Saturday, October 22, 2005

Misrepresentations of Israel

By Steven Plaut
Middle East Quarterly | October 4, 2005

Daniel Bar-Tal and Yona Teichman,
Stereotypes and Prejudice in Conflict: Representations of Arabs in Israeli Society,"
Cambridge University Press, 483 pages

If you are of the opinion that stereotypes dictate and determine all of human achievement and conflict, if you believe that psychobabble offers the most promising way out of the Middle East conflict, then this book is a must for you.

Both authors are professors of psychology at Tel Aviv University and have worked for many years on studying "stereotypes." There is an enormous literature in sociology and psychology on stereotyping in general and in textbooks and the media in particular. Much of it is cited in this tedious book, which contains a reference list that is nearly 50 pages long.

The book's thesis goes something like this. Whatever the past causes of the Middle East conflict, today the violence and conflict are being perpetuated by the fact that stereotypes of the "other" are common, inculcated by the schools and the media. The only stereotypes that matter are those held by Jews concerning Arabs. The authors' evidence of widespread racist stereotypes of Arabs held by Jews? Mainly it is studies of drawings of Arabs made by pre-schoolers or very young Jewish children, plus some tendentious parsing of the Israeli media.

Now the real problem in this book is that it has a thinly-disguised political agenda and its bias shows up everywhere. There is no serious evidence that "stereotypes" affect economic achievement and success. While citing negative stereotypes about Chinese held by Americans (p.41) the authors forget to note the phenomenal educational and economic success by Chinese Americans, who out-earn whites. There is no evidence that all those "reverse stereotypes" ubiquitously found in politically-corrected textbooks, about women lumberjacks, Jewish hockey players and Cherokee nuclear scientists, have had any impact on social mobility. The authors use the term "ethnocentric" as a synonym for ethnic, and anyone identifying themselves as belonging to an ethnic group must suffer from "ethnocentricity", especially if they are Jews.

The authors consider stereotypes as racist and evidence of intolerance, never mind how true they are. The fact that nearly all Palestinians endorse suicide bombers should not be regarded as legitimate empirical grounds for Israelis drawing conclusions about the savagery of most Palestinians. The fact that almost all Israeli Arabs vote for pro-violence anti-Zionist Arab political parties having Stalinist or fascist orientation should not serve as empirical evidence for any conclusions regarding Israeli Arabs held by Jews. The authors use "prejudice" and "stereotypes" interchangeably, but what happens when an ethnic group actually exhibits certain traits? The willingness to dismiss all group characterizations as "stereotypes" proves that the authors suffer from an acute prejudice regarding such things.

More generally, the authors hold that only Jewish stereotypes about Arabs matter, citing Edward Said (p. 94). Those discussions in the Palestinian media of Jews drinking blood for Passover, poisoning Palestinian food, spreading AIDS, etc. etc. do not interest the authors. Not a single cartoon drawn by a Palestinian child of a Jew is included in the book. It is only Jewish stereotyping of Arabs that is an obstacle to peace, not Palestinian textbooks and radio stations calling for genocide of Jews. And the fact that pre-schoolers might hold stereotype images about EVERYTHING in their toddler world, from teachers to tricycles, has not occurred to the authors, who never examine any pre-schooler drawings about anything besides Arabs. The scientific evidence that pre-school cartoons signal emerging racist attitudes in adults is that the authors believe this to be true.

And while the learned duo were out the parsing Israeli media (under the near-totalitarian hegemony of Israel's far-Left, by the way) and schoolbooks, they just never got around to examining which OTHER stereotypes were being inculcated purposely there, such as about Orthodox Jews, Jewish settlers, kibbutzniks, homosexuals, environmentalists, etc.

The bias is not surprising. While Teichman seems to be blessedly uninvolved politically, Bar-Tal is smack in the center of Israel's Far Left, as seen in such things as his joining the anti-Zionist fringe in signing his name to political petitions, including one calling for international armed intervention in the Middle East conflict to impose a settlement on Israel, or one condemning Israel for using arms against "unarmed demonstrators."[1] Bar-Tal has written for the anti-Semitic far-Leftist web magazine "Counterpunch", blaming Ariel Sharon there for the current violence and justifying Palestinian terrorism.[2] Bar-Tal's work is commonly cited as "evidence" that Israelis are racists, including by scores of Bash-Israel and anti-Semitic web sites and even in the UN's anti-Zionist Report on Racism and Xenophobia.[3]

Most of the "findings" in the book are old hat. Other previous studies making essentially the same arguments about Israeli schoolbooks include Adir Cohen's An Ugly Face in the Mirror, articles by Hebrew University's Eli Podeh,[4] the "Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace",[5] and quite a
few earlier articles by Bar-Tal or Teichman themselves.

One indication of the bias in the book is that the PLO's official web site sings its praises for proving how racist Israelis are.

Notes:

[1] http://oznik.com/petitions/010427signers.html

[2] http://www.counterpunch.org/bartal0422.html

[3]
http://www.unhchr.ch/Huridocda/Huridoca.nsf/0/
d96d50d790ad4a47c1256b760047dac7?Opendocument

[4] http://www.teachkidspeace.com/doc213.php

[5] http://www.teachkidspeace.com/doc210.php

Here`s the link.

Cross-posted at IsraPundit

Friday, October 14, 2005

Quote from "A Middle Eastern hub of innovation and enterprise" in Britain`s Telegraph from the 2nd of October

"Luke Johnson (Filed: 02/10/2005)

One of the more astonishing economies is Israel. This small Middle Eastern state has reinvented itself in the past 15 years as an extraordinary hub of innovation - despite the Palestinian conflict.

The roots of its economic success lie in its connections to America and its significant industrial-military strength. Almost a quarter of its workforce are graduates, many of them scientists, engineers or technicians. Others were educated in the US and Russia or are graduates of the Israel Defence Forces.

They are reaping the benefits of substantial military research and development budgets in civilian life. There are strong ties between business, the armed forces and academia and this has fostered a remarkable number of start-ups.

The US software, telecoms and electronics industries have invested heavily in Israel. IBM, Motorola, Intel, Microsoft, Cisco, HP and Applied Materials have pumped billions into plants and R&D facilities, taking advantage of tax breaks and a skilled workforce. Their confidence - and capital - have stimulated hundreds of spin-off ventures which have transformed Israel.

America also taught Israel the importance of venture capital. Today it has 80 local VC funds which manage more than $10bn. This is the second largest pool of such risk capital in the world - in a nation with fewer than 7m people.

Each year for the past six years more than $1bn has been invested in Israeli technology companies. This funding has fuelled more than 1,000 businesses in areas such as mobile telecoms, computer software, semiconductors and internet security.

Moreover, Israelis have learned how to tap money abroad. There are more than 70 Israeli companies quoted on Nasdaq. And increasing numbers of businesses raising investment in London have Israeli connections.

Empire Online, the internet gambling company recently in talks with PartyGaming, and 888.com, which went public this week at a value of almost £600m, were both founded and controlled by Israeli entrepreneurs. Remittances from foreign supporters are vital for the country.

Meanwhile, several of the leading Russian oligarchs are Jews who have invested heavily in Israel and have close connections with the country.

Indeed, rapid immigration of more than 1m mostly highly qualified, ambitious Jews from the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s provided a considerable stimulus to Israel - as well as boosting its population by more than 20 per cent.

The economy has shrugged off a sharp decline in tourism, a stagnant agricultural sector and the high costs of terrorism, and grown at rates of up to 6 per cent annually in recent times. GDP per capita at $19,000 is now higher than Spain, Portugal or New Zealand.

The high-tech boom commenced in Israel with the formation of the government-sponsored Yozma programme in 1993. This channelled investment into early-stage technology companies.

Since then a number of world-beating technology businesses have been established, including Checkpoint, a leader in enterprise network security; Teva, a giant in generic drugs; Amdocs, a pioneer in phone billing systems, Converse, a big noise in voicemail systems, and various companies such as ICQ, Audiocodes and Vocaltec which specialise in internet utilities such as instant messaging and internet telephony.

But money is not the only thing that has inspired Israel's development. Its talented people also have an appetite for risk. Israel is yet another example of a small nation which has outperformed much larger countries endowed with far greater natural resources: Singapore, Ireland and Switzerland are other cases in point. Each demonstrates that intellectual capital is the most important asset any state can possess.

What is remarkable is that Israel was founded in 1948 as a socialist republic, and that the government still controls more than 45 per cent of the economy - even though this proportion is declining..."

• Luke Johnson is chairman of Channel 4 and Giraffe