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA, MUSLIMS AND ISLAM, RELIGION AND SOCIETY, RELIGIOUS BELIEFS AND PRACTICES
THE WEST’S REFUSAL TO RECOGNIZE THE RELIGIOUS BASIS FOR THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT
A future Palestinian state will have Islam as the dominant aspect of its governing system, despite Western wishful thinking to the contrary.
A man stands near a mosque opposite to a neighborhood in east Jerusalem November 13, 2016.. (photo credit:REUTERS)
Every few years, like clockwork an American administration comes along that thinks it can solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while politicians and pundits annually march through the halls of the AIPAC national meeting talking about a two-state solution with security for Israel. Their motivations are genuine, but they can’t seem to learn the lessons of previous failures. This is especially important now, as US President Donald Trump seems bent on solving this heretofore- intractable conflict.
To many Americans, Jews and Arabs are simply fighting over territory, so the logical answer is to simply divide the land. This has been the strategy for over 100 years. But this approach ignores the fact that this dispute, like so many others in the Middle East, is primarily a war of Islamic religious supremacy.
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The path to peace is not one a cartographer can delineate. We need to understand the ideological reasons why simply dividing the land has received consistently negative Palestinian responses despite offers of 100% of the territory, with land swaps. Until that understanding takes hold in the Western diplomatic mind, negotiations will continue to fail, promises will continue to be broken and violence will continue to follow.
As Anshel Pfeffer wrote in The Guardian a few years back, “Accepting that the Israel-Palestine conflict is also a bitter religious war runs counter to the international community’s preferred solutions... which is a central reason that none of these solutions have worked.”
America for decades has refused to recognize the obvious: in the Muslim and Arab world decisions are not based on Western democratic standards.
There are no secular Arab states. In the Arab world there is no separation of church and state. The last secular Muslim state, Turkey, has become Islamized over the past 14 years.
A future Palestinian state will have Islam as the dominant aspect of its governing system, despite Western wishful thinking to the contrary.
Hamas is an Islamist regime that bases its desire to destroy Israel on Islamic texts and the Muslim Brotherhood interpretation of a worldwide caliphate.
But is today’s Palestinian Authority really so secular compared to Hamas, as the UN, EU and the US State Department claim? If you examine statements by PA political and religious leaders, and from its state-sponsored television, the reality is quite different.
To counter Hamas’ popularity, the PA has Islamized the conflict over the past 20 years. Secular PA President Mahmoud Abbas speaks of jihad and Jews overtaking al-Aksa Mosque, with the aim of motivating and enrage Palestinians, deflecting attention from the failings and corruption of the PA.
In 1979 the Iranian revolution showed both Sunnis and Shi’ites that Islamism, not secular Muslim nationalism, is the winning formula. Over time, the corruption of the secular PLO /PA /Fatah and their failure to end the “occupation” of Muslim lands all combined to transform secular Palestinian society toward Islamist nationalism.
According to Palestinian Media Watch, the PA preaches “Ribat, an uncompromising Islamic obligation... to liberate land said to be Islamic.
Israel is considered to be Islamic land that must be liberated for Allah... The tragic conclusion is that the Palestinian Authority has adopted and is teaching its people the messages of radical Islam.”
President Abbas appointed Sheikh Muhammad Hussein as mufti, the most senior religious leader in the PA.
Hussein said, “The land of Palestine is Wakf. It must not be relinquished nor must any part of it be sold... It is the duty of the leaders of the [Islamic] nation and its peoples to liberate Palestine and Jerusalem.”
Bewilderingly, the Trump administration may also be approaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict emphasizing the territorial aspects while sidelining the primary Islamic root cause of the conflict.
When speaking to the West, the Palestinians have perfected the art of doublespeak, telling Americans that if only Israel returns the stolen land over the “67 border” all will be well, as the conflict is just about territory.
Trump refers to “a great real-estate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians.
But you cannot have an “ultimate deal” if you don’t factor in the primary Islamic roots of the conflict which animate Palestinian Arab choices.
Both the PA and Hamas’ lack of acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state and denial of Zionism as a legitimate national movement are based on Islamic beliefs. Hamas states this clearly. But the West closes its eyes to the Islamist nature of the PA , PLO and Fatah, claiming they are strictly secular movements.
The PA ’s children’s TV programs teach that Jews are “Allah’s enemies – sons of pigs,” or “Oh, you who murdered Allah’s pious prophets,” or “as long as my heart is my Koran and my city... [Jerusalem] is the eternal capital of Palestine.”
If you are really serious about resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for the sake of the parties involved, and for the security and interests of America and its allies you must acknowledge that Palestinian Arab decisions are judged through the lens of Islamic law, history and tradition.
The author is the founder and director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political and Information Network. He regularly briefs members of Congress and think tanks on the Middle East.
AREA OF ISRAEL
Israel is a tiny country of 8,359 Sq miles, the West Bank is 2,262 sq miles, the Golan Heights is 444 sq miles and Gaza is 100 sq miles. The USA is 3,794,083 sq. Miles -
“ ...[a] desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds-a silent mournful expanse....A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action....We never saw a human being on the whole route....There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”
- 1867 (Quoted in Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad. London: 1881)
BY 2035, JEWISH POPULATION IN ISRAEL/PALESTINE IS PROJECTED AT 46 PERCENT Mondoweiss Joseph Chamie on February 21, 2014
A large amount of news, analysis and political rhetoric is disseminated daily about the current American-initiated Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. However, comparatively little attention — and, hence, insufficient understanding — is given to a critical aspect of the decades-old conflict: population growth. Differential rates of population growth are redefining the relative demographic standing of Arab-Israelis, Jewish-Israelis and Palestinians in the region, pointing to a challenging demographic future for the Jewish-Israeli majority and affecting key negotiating concerns, positions and strategies, including establishing borders, the status of settlements and the return of Palestinian refugees.
The tract of land at the center of the conflict — the former British Mandate of Palestine – is relatively small. The combined surface area of Israel and the State of Palestine (the Gaza Strip plus the West Bank) is about the size of Haiti and can be fit into Texas about 25 times. The relative proportions of this combined territory are 79 percent Israel and 21 percent Palestine territory (20 percent West Bank and 1 percent Gaza Strip).
The total number of people residing in this tract is also not large. Fewer than 13 million — numerically equivalent to 4 percent of the US population — live there. As is widely acknowledged, the central defining characteristic of this population is its religious affiliation. A brief look at the past provides insight into the demographic status and growth of the major religious groups in this troubled land.
With the establishment of the British Mandate of Palestine after World War I, the first British census of Palestine in 1922 enumerated a total population of about 750,000, of which 78 percent were Muslim, 11 percent Jewish and 10 percent Christian (Table 1). Nearly 25 years later, before the United Nations’ partition of the Mandate for Palestine, in 1947, the population had grown to nearly 1.8 million, with 60 percent Muslim, 31 percent Jewish and 8 percent Christian.
The estimated 1950 population residing in the former British Mandate of Palestine exceeded 2 million, representing an almost equal balance of Jews (50 percent) and Muslims (47 percent) and Christians, shrinking to 3 percent (Table 1). Because of different rates of population growth among the religious groups, especially with large-scale immigration, the Jewish proportion of this combined population continued to increase throughout the second half of the 20th century.
At the start of the 21st century, the Jewish proportion peaked at 53 percent, followed by Muslims at 45 percent and Christians at 2 percent. Today, the Jewish proportion represents half of the resident population in Israel and the State of Palestine. However, if Palestinian refugees living in camps in neighboring countries are taken into account, the majority of the population, 53 percent, would be Muslim.
In 1947, Mandatory Palestine was partitioned by the UN General Assembly into two states, one Jewish and the other Arab. Three years later, the population of Israel increased to 1.3 million, with 87 percent being Jewish Israelis. The population of Palestinians living in the State of Palestine (the Gaza Strip and West Bank) was slightly less than a million. Additionally, an estimated 500,000 Palestinians were displaced as a result of war in nearby countries, mainly to Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
Because of high levels of Jewish immigration to Israel, especially from the former Soviet Union, as well as high birth rates, the population of Israel grew to more than 6 million by the close of the 20th century, but the proportion of Jewish people declined to 78 percent, a 9 percentage-point drop from 1950. In contrast, the demographic growth rate of Palestinians fluctuated considerably during this period, a result of wars and further civilian displacements.
At the end of the century, the Palestinian population living in the State of Palestine reached slightly more than 3 million, with at least an additional half million Palestinians living in refugee camps in neighboring countries and more than two million residing outside camps.
The population of Israel in 2014 is approximately 8.2 million, about the same size as New York City, with 75 percent of the population being Jewish Israelis. The Israeli population is growing at about 1.8 percent a year. Although relatively low in comparison to the rates of the 1990s, Israel’s current demographic growth is double the rate of the United States and many times greater than Europe’s. The median age of the Israeli population is 30 years old, which is about 15 years younger than the average ages in Germany, Italy and Japan. Israel’s fertility rate is about 3 children for every woman, again well above the average for most developed countries.
This comparatively high birth rate, however, has not deterred women from pursuing higher education. In fact, women account for the majority, 56 percent, of college students in Israel.
Immigration contributed greatly to the rapid growth of Israel’s Jewish population, but today it is estimated that more than half — about 58 percent — of the world’s Jewish population lives outside Israel, mainly in the US, at about 40 percent, followed by France, Canada and Britain, each under 4 percent. As large-scale Jewish emigration from these developed countries to Israel is considered unlikely, most of Israel’s current and future demographic growth will be the result of natural increase.
The population of Palestinians in the State of Palestine in 2014 is about 4.4 million, with 1.7 million in the Gaza Strip and 2.7 million in the West Bank. According to the UN Relief and Works Agency, which is responsible for the care of Palestinian refugees, more than 1.5 million Palestinian refugees are living in camps in countries in the region. The number of Palestinian refugees in neighboring countries but living outside refugee camps is estimated at approximately 4 million.
The Palestinian population living in the State of Palestine is growing comparatively fast, 2.4 percent a year, or 33 percent higher than Israel’s current rate of population growth. The population is also young, with half 18 years old or under, making it the youngest population in the region. Although Palestinian fertility has declined substantially from a record high of about 8 children per woman in the 1960s, it remains comparatively high at more than 4 children for every woman.
As noted in the case of Israel, even with high birth rates Palestinian women actively pursue higher education, constituting the majority, 56 percent, of college students.
Population projections for the next 20 years indicate continued demographic growth for both Israel and the State of Palestine. The Palestinian population is expected to grow more rapidly than the Israeli population because of higher fertility rates. Whereas the Israeli population is expected to increase by about 40 percent by 2035, the Palestinian population is projected to increase by nearly 60 percent (Table 1).
Population projections also show that while the Jewish proportion in Israel will decline slightly over the next two decades, it will continue to be the dominant majority of the Israeli population, 73 percent in 2035. This is not the case, however, when one considers the entire future population residing in the former British Palestine. Demographic projections indicate that less than half of the future population residing there would be Jewish, 48 percent in 2025 and 46 percent by 2035. But if only the West Bank population were to be incorporated into Israel, the Jewish proportion would be a declining majority, 57 percent in 2014 to 53 percent by 2035.
Given the many contentious issues, powerful interests and past failed attempts, a successful outcome of the current Israeli and Palestinian negotiations is at best uncertain. Yet, at least one issue remains clear: Whatever future comprehensive peace agreement eventually arises, be it a one-state, two-state or three-state solution with agreed upon territorial and population swaps or something else, the population growth of the major religious groups residing in this troubled land will continue to have significant consequences that will reverberate well beyond its boundaries, just as it has in the recent past.