In the last weeks of 2018, I delivered a new lecture in the Czech Republic and the Netherlands entitled “Israeli Politics Decoded”.
The talk begins with a 20-minute introduction to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Dozens of parties run for power in Israel, and double digits get in to the legislature – although not always the same ones every time. How can we predict the results of the next national elections – set to be held April 9 – unless we understand the current balance of power?
Here I use data visualization tools to present official Israeli government data and other professional polling results. What emerges from this numerical analysis is a medium-resolution snapshot of the Israeli electorate that is comprehensible to outsiders, recognizable to locals, and useful for analysts.
This 20-minute segment, “Israeli Parliament Decoded”, can be shared independently as a stand-alone piece of data journalism. I created a separate video of me delivering only this content, shot at my November 28 lecture at Charles University in Prague.
As with the rest of my slideshows, this talk recalled crucial news events to occur here in the past year, but which went under-reported.
But in this lecture, I also take the time to unpack a super-sensitive topic that sits at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but is often avoided altogether, or else minimized in importance.
‘Israeli Politics Decoded’ probes delicate territory, asking the question: What is Judaism, the Jewish religion? How have Jewish beliefs and practices changed over time? And how do these beliefs and practices affect relations between Jews and Palestinians, now and in the future?
Certainly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be considered in the context of settler-colonialism, and this likely explains many of the dynamics at play here in the past century-plus.
But when Israel’s current chief rabbi calls black people ‘monkeys’ and rules that non-Jews aren’t allowed to even live in the land, save as subjects of a vassal religion, as servants to Jews – and that chief rabbi then retains his prestigious and powerful title, as well as his hefty state salary – then it is high time we asked some serious questions about that state-sponsored version of Judaism he speaks for.
As I explain in the lecture, Jews of all types, secular and religious, in Israel and abroad, have openly rejected these racist rulings, in word and in deed. But unless we understand how much power these racist rabbis wield, what their endgame is, and how they hope to make it happen, we will remain profoundly ignorant about the second-most-powerful political camp in the country – at our own peril.
‘Israeli Politics Decoded’ presents the audience with no easy answers, but judging from the acute interest it generated on tour in Europe, it may make for a compelling analysis of the situation in Israel and Palestine under Netanyahu and Trump.
Enjoy this video of the full 100-minute version of the ‘Israeli Politics Decoded’ lecture, as I performed it on 12 December 2018 at the De Balie cultural center in Amsterdam.