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Thursday, January 25, 2007

7th Herzliya Conference: Prof. Ephraim Yaar 0 Israeli patriotism

The 7th Herzliya Conference > Lecture Summaries
Prof. Ephraim Yaar, Head, Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution, Tel
Aviv University

I wish to start by making two comments about the term "patriotism". My first
comment is that patriotism is a sensitive term, which rouses both positive
and negative feelings. When I look at the patriotism phenomenon as an
academic and not only as a citizen, I think that  precisely because of the
controversy surrounding the term of patriotism, it is essential that we
examine it in the most  objective and academic way possible. My second
comment is that patriotism is an abstract term, exactly like liberalism and
democracy, and no wonder that academics cannot agree on its definition. But
I believe that on the basic intuitive level, we all understand what
patriotism is all about.

Even in Israeli terms, the past year was very intensive, and posed many
challenges for Israeli society. For this reason, the "Patriotism Survey" has
become even more important this year, because it can be compared to the
survey which was initiated last year. The basic assumption underlying this
survey is that the strength of the state cannot be assessed without
addressing the patriotic component of its citizens. Thus there is an
essential and immediate need for comprehensive assessment of Israeli
patriotism in order to understand the moral.

The conclusions which arise from the survey carry both good and bad
messages, and we will have to cope with that. The good message is that
despite of the difficult events of the past year, events which include not
only the Lebanese war but also other difficult events such as the
Disengagement Plan, not only did the degree of patriotism of Jewish public
not weaken, the emotional affinity to the state even strengthened. I will
refer to the patriotism issue in the Arab public separately, and I agree
with Prof. Rubinstein that we cannot relate the Arab and Jewish public the
same in regard to Israeli patriotism.

The bad message is an unprecedented decline was measured in regard to the
public's confidence in the government and the Knesset. Previous researches
that I made have shown that the public's confidence in governmental
institutes wasn't high before, but now it has reached its lowest point.
Moreover, there is steep decline in the confidence in the defense forces,
which have always enjoyed a high level of support. There is complete
contradiction between the high assessment of the steadfastness of the
civilian population, and the low estimation of the leadership. The public
draws a line between the society and the state, especially the leadership.
The public says - we are patriotic, we love our country, don't get us
involved in your failures, and we need to rectify the situation. Because of
the public's emotional attachment to the Israeli state, there is a need to
handle the crisis. I use the word "crisis" because it refers to a structural
problem. Today the situation is more severe than it was after Yom Kippur
War, since back then the criticism was related to what happened before the
war, but today there is a breach in confidence. The importance of the survey
findings derive from this crisis.

I would like to present some of the empirical findings, which will support
all I have said till now:

A significant majority defines themselves as patriotic Isrealis (67%),
similar to number last year. In international perspective, we are not the
most patriotic but we in a good place in the middle. The percentage of the
patriots in Israel is quite similar to percentage in the United states and a
few European countries.

Also there is almost full consensus in regard to the values and activities
that express patriotism. The overwhelming majority of the Jewish public
declares it would be ready to go to battle if required to do so. The Jewish
public also attributes great importance to the Hebrew language, Jerusalem,
living in Israel and the love of the land of Israel.

More than 80% of the Jewish public are proud to be Israelis. The Jews are
most proud of the scientific and technological achievements and achievements
in arts and literature. These are achievements that made by talented
individuals or by non-governmental bodies as universities and research
institutes. On the other hand, it is less proud of the government and the
Knesset, to put it mildly.

The most significant decline was recorded in the level of pride in the
security forces. Nevertheless, they stand in the third place in the ladder
of pride. They haven't experienced the same erosion as the government and
the Knesset have. Last year, 88% were proud of them, compared to 64% today.

An important dimension of patriotism is rootedness, and the rootedness of
the Jewish public is indeed very strong. 89% prefer the Israeli citizenship
more than any other citizenship. 87% will encourage their children to live
in Israel. But the strength of affinity for Israeli citizenship and the
desire to encourage the kids to live in Israel eroded in 7% approximately.
77% are not willing to move and live in another country. Among those who are
ready to give positive consideration to leaving, two principal motives were
found for emigration from Israel: the economic situation and the security

I want to refer to the Arab public briefly. It's essential to understand
that the Arab minority is in a unique situation. Therefore, no wonder that
there is an increase in Palestinian patriotism. But the Arab population
prefers first and foremost to identify itself as an Arab patriot. But we
cannot ignore the fact that in certain area, 30%-40% are loyal to the state
of Israel as a democracy, and for it provides higher standard of living than
the Arabs countries. This minority cannot be ignored. It's a silent
minority, that its viewpoints weren't reflected in the "Future vision of the
Arab Palestinians in Israel". I belong to those who believe that although
the disparity between the Jewish and Arabs communities is understandable,
since it's a ethnic, national, religious and cultural split, we shall not
give up and dismiss ourselves from doing something to reduce the gap.

Paradoxically, the Lebanon war affected the Jewish residents of Haifa and
the North more positively than the residents in other regions of Israel. The
residents of Haifa and the North are more patriotic, and their emotional
attachment to the state strengthened to a greater extent. It congregates
with what Prof. Rubinstein said - when you threaten a society, you
contribute to increasing its level of cohesion.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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