Position Papers

Article 10, November 2017

Deconstruction Balfour: The Declaration at 100
Paul Scham

If you follow news concerning Israel, it’s been pretty hard to miss the spate of anniversaries that are being celebrated this year and next.  The next one, coming up on Nov. 2, is ‘Balfour Day,’ the date in 1917 on which British foreign Minister Arthur James Balfour sent his famous letter to Lord Rothschild, known forever after as the Balfour Declaration.  In the undergraduate course I teach every year on the conflict, I parse every sentence and demonstrate how how a lot is packed into those 67 words.


 Article 9, August 2017

The Development of Hebrew Teaching and Israel Studies in China
Yang Yang

The development of Hebrew teaching and Israel Studies in China reflects an important aspect of China-Israel relations. Since the initiation of the Hebrew program at Peking University 32 years ago, Chinese universities have witnessed two waves of opening such programs. With the recent unveiling of the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative by President Xi Jinping and the encouragement by the Chinese government of research in area and country studies, Israel Studies is becoming a grow­ing field in China’s academic range of country studies. A new generation of young Chinese schol­ars of Israel Studies is maturing and will gradually become more active in academic ex­changes with their counterparts from all over the world to further promote Israel Studies in China.


 Article 8, October 2014

Fatah and Hamas: A Marriage of Necessity
Shlomi Eldar

No one believed that Palestinian Unity Government of June 2014 was the inevitable outcome of a surreptitious love affair between Fatah and Hamas. For the Hamas leadership in Gaza and the Gulf, and for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, or Abu Mazen as he is more commonly known, it was a last ditch effort to survive the tidal wave of changes washing over the Middle East.


Article 7, February 2013

What do they mean when they say “Haredim must share the burden?”
Sever Plotzker

For those who are not proficient in Israel’s esoteric political terminology, it sounds pretty simple: The Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) sector is living comfortably in Israel at the expense of the secular population. While young non-Haredi citizens give several years of the life to service in the Israel Defense Forces, young Haredi citizens exempt from military service accrue money and advance their careers.

The perception is that Haredi public is celebrating while the secular public is financing the celebrations. So it is only logical that the time has come to take from the Haredim and give to the non-Haredim. Is this really the case? We all know that it is not.


Article 6, January 2013

Israel Isn’t Isolated
Gabriel Scheinmann

Sheinmann challenges the conventional wisdom that Israel is becoming internationally isolated amid continued settlement expansion in the West Bank, the failure of the peace negotiations to resume, and Israel’s most recent military operation in the Gaza, Pillar of Defense. Quite the contrary, Israel has never been more integrated in the global economy and international institutions. Israel has established diplomatic relations with 70 countries, serves on the executive boards of the UN Development Program and UNICEF, and has conducted joint military exercises with Greece, Poland, Italy, and the United States.


Article 5, November 2011

Israel and the Apartheid Slander
Richard J. Goldstone, former justice of the South African Constitutional Court

The Palestinian Authority’s request for full United Nations membership has put hope for any two-state solution under increasing pressure. The need for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians has never been greater. So it is important to separate legitimate criticism of Israel from assaults that aim to isolate, demonize and delegitimize it.

One particularly pernicious and enduring canard that is surfacing again is that Israel pursues “apartheid” policies. In Cape Town starting on Saturday, a London-based nongovernmental organization called the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will hold a “hearing” on whether Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid. It is not a “tribunal.” The “evidence” is going to be one-sided and the members of the “jury” are critics whose harsh views of Israel are well known.


Article 4, December 2010

Israel’s Existential Predicament: Population, Territory, and Identity
Dr. Sergio DellaPergola | Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Preface by Dr. Paul Scham | Executive Director of the Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies, UMD

The following article, by one of Israel’s most eminent demographers, gives a succinct yet comprehensive summary of the current demographic issues and figures in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  As he notes, demography is a prime concern in the conflict, and is a major element in how Israelis regard the options available for its resolution.

Several years ago the “demographic issue” was particularly widely discussed in Israel, as Israelis contemplated the imminent prospect of Jews becoming a minority in “historic Palestine”.  By contrast, more recently there have been claims that Palestinian population figures are inflated and that the demographic fears of a few years ago were overblown.  Without staking out a political position, Professor Della Pergola uses the most up-to-date and reliable statistics to give an accurate, non-partisan, and unbiased overview of the demographic situation today.


Article 3, December 2010

The Kibbutz at One Hundred
by Dr. Aviva Halamish | Head of Modern History Studies, The Open University of Israel

The Kibbutz is one of the most impressive accomplishments of Zionism, widely recognized as an extraordinary human, social and economic achievement. The imprint of the Kibbutz has been recognized and appreciated both in Israel and around the world.  The word “Kibbutz” is itself one of the best-known Hebrew words in univer­sal discourse, and can be found in many dictionaries in other languages.

Degania, the “Mother of the Collective Settlements” (“Em ha-Kvutzot“), was established in 1910 by a handful of young men and women; one hundred years later there are about 270 Kibbutzim all over the country with about 120,000 Kibbutz members and their children, comprising less than 2% of Israel’s population (compared to 7% in 1948). Figures and statistics aside, the impact of the Kibbutz on Jewish society in Mandatory Palestine until 1948 and on the State of Israel since then has always far exceeded its numerical size in both absolute and relative terms.


Article 2, Summer 2010

Israel at 62
Dr. Yoram Peri | Director of the Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies, University of Maryland

Independence Day in Israel is always marked by a news media outpouring of reviews of the year. It is a reliably upbeat affair replete with heartening economic statistics and the good deeds of upstanding citizens. The 62nd anniversary of Israel’s founding this past April was in many ways no different. Certainly there was much to celebrate. Compared with previous years, this one was relatively quiet. Only two Israeli civilians (and one foreign worker) were killed by terrorists, and, thanks to Israel’s incursion— amid international condemnation—into the Gaza Strip little more than a year earlier, residents in nearby communities were no longer forced to sleep in shelters to avoid the steady rain of rockets once launched by Hamas militants. The northern Galilee was teeming with tourists, the cafés and cinemas were packed with customers, and many establishments no longer bothered to employ security guards to check entering patrons.

The economy has been growing briskly for years; Israel barely lost a step in the global financial crisis, handily outperforming the United States and Europe. On a pound-perpound basis, Israel is hard to match as a center of innovation and creativity, as the current bestseller about the country, Start-Up Nation, well illustrates. (See the article by the book’s authors, Dan Senor and Saul Singer, on p. 62.) Israel ranks third in the world in the output of scientific articles per capita, and Israeli companies are the number-one foreign presence on America’s technology-dominated NASDAQ stock exchange. Thank the Israelis for USB plugs and countless other indispensable pieces of modern technology. Even their cows are winners, outproducing American and European animals by wide margins.


Article 1, January 2010

A Linguistic Analysis of the 2002 / 2007 Arab Peace Initiative Documents
Ilai Alon | Department of Philosophy, Tel Aviv University

The phrasing of the Arab peace initiative of 2002, which has been endorsed by the 2003 Teheran summit of the organization of Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers and by the 2007 Beirut summit meeting of the Arab League, supports the rationale for its acceptance by Israel.

In 1981 King Fahd of Saudi Arabia came up with his peace plan, which in 2002 was endorsed by the Arab League. Four years later even HAMAS expressed readiness to consider accepting the initiative (al-Sharq al-Awsat, 8/2/06). However, it is important to note that according to one of the Initiative’s first promoters, Marwan Muashir, neither the initiative at large nor its details were accepted easily by all Arab countries, and that side by side with the new style of the 2002 Press Release on the Arab Peace Initiative, documents containing the old one were published at the same summit meeting.