The Zionist Conspiracy
Monday, May 03, 2004
Sloppy Reporting in TNR
Janine Zacharia does some very poor reporting and analysis in an online column in today's New Republic. Zacharia, who is also the Jerusalem Post's Washington correspondent, wrote about yesterday's Likud referendum.
Zacharia repeatedly got her facts wrong about the referendum:
1. Zacharia wrote: "Of those eligible, only 40 percent voted, or roughly 77,000 Israelis." In fact, it was 51.6%, or 99,652 Israelis.
2. She wrote: "One hundred percent of Gaza settlers participated in the vote, while in Tel Aviv suburbs like Ramat Gan and Petah Tikva only 38 percent cast ballots." This suggests that all adult members in Gaza voted, which is extremely misleading. Only a few hundred Gaza residents are Likud members and only they were eligible to vote. So the total vote from Gaza had no real effect on the result, in which Sharon lost by 20,000 votes. And furthermore, even in Gaza some voted for the plan. Indeed, in the settlement of Alei Sinai, the vote was split 50/50, 26 for and 26 against.
3. Contrary to Zacharia's implication, even in secular liberal cities, there was large opposition to the Sharon plan. In Tel Aviv, the vote against was 57.5%, while in Haifa, supporters edged opponents by just a few votes, with a 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent margin.
And most interestingly, in Israel's "development towns," which the media has claimed suffers because of funds that go to settlements. an overwhelming majority rejected the Sharon plan. In Sderot and Ofakim, 73 and 69 percent, respectively, supported the settlers.
As Daniel Ben Simon writes in today's Haaretz: "For the first time, the referendum pitted the settlers against the development towns. It was a battle everyone had been waiting for. For years the parties had fanned emotions on both sides, waiting to see them climb into the ring. When they did, the unbelievable happened - the two sectors fell into each others arms like family."
4. Zacharia claims that "an election decided by a far-right subset that makes up 2 percent of Israeli voters doesn't say much about where the country stands" since "polls have consistently shown that a majority of Israelis back the disengagement plan."
Labeling the majority of Likud members as "a far-right subset" is simply inaccurate. Most are pragmatists who would support territorial compromise if Israel had something to gain. And as for polls indicating that a majority of Israelis support the Sharon plan, none have been taken in months. Those that were taken a few months ago - such as this February Maariv poll that indicated support for Gaza withdrawal by a 52-36 percent margin - are no longer relevant. After all, as Zacharia writes, just weeks ago polls - such as an April 15 Dahaf poll indicating Likud support for Sharon by a 54-32 percent margin - showed that Likud members overwhelmingly supported the Sharon plan, and were obviously proven wrong. And besides, in December, another poll showed that 51 percent of Israelis opposed a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, with just 37 percent in support.
5. This doesn't stop Zacharia from stating that "the only voters this weekend were perhaps the most hawkish 2 percent of the Israeli electorate" and that Sharon therefore achieved a victory by convincing 40 percent of that purportedly fanatical group to support withdrawal.
Of course, this is nonsense. There are a number of political parties to the right of Likud, including the National Religious Party, which holds six Knesset seats, and National Union, which has seven. Members of those parties were, of course, ineligible to vote in the Likud referendum. So were Shas party members - who tend to hold political views far to the right of their party's leadership, as well as members of United Torah Judaism, which has also moved to the right.
Zacharia's notion that Likud and its members are extremists is especially off base given that Likud holds 40 Knesset seats, despite the fact that only 4 percent of the electorate are party members. Obviously, in the 2003 elections massive numbers of Israelis rejected Zacharia's thinking.