With Akiva Eldar, the Facts Are a Minority

Ha’aretz‘s Akiva Eldar takes manipulation of facts and figures to new heights in order to deceive his readers that the Government of Israel has acknowledged that Jews have become a minority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. While the government has, in fact, done no such thing, Ha’aretz has yet again given Israel’s haters cause for celebration.

In his article yesterday (“The Jewish majority is history“), Eldar manipulates selective and distorted figures to promote his worldview. Not only did he deceive Ha’aretz‘s readers, but his irresponsible article has spread like wildfire across the Internet, fueling the war of lies against Israel. The subheadline on the English print edition of the article underscores that the government’s admission (which never was) boosts Eldar’s agenda:

The online subheadline is particularly shocking:

Let’s try to lay out Eldar’s false claim, which is based on an item which appeared several days earlier in The Marker, a financial newspaper published by Ha’aretz, regarding the Export Promotion Law. According to this law, a factory is eligible for tax benefits intended to promote exports if at least 25 percent of its income stemmed from sales in markets of at least 12 million residents. Approximately one week ago, the Ministry of Finance sought to revise the law and increase the threshold to 14 milllion residents. Why? Because, wrote Eldar, the population of Israel together with the Palestinian Authority has already reached 12 million people, and therefore manufacturers who sell only to the local market are eligible for the aforementioned tax benefit even though it was not intended for them.

At this point, Eldar cites a figure from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), that there are 5.9 million Jews living under Israeli rule. Using basic math, Eldar calculates that the rest of the population totals 6.1 million. In conclusion, given that the CBS is subordinate to the Prime Minister’s Office, the government acknowledges that Jews are the minority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

The Falsehood

Apparently, Eldar did not at all read the Ministry of Finance’s memorandum upon which he relied. He wrote:

A Ministry of Fiance memorandum on the amendment to the law notes that in 2011 the population of Israel and the Palestinian Authority exceeded the 12 million mark, which enables manufacturers who market to these consumers to enjoy a tax break.

This is an outright falsehood. The memorandum, which can be read (in Hebrew) here, does not at all refer to the population of Israel or the Palestinian Authority and does not mention its number of residents, Jews or Arabs. The relevant excerpt from the memorandum follows:

Since Amendment 60 went into affect, more than seven years ago, the law has not been revised despite the increase in the world’s population and its markets.

It is recommended to amend clause 18a  of the law and to determine what will constitute a manufacturer which contributes to the economic independence of the national economy and a competitor for the local product if 25 percent or more of its income from the manufacturer’s sales in the tax year are to a certain market of at least 14 million residents.

It is also recommended to establish a mechanism to automatically update the number of residents that constitute a substantial market, of 2 percent per year, in accordance with the world’s population growth rate. (Emphases added.)

In other words, the Ministry of Finance is concerned with the growth of the world’s population, not with Israel’s population. Moreover, the number 12 million does not even appear in the entire memorandum. It only appears in Hila Raz’s item in The Marker:

Since 2011 the population in Israel and the Palestinian Authority has surpassed the threshold of 12 million residents, and so an Israeli industrialist who sells to these populations is entitled to enjoy the tax benefit.

That is not a figure from the Ministry of Finance. It is an unsubstantiated claim by The Marker reporter. And Eldar has turned it into an official, governmental statistic.

Manipulation 1

Eldar then manipulates a real statistic. He writes:

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (which is subordinate to the Prime Minister’s Office), of the 12 million residents living under Israel rule, the number of Jews is just under 5.9 million (as of April 25).

This is a manipulation given that the figure 12 million does not appear in the April 25 CBS press release (Hebrew only). Again, this is a figure that Eldar pulled from The Marker. Eldar’s wording implies that the CBS (which is subordinate to the Prime Minister’s Office) also endorses this figure. And yet, it never did.

Manipulation 2

Eldar preempts the question that inevitably arises: Are Gaza’s residents also included in the 12 million? He writes:

There will certainly be those who argue that the 12 million includes the residents of the Gaza Strip, which Israel evacuated, and that I should have deducted 1.5 million people from the number of non-Jewish residents. But the 12 million, which does happen to include the residents of th e Gaza Strip, is an official figure appearing on Ministry of Finance stationary. If this population “is not considered” for purposes of the demographic balance, the Finance Ministry should be so kind to deduct it from the limit for receiving the tax breaks and from the balance of its income.

As we have already shown, there is no “official figure appearing on Ministry of Finance stationary,” and therefore his convolutions in the above paragraph are absurd. The fact that he engages in logical acrobatics underscores the fact that even he can’t take seriously his attempt to include Gaza residents among those “living under Israeli rule,” as he puts it.

To summarize, Akiva Eldar took an unsubstantiated figure which appeared in The Marker (12 million residents from the Jordan River to the sea) and attributed this figure to the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bureau of Statistics, two governmental bodies, despite the fact that neither of them mentioned the figure. And, based on these journalistic acrobatics, we have the false headline “The government’s acknowledgement that Jews are a minority in this land. . . ”
And what about this figure of 12 million? According to the CIA’s World Factbook, some 1.7 million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip, and another 2.3 million live in the West Bank. Another 1.6 million Arabs and 327,000 other non-Jews live in Israel proper (according to the April 25 CBS press release that Eldar cites.) If we count only those non-Jews living under Israeli rule (meaning in Israel and the West Bank), we reach 4.2 million. (And this figure does not take into account that the vast majority of the West Bank Palestinian population lives in Area A, or entirely under Palestinian Authority rule.) Moreover, even if we do add in the 1.7 Gaza Palestinians, who clearly do not “liv[e] under Israeli rule,” we reach only 5.9 million non-Jews — the same size population as the Israeli Jewish population living in Israel, plus Judea and Samaria, or the West Bank. Yet, it should be noted that Palestinian population figures are in dispute. Those cited here are the maximalist figures. Critics such as Israeli Yoram Ettinger put the Palestinian West Bank figure much lower, at 1.6 million.
The Magic Word: Apartheid
Why did Eldar invest so much effort into manipulating this data? The answer appears in the online subheadline, which posits that even the Israeli government acknowledges that “apartheid is here.” Appealing to the most rabid anti-Israel activists, Ha’aretz pulls the “apartheid” genie out of the bottle, all by relying on an incorrect, unsubstantiated figure falsely attributed to the government. Ha’aretz knows precisely for whom they are writing overseas, and Eldar knows how to deliver.
For the Hebrew version of this article, please visit Presspectiva.
Oct. 23 Clarification: In the original post, the Presspectiva/CAMERA calculation for the number of non-Jews did not take into account 327,000 “others” (non-Jews, non-Arabs) counted by the Central Bureau of Statistics. The post has been amended to reflect that number.
Oct. 23 Update: Minority Report: Akiva Eldar Responds

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