Israel is a self-proclaimed Jewish state and a country in the Middle East. It is the only country with a Jewish majority population.[note 1] The goal of historical Zionism, Israel was established in 1948 in the aftermath of the Holocaust (circa 1941 to 1945) and of World War II (1939-1945).
Israel lies on the south-eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, bordering Lebanon in the north, Syria and Jordan in the east, Egypt on the south-west and the Palestinian territories to the east ("West Bank") and south-west ("Gaza Strip"). Israel also controls the Golan Heights, which it conquered and annexed in the 1967 war against Syria.
Embroiled in a seemingly never-ending conflict with many different nations and actors, each with their own interests, the modern state of Israel has a short but very troubled history.
- 1 Territory
- 2 Founding
- 3 Arab-Israeli conflicts
- 4 Human rights
- 5 Israeli nukes and Iran
- 6 Involvement in Syria
- 7 Politics
- 8 Conscription
- 9 Torture
- 10 Apartheid
- 11 Criticism vs. anti-Semitism
- 12 See also
- 13 External links
- 14 Sources
- 15 Notes
- 16 References
The total area under Israeli law, including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, is 22,072 square kilometers (8,522 sq mi). The total area under Israeli control (with Israeli law for the Jewish settlers and military law for Arabs), including the militarily occupied and partially Palestinian-governed territory of the West Bank, is 27,799 square kilometers (10,733 sq mi).
The international community, including even Israel's allies, recognizes neither the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, nor the status quo in Gaza, nor Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. Supporters of Israel claim that any land occupied is only being held for security purposes, and argue that Israel was not the aggressor in all of its wars (a surprisingly common opinion among participants in wars). The Arab League declared that despite its defeat by Israel, no member would recognize the State of Israel or enter into any peace agreement. When Egypt broke the so-called "triple no" -- no peace, no negotiations, no recognition -- some Arab states in turn boycotted Egypt. To this day, Egypt and Jordan are the only neighbors of Israel with full, normal diplomatic relations and a peace treaty with Israel. Technically, Lebanon and Syria are still at war with Israel and neither formally recognizes it. The latter mostly due to the Golan issue and being currently rather busy with other things.
Zionism originated in the 19th century and aimed to establish a political and geographic nation-state for the Jewish people so they could escape the persecution and anti-Semitism that was then widespread in Europe. For centuries Jew hatred – often called "anti-Judaism" – had existed, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries a new form of "racial" hatred emerged, which was coined anti-Semitism.  While old-style, religiously-based Jew-hatred offered practitioners of Judaism at least a theoretical way out by converting to the dominant religion of the time (usually Christianity or Islam), anti-Semitism left no escape. Zionism arose in that milieu and as a response to it.
Before 1948, the territory of present-day Israel formed part of the British Mandate Territory of Palestine. The British Mandate incorporated two main areas: Transjordan (now the Kingdom of Jordan), and the area today known as Israel and the Palestinian territories. Jews comprised a minority in the Mandate territories, but a majority in the areas designated to them in the United Nations 1947 partition plan. The work and agitation of Zionists like Vladimir Jabotinsky in the 1920s had resulted in a growing Zionist demand for a Jewish homeland in the region, and immigration by European Jews picked up. Initially both Transjordan and Mandatory Palestine were open to Jewish settlement, but Arab pressure would eventually lead to the Brits declaring all land east of the Jordan off-limits to Jews.
In 1917 Arthur James Balfour, then British Foreign Secretary, wrote a letter to Walter, the 2nd Baron Rothschild, in which he promised that the Jewish people would return to their homeland in Palestine, as though such a thing was Britain's to give. That letter contained the key phrase "a national home for the Jewish people" which many regarded as a binding statement. All that Zionists had to do was wait, it seemed. Unfortunately, the British had also promised Palestine to the Arabs, during a Cabinet Eastern Committee meeting that same year. Initially Jews and Arabs lived if not in harmony than at least in an uneasy truce in Mandatory Palestine, with moderate Arab leaders even welcoming Jewish settlement as a means to "develop" the mostly barren and arid land.
However, one Arab leader, a certain Amin al-Husseini, said that there should be no cooperation, no living side-by-side or indeed no selling land to Jews. Husseini and other Arabs caused a massive anti-British and anti-Jewish uprising in 1936. While the British authorities tried to work together with moderate Arab and Jewish leaders to suppress the uprising, many Zionists saw that Jews' continued presence and security in Palestine was not guaranteed and thus formed several self-defense groups, most notably Haganah (moderate) and Irgun (terrorist). When the British finally suppressed the Arab uprising, thousands of Jews - both Zionist and non-Zionist - and hundreds of Arabs were dead and al-Husseini had greatly increased his influence among many Palestinian Arabs. The British, in an effort to keep some semblance of control, published a "White Paper" that limited Jewish immigration into mandatory Palestine to no more than 10,000 per year for the next five years and to none without Arab approval thereafter. Further restrictions were put on Jews buying land inhabited by Arabs.
Of course, the White Paper plan did not work; illegal Jewish immigration and Zionist terrorism made it impossible. As the 1948 British Government Statement on the End of the Mandate states:
The Arabs were critical of many of the provisions in the White Paper but it seemed probable that they would eventually acquiesce in their application. The Jews, on the other hand, were bitterly opposed to it and its publication was immediately followed by an outburst of Jewish violence which continued until the beginning of the war.
...1939 also saw the beginning of organized attempts by large numbers of Jews to enter Palestine in excess of the permitted quota. These attempts have continued ever since, and, by exacerbating Arab resentment, have greatly increased the difficulty of maintaining law and order in Palestine. ...but was also the principal cause of the steady increase in Jewish terrorist activities. These had ceased at the beginning of the war, in whose prosecution both Jews and Arabs had loyally cooperated, but broke out again in 1942. From that year until the end of the war Jewish extremists carried out a number of political murders, robberies and acts of sabotage... Once Germany had been defeated, these activities, previously sporadic and supported by only a minority of the Jewish community, increased in scale and intensity as the efforts of terrorist gangs were supplemented by those of Haganah and assisted by members of the Jewish Agency. Communications were attacked throughout the country; Government buildings, military trains and places of entertainment frequented by Britons were blown up; and numbers of Britons, Arabs and moderate Jews were kidnapped or murdered. This wholesale terrorism had continued ever since.
Jewish terrorist groups — Irgun and Lehi — bombed the King David Hotel (where the British authorities were headquartered), assassinated UN mediator Folke Bernadotte, and murdered Arab civilians and politically unacceptable Jews.
The aftermath of the war in Europe left large numbers of stateless Jews, many of whom fled to Palestine. The terrible treatment of Jews under Nazi Germany and other Nazi-occupied and Nazi-allied nations during the war, and especially the horrors of the Holocaust, led to growing Zionist support among the Jews of Europe and Palestine, and increasing sympathy for the Zionist cause from the international community.
War of Independence
After the Second World War, the battered British declared that they would step out of Palestine, and both Jews and Arabs seized the chance. The Haganah and Jewish Agency began mobilizing, ready to take control at a moment's notice. The Arabs mobilized through John Bagot Glubb's Arab Legion.
In the meantime, the UN assumed the responsibility for the Mandate territory that Britain was throwing off, and devised and voted for a partition plan. To some of the Jewish political leaders, accepting the agreement as a tactical maneuver (as Ben Gurion's biographer Michael Bar Zohar notes, the omission of borders in Israel's declaration of independence was not a mistake) with the goal of eventually
stealing conquering more territory, to include southern Lebanon, southern Syria, today's Jordan, the whole West Bank and the Sinai Peninsula. The Arabs angrily rejected the plan for which they'd not been consulted; they constituted more than two-thirds of the population but the proposal allocated them only 44% of the land. Israel ended up in a dominant position after Israeli troops and terrorists forcibly evicted — and sometimes slaughtered — some 750,000 Palestinians and destroyed as many as 530 Arab villages. Palestinians refer to these events as the Nakba, the Arabic word meaning Catastrophe. Later, the Zionist goal of territorial expansion was realized and Israel gained 22% more land than allocated in the partition plan.
Though the original UN partition of the area into a Jewish and Arab state would have disrupted relatively few people, when the neighboring states attacked Israel in 1948, a massive dislocation of Arabs in Israel and Jews in Arab countries followed. Claiming that Israel was a European colony, many neighboring states (once they achieved independence) tried to prevent the state of Israel from being created. In the first war from 1947 to 1949 (the Arab-Israeli War), the Arab forces greatly outnumbered the Israeli forces, but the Israelis, perhaps due to better leadership and troop morale,[note 2] prevailed. Also, the Arab forces had poor leadership and operational coordination, with some nations denying others military access and preventing allied forces from ever reaching the frontline. The Suez War (1956), the Six Day War (1967), the War of Attrition (1967 again) and the Yom Kippur War (1973) all followed the same pattern. After 1967 in particular, Israel took the West Bank from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, as well as Sinai and the Gaza Strip from Egypt; controlling their territory and population without annexing them outright. Currently, Israel is in something of a Cold War-esque conflict with Iran, with such proxies as Hamas in Gaza (from 2006 to the present) and Hezbollah in Lebanon arrayed against Tel Aviv since the presidency of the Dinner Jacket. Things have calmed down, for now, with moderate Hassan Rouhani replacing Ahmadinejad in mid-2013. However, even the "moderates" in Iranian politics are not all that chummy with Israel and ultimately no important decision in Iran can be made against the will of Ayatollah Khamenei (the successor of Ruhollah Khomeini) who - like his predecessor - is no big friend of Israel to say the least.
Hamas' status as a terrorist organization is disputed, however Hamas has a militant wing along with its political wing. Oddly, Hamas's parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, is considered to be a terrorist organization by more countries in spite of it being less violent; politics and all that. The secular PLO however, which was considered the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people for the majority of the situation, is not currently considered a terrorist organization by any nation. (Historically, only the United States and Israel have ever designated the PLO as a terrorist organization.) The PLO did engage in the 1970 Avivim school bus massacre, airplane hijackings, Munich Olympics Massacre, 1974 Ma'alot Massacre, 1975 Savoy Hotel hostage crisis and the 1978 Coastal Road massacre, but then denounced violence, and the US and Israel adjusted their positions. The 1977 hijacking of the Landshut passenger jet was conducted by the PFLP, than a subset of the PLO in cooperation with the German leftist terrorist group Rote Armee Fraktion (the "Bader-Meinhof gang"). During this as well as other hijackings by Palestinian terrorists, Jews or people believed to be Jewish were treated worse than the rest of the hostages.
Israel is the only state in the Middle East to extend gay rights. However, Palestinian gay rights groups resent being used as "cover" for Israel's treatment of Palestinians in general. Moreover — and as true in many countries — there are still significant homophobic members of the Israeli parliament.
Israel's relatively positive stance on homosexuality is often used by its supporters as evidence that it is an inherently progressive country. There is, however, no gay marriage in Israel because Israeli marriage law falls firmly under the control of the Orthodox rabbinate. Therefore, neither Reform nor Conservative rabbis may perform marriages in Israel, although Israel recognizes both gay and straight marriages entered abroad.
Some have pointed out how gay rights has been used to "pink wash" Israel's oppressive policies toward Palestinians. During one of the Freedom Flotillas made up mostly of Americans who set out to break the controversial blockade of Gaza, an anonymous gay man named Mark posted a YouTube video, claiming to be shocked by widespread homophobia among those on the flotilla. The Israeli government initially promoted this video; however, it turned out that "Mark" was actually an Israeli actor and the video was tweeted by Guy Seemann, an employee of the prime minister of Israel. Seemann denied that he had posted the video in any official capacity.
Arab and minority rights
When it comes to other minorities, Israel's record is somewhat more complicated. Defenders of Israel point out that while Israel is infringing on the rights and freedoms of Arabs by building settlements on occupied Arab territory in violation of the Geneva Conventions, Arabs living within Israel's borders are granted more freedoms than most Arabs in Arab countries. Palestinians that are Israeli citizens have the right to vote, to organize, and to conduct their own religious services. Such rights do not, however, extend to the approximately 4 million Palestinians in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza.
Israel has come under fire for banning a few Arab political parties, but the Supreme Court quickly overruled the bans. The justification given for banning the parties was their alleged support of terrorism and their refusal to recognize the existence of the state of Israel. However, there have in the past also been bans of Jewish political parties and terrorist organizations and most of those were held up by the Supreme Court, which might indicate in fact an anti-Jewish bias,[note 3] for fear of criticism of a perceived anti-Arab bias. There's also the occasional call for the genocide of the Palestinians issued by hardcore rabbis.
Many Arabs living in Israel support liberal Zionist parties, and a few Muslim Arabs do serve in the IDF, but Prime Minister Netanyahu issued a dire, panicked warning about leftist-driven heavy Arab voting turnout on the 2015 election day. Israel has a large population of Africans, which includes African Jews (mostly from Ethiopia), as well as asylum-seekers from war-torn nations like Sudan and Eritrea. African Jews experience a great deal of racism in Israel which leads to protests. Public and legal opinion on the Sudanese asylees is split, as many entered Israel illegally through border with Egypt after a long and often dangerous journey. Many Israelis refer disparagingly to the asylees as "infiltrators," and Israel holds thousands of these refugees in encampments surrounded by barbed-wire fencing somewhere deep in the Negev desert. The Washington Post reports that in May 2015 the refugees were given "30 days to accept Israel's offer of $3,500 in cash and a one-way ticket home or to an unnamed third country in Africa, or face incarceration at Saharonim prison." Those that stay are helped by organizations such as B'nai Darfur (Sons of Darfur), which provides them with economic and social aid while raising awareness about the Darfur genocide.
The centrality of religion to Israel's identity leads to particular tensions for women. Israeli women enjoy all of the rights and social mobility that one would expect in a liberal democracy. They are also subject to obligations that women in most other states are free or barred from, namely conscription - though the period of conscription is shorter for women than for men. However, the strong social influence of, and legal control by, Orthodox Judaism means that women in Israel are sometimes faced with official and unofficial sexism justified by religious dogma in places where fundamentalist communities are predominant, such as Me'a She'arim in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, where some buses and public utilities serving these areas are sex-segregated. While Israeli women enjoy more rights than some of their Muslim counterparts (not including Turkey, Lebanon, Tunisia, etc.), there are feminists that criticize Israel, especially its policies vis a vis the Palestinians.
Religious restrictions on marriage
At its founding Israel "inherited the Orthodox rabbinical establishment that had in part existed in the land since the Ottoman conquest and in part had been reorganized under the British Mandate." Moreover, the Orthodox would be the Jewish state's Chief Rabbinate, and "would become authoritative for all of world Jewry." Thus, in Israel much family law and social policy is based on Orthodox Judaism, and the state effectively enforces the prohibition against intermarriage between Jews and people of other religions present in Orthodox Judaism, although it recognizes such marriages performed abroad (including, since 2008, same-sex marriages) and people may convert prior to marriage. Marriage must be performed by approved religious authorities, whether Jewish, Muslim, Druze, or one of several Christian denominations, and each has their own rules; Jewish authorities require conversion. Non-religious people cannot marry outside the formally recognized religious institutions, but can enter into civil couplehood unions.
Human rights organizations have strongly denounced Israel's practice of demolishing the homes of the families of those considered to be Arab terrorists. Human Rights Watch has called this common, collective punishment a war crime. Israel leaves the homes of the families of Jewish terrorists standing. A majority of Israeli Jews support due-process free, summary execution of anyone deemed to be an Arab "terrorist" as well as razing the home of the suspect's family. They oppose, however, adopting the same draconian policies for Jewish terrorists and their families.
In November of 2015, Israel legislated a three-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for throwing rocks at Israeli troops, civilians or vehicles. The law also allows Israel to cancel national health insurance and other benefits for the parents of an imprisoned minor. The government purports that the legislation is temporary, passed in response to as an increase in Palestinian protests — including rock-throwing — against Israel's ongoing occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
Israel has committed acts of terrorism during its founding and in the subsequent years. 66 people (mostly women and children) were killed in the Israeli terrorist attack in Qibya on October 14th, 1953. 47 children were killed in Bahr al-Baqr on April 8th, 1970.
United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reported in April of 2016 that Israeli children suffer the highest level of inequality and poverty among the world's most developed nations, surpassing even Mexico. Income inequality is severe in Israel, which ranked 37 out of 41 countries, "the household income of a child at the bottom 10th percentile is 64.58% lower than that of the average child." Moreover:
With regard to education, Israel also ranked among the bottom countries with both the highest achievement gaps as well as a large proportion of 15-year-old students who achieved below proficiency in reading, math and science literacy. Israel ranked last in health inequality, whereby the health score of children at the bottom of the distribution is 38.9% lower than that of the average child.
Amos Oz, one Israel's most celebrated writers, announced in November of 2015 that because of "the growing extremism in the present government's policy in various areas" he would not attend events hosted by Israeli embassies abroad. Israel's embassies have often hosted the author to honor him and show him off to the world.
Israeli academic at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Neve Gordon, calls visual recordings of the IDF shootings of Arabs "snuff videos," including that of the non-fatal shooting of Asraa Zidan Tawfik Abed, a 30-year-old Palestinian woman, who wielded a knife with which she attempted to stab a soldier. 
Gordon argues that "the current popularity of snuff media in Israel is the product of a local melodrama industry that solicits intense pathos, which is aimed at encouraging heroic retribution against those considered responsible for so-called national injuries." And further that this industry promotes "orgies of feeling":
Netanyahu’s recent declaration that the mufti of Jerusalem was the one responsible for the Final Solution was aimed at creating a direct link between Palestinians and Nazis in order to produce and exacerbate intense feelings of pain and outrage among Israeli Jews. These emotions are then mobilized to produce the feeling that the state must forcefully punish the culprits. Finally, it also creates what [ Elisabeth] Anker calls a felt legitimacy, the feeling among Jews that any response to the “Palestinian threat” is legitimate.
Israeli nukes and Iran
Of all UN member states only India, Pakistan, Israel, and South Sudan have declined to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.[note 4] (India, Pakistan, and Israel[note 5] all have nuclear arsenals, but South Sudan is a new country which happens to be really busy and hasn't yet found the time to sign it.) Israel's close relationship with the US shields it from the possibility of American pressure to sign that treaty.
Israel currently has a policy of "nuclear opacity," where it refuses to confirm or deny the existence of its arsenal despite common knowledge of its existence. Israeli leaders have repeatedly pledged not to be the first to "introduce" nuclear weapons to the Middle East, which makes you wonder what "introduce" actually means to a native Hebrew speaker. Israel's nuclear program had French assistance and was opposed by the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, although the Nixon administration agreed to turn a blind eye. According to Avner Cohen, probably the most famous historian of Israel's nuclear program, Israel was able to assemble two nuclear weapons just in time for the 1967 Six Day War. It is generally accepted that Israel had nuclear weapons by the time of the Yom Kippur War of 1973, and that Egypt and Syria knew this when they chose to launch a surprise attack against Israel. The fact that the Israeli government has never threatened to use nuclear weapons, even during two wars including one in which it was caught unprepared, does not stop hipsters on the internet from calling Israel a "nuclear rogue state" that poses a threat to world security. Critics might argue that Israel and in particular its supporters have breached codes of the UN Charter by threatening to use nukes in a "pre-emptive nuclear strike" of Iranian facilities. This same history also might make you wonder what the point of Israel's arsenal is. This example, along with the Falklands War and Kargil War, are often cited by critics of Nuclear Peace Theory.
Although the question of Israeli nukes is inseparable from the fact that it is surrounded by states that have historically adapted an aggressive stance towards its very existence, critics claim that Israel has often emerged as a less than peaceful partner itself.
In recent years, alleged threats on the part of Iran to destroy Israel have complicated the issue. However, there is some controversy over the Dinner Jacket's 2005 speech in which he was quoted as saying "the occupying regime must be wiped off the map." Every scholar of Persian who commented on the alleged speech, as well as Mossad's own notes on the speech, do not translate Ahmadinijad's words as threatening to "wipe Israel off the map." The expression "wipe off the map" does not exist in Persian; Ahmadinijad was quoting from Ayatollah Khomeini, referring to a call for regime change in Israel as opposed to the obliteration of the state. Unfortunately, nobody seems to have told the Iranian government's own staff translators that the Persian doesn't translate to "wipe off the map."
On the other hand, Ahmedinejad unabashedly said such deligitimizing things about Israel and Jewish history that many consider fear of Iran to be wholly justified. Ahmadinedjad's government on different occasions hosted Holocaust denial conferences with speakers including anti-Semites and white supremacists such as David Duke. This headache of a man finally left public view in 2013, when he was term-limited from running again; nobody's sad that he's gone now, not even Ali Khamenei, who himself is very much anti-Israel.
Involvement in Syria
In 1948 Syria was part of the Arab coalition that failed to wipe out Israel. In the 1967 Six-Day war, Israel chased Syrian troops deep into Syrian territory and kept and occupied the Golan Heights. Israel bombed an alleged "terrorist training camp" in Syria in 2003 and bombed an alleged nuclear reactor research station in 2007. Syria in turn funds and arms groups in Lebanon that fight against Israel. Syria is also bombed by Israeli planes on a monthly basis, which often target Syrian Army military sites in the Golan Heights near the frontlines with rebels. Sometimes Hezbollah targets are also hit in these airstrikes, which are technically illegal under international law. For a long time, Israel also provided hospital care to al-Qaeda fighters and other allied rebels fighting along the border in Syria. Interestingly enough, the Golan Heights border has been one of the main rebel strongholds in southern Syria, as rebel forces control approximately 95% of the border. 
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The Israeli parliament is called the Knesset; it sits in Jerusalem, is unicameral and has 120 members. The Israeli electoral system is based on a party-list proportional representation with the entire country forming a single electoral district. The threshold for an electoral list to enter the Knesset is three point twenty five percent/
The Israeli political system is a parliamentary one in which the support of a majority of Members of Knesset (MKs) is needed in order to form a government (except for a short-lived experiment in the 1990s when the Prime Minister was elected directly by the people). After the Knesset is elected the President of Israel gives the task of forming a government to the head of the parliamentary faction whom (s)he sees as most likely to get the support of a majority of MKs, which usually though not always is also the head of the single biggest vote getting bloc. If the person chosen by the President succeeds in this task (s)he becomes Prime Minister. The term of a Prime Minister is set in law as four years, although in reality no government has managed to survive an entire term due to intergovernmental conflicts. Presidents in turn are elected for a seven year term by the Knesset; other than their aforementioned role in the formation of government and their authority to grant pardons to prisoners, their function is largely ceremonial.
Under current Israeli law, in order to register a party for the parliamentary elections one must receive the support of 100 sponsors, although a new parliamentary list can bypass this requirement by running in the name of a registered party which no longer actually operates. The proportional allocation of seats and the low threshold for entering the Knesset allows many political parties to gain parliamentary representation. With so many political parties it's bloody well impossible for any one of them to get a majority by itself, so most Israeli governments have been coalitions, leading to intense power struggles between and within parties, palace revolts, and split-offs. This effectively proves the "two Jews, three opinions" theory.
Israel has a whopping array of political parties. Almost all are split-offs from larger parties (in the best Jewish tradition) and many of them don't get along with each other. The parties represented in the Knesset (from largest to smallest) are:
- Blue and White, the largest opposition entity within the current Knesset, is composed of:
- Likud (Benjamin Netanyahu, reactionary and expansionist, but made to be less economically conservative thanks to social justice protests)
- Joint List (Arab, big tent, two-state solution), second largest opposition entity, mainly serves as a way to ensure all four major Arab parties are represented in the Knesset, and is composed of:
- Hadash (Ayman Odeh, communist), is officially a biracial (Jew and Arab) party, and has some prominent Jewish members like Dov Khenin – in fact, it was descended from the historical Communist Party of Israel, which had a Jewish-majority membership.
- Ra'am (Mansour Abbas, Islamist), is the only right-wing Arab party in Israel.
- Balad (Mtanes Shehadeh, centre-left/social democracy, pan-Arabism). Its first leader was Azmi Bishara, notable for both being the first Arab to run for Prime Minister of Israel (in 1999, when the post was directly elected), and for being in self-imposed exile since 2007 to avoid an espionage trial.
- Ta'al (Ahmed Tibi, centre-left/social democracy, secular), unofficially known as the Palestine Liberation Organization's Israel wing.
- Shas (Aryeh Deri, a party representing Haredi Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent, center-left on social issues, right-wing on everything else), part of the ruling coalition. Its former spiritual leader, the late Ovadia Yosef, is arguably the most famous Rabbi in Israel.
- Yisrael Beiteinu (Avigdor Liebermann, nationalist, right-wing, secular). Used to be part of the ruling coalition, but had a falling-out with Likud in the late 2010's. Has recently been breaking ground outside its core Russian-speaking demographic both by emphasizing its secular cred and switching the Arabs for the Haredim as its scaremongering target.
- United Torah Judaism (Ya'akov Litzman, a party representing Haredi Jews of Ashkenazi descent, right-wing), part of the ruling coalition.
- The New Right (Naftali Bennet, nationalist, far-right). Used to be the nationalist wing of the Jewish Home; in fact, Naftali Bennet was the Jewish Home's party leader when the New Right broke off.
- The Union of Right-wing Parties, composed of:
- Labor (Amir Peretz, centre-left/social democracy)
- Gesher (Orly Levi-Abeksis, centrist), which caucuses with Labor, similar to the way independent Senators in the US caucus with another party despite not being formal members.
- The Democratic Union, composed of:
- Meretz (Nitzan Horowitz, left-wing, socialist),
- Green Movement (Stav Shafir, green politics),
- Israel Democratic Party (Ehud Barak, center-left)
Keep in mind, enough of these are not actual parties; these are amalgamations of smaller parties, who are represented as themselves in the Knesset. For example, the New Right and Union of Right-wing Parties ran on a single ticket (called Rightwards), but their candidates are still New Right and Union of Right-wing Parties in the Knesset. Crazy, no?
There is one party that has been banned from the Knesset, the militantly anti-Arab Kach party. No one misses it.
Benjamin Binyamin Netanyahu is the Prime Minister of Israel and Reuven Rivlin is President (his predecessor, Shimon Peres, had some sort of high-level position since basically the foundation of the state, and died in 2016, two years after his term expired). Israel's current government is the one serving under the 20th Knesset, which was elected in 2015 – its term was extended on a caretaker basis. The 21st Knesset, elected on April 2019, was dissolved just three months into the beginning of its term, to prevent Benny Gantz from being tasked with forming the Government. This lead to an unprecedented election on the same year as the Previous one (on September 2019, if you were wondering). As of the writing of this paragraph, Netanyahu has been unable to form a coalition in the 22nd Knesset, and Gantz seems destined to suffer the same fate – which would result in yet another early election.
At $3.1 billion annually, Israel is by far the largest recipient of U.S. foreign military aid. In 2007, the Bush Administration and the Israeli government agreed to a 10-year, $30 billion military aid package. In 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked President Barack Obama for a new $5 billion per year agreement. Obama signaled that the amount of aid to Israel will increase and he will be sending a team to Israel to determine the exact amount. This occurs as the U.S. is cutting the The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) for needy Americans who lack food security. Stay classy.
In Israel, given its small population and the nature of some of its not-so-friendly neighbors, all Jews (and several non-Jews) have to join the military. Ever since the foundation of Israel in 1948 a large ultra-orthodox segment of the population devote their lives to studying the Torah. In fact, they are very large welfare-recipients and a lot of them are not employed. To appease fairly politically-powerful groups, Israeli conscription law gives what some may consider to be actual "moochers" (as opposed to welfare recipients in the United States) an exemption from serving in the military. This is similar to conscientious objection, but the exemptees don't even have to work nonviolent but productive jobs. Therefore, most of the political parties want to end the exemption, but the Shas party is powerful and valuable in Knesset coalitions (which always happen), so this exemption remains in place. (Some orthodox groups object to the existence of Israel, as they believe, according to the Torah, that Israel is not supposed to exist until the Jewish Messiah appears.)
Because most of Israel's military engagements have involved clashes with Arab nations and with Arab terrorist organizations, Arab-Israelis are not drafted to the military. However, they can volunteer, and some, especially Bedouins, have done so - even as early as the 1948 war. The Israeli Druze community (a monotheistic ethnoreligious group) has a generally good relationship with the Israeli authorities, and therefore Druze men are also drafted to the military (Druze women are exempted) unless they decide to devote their life to religious studies and service, in which case they are exempted. The same holds true for the Israeli Circassian community. The Druze living on the Golan Heights are a bit of a different story. While they were offered Israeli citizenship when Israel extended its civil administration to the Golan (the same was done in the course of the 1980 Jerusalem Law for the Arabs residing in East Jerusalem, but almost all Arabs in question rejected this offer), only 10% took up the initial offer. Non-citizens are not drafted, regardless of ethnicity or religion.
However, in recent years, the younger generation of Golan Druze seems to have come to terms with Israel, as evidenced by rising numbers of applications for Israeli citizenship. This trend may also relate to the Syrian civil war, as the Syrian Druze (many inhabitants of the Golan have or had Syrian citizenship) are a tolerated and respected group in Syria and fear reprisals from Islamist extremists (which Israel has supported in order to weaken Hezbollah, another Islamist extremist group that allegedly seeks the destruction of Israel). The process for gaining Israeli citizenship is a long and arduous one, however, and many applications are rejected, for some mysterious reason.
The Israeli government admits that its security forces tortured prisoners between 1988 and 1992, and human rights organizations have stated that torture has continued on a widespread institutionalized basis into the present.
Although supposedly outlawed by the Israel's High Court of Justice in 1999, their verdict left open an allowance for torture under certain circumstances which human rights organization B'Tselem said "legitimated, if only by implication, the use of torture and ill-treatment" and left open "the slippery slope leading to an increase in torture and ill-treatment." This reality came to the fore when Jewish families of right-wing Jewish terrorists alleged that their family members had been tortured:
the mother of one of the allegedly tortured Jewish terror suspects met with Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked last week. It is safe to say that no sitting Israeli justice minister has ever agreed to meet the family of a Palestinian terror suspect.
In any event, there is little doubt that as of 2015, Israel has continued to torture people held in its custody — mostly Arabs, but on rare occasion also Jewish Israelis.
- See the main article on Apartheid
Israel has long been accused of being an apartheid state.. Many supporters of Israel, such as American pro-Israel activist Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, reject this charge. However, the liberal Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, editorialized that the name for Netanyahu's implemented policies and stated intentions — which envision Israel holding military dominion over the occupied territories essentially in perpetuity — is apartheid, absolutely and utterly. Moreover, in January of 2016, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, stated that in Israel there are "two standards of adherence to the rule of law: one for Israelis and another for Palestinians."
Israel has passed a law declaring its capital as Jerusalem, and that is where all major Israeli governmental institutions and the Knesset (Israel's parliament) are located. However, most of the world and the UN do not recognize the law establishing all of Jerusalem as Israel's capital – this is despite the fact that West Jerusalem was Israeli since the country's founding, and only East Jerusalem was occupied in 1967, and (for obvious reasons) is where all these government institutions are. The world's embassies to Israel are mostly located in or around Tel Aviv, the largest (excluding Jerusalem) city in Israel. Calling for the American embassy to be moved to Jerusalem used to be a perennial cause for some Republican candidates who want to out-"I support Israel" each other, but the MAGA guy finally did it, and Guatemala followed suit.
Criticism vs. anti-Semitism
Many anti-Semites use what would be valid criticisms of Israel as a veil for their anti-Semitism. Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of the human rights organization T'ruah, has described some of these tactics. Some of these tactics and signs of anti-Semitism include:
- Seeing an international Jewish conspiracy
- Using code-words like "globalists" or "elites" (right-wing), or "Zionists" particularly to refer to all Israelis or all Jews (left-wing)
- Rejecting Jewish history
- Dismissing the humanity of Israelis
- Assuming that the Israeli government speaks for all Jews
- Greater Israel
- International Jewish conspiracy
- Dwight Eisenhower, the only US President who seriously stood up to Israel.
- Avner Cohen. 1998. Israel and the bomb. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0231104838.
- Roughly 80% of those living within the 1967 border lines. The biggest minorities are (in descending order) Muslim Arabs, Christian Arabs, Druze, and various smaller groups.
- Many may have very justifiedly believed that they were literally fighting for their lives, which tends to engender a bigger fighting spirit then having to conquer some land for no real reason than the boss saying so
- though the banned party certainly deserved banning, some of the Arab parties and politicians are no better when you get down to it
- North Korea was a signatory by withdrew in 2003, so is effectively another non-signer.
- Though Israel's official policy is one of "nuclear opacity", i.e. the stupid CIA game of "neither confirm nor deny"
- See the Wikipedia article on Khartoum Resolution.
- See the Wikipedia article on Ze'ev Jabotinsky.
- See the Wikipedia article on White Paper of 1939.
- See the Wikipedia article on Lehi (militant group).
- International Terrorism: Image and Reality by Noam Chomsky http://www.chomsky.info/articles/199112--02.htm
- Wm. Roger Louis, "The British Empire in the Middle East, 1945–1951: Arab Nationalism, the United States, and Postwar Imperialism", (New York, 1984), p. 445
- Bar-Zohar, Michael "Ben-Gurion: A Biography" (New York, 1978), p. 162
- See the Wikipedia article on PLO § Terrorist activities.
- see here for an example
- "Israeli woman refuses ultra-Orthodox dictate to move to back of bus", Haaretz 12 December 2011
- See the Wikipedia article on LGBT rights in Israel.
- Israel's Mixed Marriage Controversy: How Low Have We Sunk?, Haaretz, 18 August 2014
- See the Wikipedia article on Marriage in Israel.
- Avner Cohen. Israel and the bomb. Columbia University Press, New York, 1998.
- "Israeli misconduct during border conflict with Syria was to a large extent responsible for the process of escalation that evolved into the May-June 1967 crisis. . . . The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] command was not too worried about an Egyptian surprise attack. . . . Most observers seem to agree that Nasser did not want a war." Maoz, Zeev "Defending the Holy Land: A critical analysis of Israel’s security and foreign policy" (Ann Arbor: 2006), pp. 36, 82-93 (1967).
- Israel condemns Iranian threats, BBC
- New York Times' text of the speech
- The State: Legislature: The Knesset
- The State: Elections
- The Electoral System in Israel
- Israeli Democracy-How does it work
- THE STATE: The Presidency
- The Israeli law regulating the formation of political parties
- Definition of "Mifleget Madaf" (shelf party)
- Likud, on the Knesset's website
- Kach, on the Knesset's website
- See here and here.
- With Syria ablaze, dozens of Golan Heights Druze seek Israeli citizenship
- Young Druze seek Israeli citizenship as Syrian crisis worsens
- Compare: Young Druze seek Israeli citizenship as Syrian crisis worsens "As young Druze complain that the process is long and difficult, it remains to be seen how many will gain Israeli citizenship. Out of this year's 100 applications, only 15 have been successful so far, according to Neven Abu Saleh. Officials from the Interior Ministry could not provide information on the process or its requirements at the time of publication."
- "Israel admits torture," BBC, 9 February 2000
- "ABSOLUTE PROHIBITION, The Torture and Ill-treatment of Palestinian Detainees" B'Tselem, May 2007
- "Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories Annual Report 2012" Amnesty International, 2013
- "Torture and ill-treatment as perceived by Israel’s High Court of Justice" B'Tselem, 1 Jan 2011
- How to tell when criticism of Israel is actually anti-Semitism: Calling out human rights violations shouldn’t stray into bias against Jews. by Jill Jacobs (May 18, 2018) The Washington Post.