Tuesday, September 10, 2019

September Madness 2019: Guide to the parties

(Crossposted to Jewschool)

September Madness 2019 is still open!  You can enter this prediction contest up until 11:59 pm Israel Summer Time (4:59 pm EDT) on Monday, September 16, 2019 (the night before the election).  Once again, here is a guide to the 31 parties running in this election (down from 32 when we got started – Zehut has dropped out after making a deal with Likud).  And here are the full lists of candidates in Hebrew (official) and English (unofficial).

Parties represented in the current Knesset:
  • Blue and White: This list (composed of two new parties and one existing party) was formed for the April 2019 election as an anyone-but-Bibi big tent, and was successful in that election, winning 35 seats (same as the Likud).  They’re hoping to replicate that success by running the same list of candidates again, with Benny Gantz (of Hosen L’Yisrael) at the top, followed by Yair Lapid (of Yesh Atid) and Moshe Ya’alon (of Telem).
  • Democratic Camp: Meretz (now led by Nitzan Horowitz, who defeated Tamar Zandberg in the leadership primary this summer) is hoping to build a larger faction on the left by joining forces with the Green Movement (led by Stav Shaffir, who recently left the Labor party) and the Israel Democratic Party (a new party led by former prime minister Ehud Barak).
  • Joint List: This union of 3 Arab parties from across the spectrum (Balad, Ta’al, and the United Arab List) and one left-wing Arab-Jewish party (Hadash) was created for the 2015 election, but then split into two lists for the April 2019 election, and has now reunited.  Once again, it is led by Ayman Odeh of Hadash.
  • Labor / Gesher: After dropping to a record-low 6 seats in the April 2019 election, the Labor party has brought back former leader Amir Peretz, and joined with the Gesher party (led by Orly Levy), which failed to reach the threshold in the April election.
  • Likud: Incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying again, after tying Blue and White for the largest number of seats in the April election, but failing to form a governing coalition (leading to this do-over election).  This time, they have also reabsorbed Kulanu, the party that was headed by Moshe Kahlon (now #5 on the Likud list).
  • Shas: No drama this time – the Sephardi haredi party is running again with the same list, headed by Aryeh Deri.
  • United Torah Judaism: No drama here either – this union of the two main Ashkenazi haredi parties is also running the same list again, headed by Yaakov Litzman.
  • Yaminah: The Union of Right-Wing Parties (then composed of the Jewish Home, Tekumah, and Otzmah L’Yisrael) was elected to the Knesset in the April election, and the New Right failed to meet the threshold.  So now they have combined (except for Otzmah L’Yisrael), with Ayelet Shaked (of the New Right) at the top of the list.
  • Yisrael Beiteinu: This secular right-wing party, led by Avigdor Lieberman, had a key role in bringing about this election, by not joining the Netanyahu coalition.  They’re running again with the same list, and may hope to be similarly influential in the next round of coalition negotiations.
Parties not represented in the current Knesset:
  • Adom Lavan: Their full tagline on the ballot calls for legalization of cannabis and equality for Ethiopians, Arabs, and the disadvantaged.  As such, the names on the party list include a mix of Amharic, Arabic, and Hebrew.
  • Bible Bloc Party: A party made up of Christians, Jews, and Messianic Jews.
  • Christian Liberal Movement: (aka Ihud B’nei HaB’rit) A mostly Arab Christian party that calls for a two-state solution.
  • Democratura: A self-described socialist Zionist party that calls for a new constitution to replace the vestiges of Ottoman law, British law, etc.
  • Green Economy, One State (Da’am): An Arab-Jewish socialist party that calls for a “Green New Deal” and a one-state solution
  • HaAchdut HaAmamit: A new Arab party founded as an alternative to the Joint List (and like many breakaway parties, its name means “national unity”).
  • HaYamin HaHiloni: The “Secular Right”, founded by Tiberias mayor Ron Cobi (and accused by Yisrael Beiteinu of being a Likud plot to siphon votes away from Yisrael Beiteinu).
  • KaMaH: The name is an acronym for “Advancement of the status of the individual”, and they emphasize criminal justice reform.
  • Kavod v’Shivyon: An Arab party that calls for equal rights for all citizens.
  • Kevod HaAdam: They ran in April, and we still can’t find much information about this party, whose name means “human dignity”.  A number of the names on the candidate list sound Russian.
  • Kol Yisrael Achim: An Ethiopian-Israeli party calling for equality.
  • Manhigut Hevratit: Last time, we wrote “This party has the distinction of finishing in last place in the 2015 election, as well as the 2013 election (under the name ‘Moreshet Avot’).  They hope to break the streak this time.”  And indeed they did, finishing 5th to last!
  • Mitkademet: They are campaigning to the Russian-Israeli community as a progressive alternative to Yisrael Beiteinu.
  • Noam: A new Religious Zionist party that has been in the news for its anti-LGBT messaging.
  • Otzmah Kalkalit: They claim to represent small businesses.
  • Otzmah Yehudit: This Kahanist party was part of the Union of Right-Wing Parties last time, but is on their own this time.  Some of their candidates were banned from the election, but the party itself was not.
  • Pirates: As part of the international network of Pirate Parties, they may hope to be buoyed by the timing of the election so close to International Talk Like A Pirate Day.
  • Seder Hadash: Their main issue is to change the election system, to have Knesset members elected by geographic districts.
  • Tzafon: A regional party focused on issues facing the North.
  • Tzedek: Founded by activist Avi Yalou, who has been in the news protesting racism against Ethiopian Israelis.
  • Tzomet: This previously dormant party was brought back to life in the April election, and is now running again, emphasizing agriculture and rural interests.
  • Zechuyoteinu B’Koleinu: They also ran in April, emphasizing the working conditions of law-enforcement officers.
Good luck to everyone making predictions!!!!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Knesset September Madness 2019!

I know, it seems like we just had April Madness!  But thanks to an unprecedented second Knesset election in the same year, we're back again a few months later for our sixth Knesset prediction pool.... SEPTEMBER MADNESS 2019!!!!!

For those of you who participated in April Madness, this is going to seem repetitive, but, well, reality is seeming repetitive right now.

How to Enter: Go to the September Madness link and put in your predictions for how many seats each of the 32 parties will win.  All predictions must be non-negative integers (0 is allowed), and your predictions must add up to 120. (For reasons discussed below, it is impossible for a party to win 1 or 2 seats, and unlikely that a party will win 3 seats.  However, if you choose to hedge your bets and guess that a given party will win 1, 2, or 3 seats, that is a legal entry in the contest.) Entrance is free, but there is a suggested donation of $10 to the organization of your choice dedicated to making Israel the best it can be. (If you win, feel free to share which organization you chose and why.)  Israeli citizens are encouraged to vote in the actual election as well.

The Rules (for the real election): The 32 parties have submitted ordered lists of candidates. Here is the full list of candidates in Hebrew, and lists of the parties in Arabic and English. On election day (September 17), Israeli citizens will go to polling places in and near Israel, and vote for a party (not for individual candidates). All parties that win at least 3.25% of the vote will win seats in the Knesset, proportional to their share of the vote.  For example, suppose the Pirate Party wins 1% of the vote, Democratura wins 33%, and Adom Lavan wins 66%. Then the Pirate Party wins no seats in the Knesset (since they were below the 3.25% threshold), and the other parties will proportionally split the 120 Knesset seats: Democratura gets 40 seats (so the top 40 candidates on its list are elected), and Adom Lavan gets 80 seats. If vacancies arise later in the term, there are no special elections – the next candidate on the party’s list (e.g. #41 on the Democratura list) enters the Knesset. It is mathematically impossible for more than 30 parties to win seats in the Knesset (so at least 2 will be left out).

The Rules (for the September Madness pool): The deadline to enter is Monday, September 16, 2019, at 11:59 pm Israel Summer Time (4:59 pm EDT). When the final election results are published, each entry will receive a score based on how many Knesset seats were predicted correctly. For example, suppose the results are as in the above example (Adom Lavan 80, Democratura 40). I predicted 60 seats for Democratura, 50 for Adom Lavan, and 10 for the Bible Bloc Party. Then my score is 90, since I correctly predicted 40 seats for Democratura and 50 seats for Adom Lavan.  The entry with the highest score wins!

Ties will be broken based on two tiebreaker questions:
1) Of the parties that do NOT win seats in the Knesset, which will come closest?
2) Which party will get the FEWEST votes?

The tiebreakers will be resolved in this order: exact match on question 1; exact match on question 2; closest on question 1 (if you picked a party that DOES win seats, you’re out of consideration for this one); closest on question 2.

Sometime soon, we’ll put up a post with descriptions of all the parties and links to their websites.

Good luck!!!!

(UPDATE: Zehut has dropped out, so there are only 31 parties.)

Sunday, April 21, 2019

April Madness results!

Thanks to all who participated in April Madness 2019!

Here are the final election results:
  1. Likud 35
  2. Blue & White 35
  3. Shas 8
  4. United Torah Judaism 8
  5. Hadash-Ta'al 6
  6. Labor 6
  7. Yisrael Beiteinu 5
  8. Union of Right-Wing Parties 5
  9. Meretz 4
  10. Kulanu 4
  11. United Arab List (Ra'am)-Balad 4
  12. New Right
  13. Zehut
  14. Gesher
  15. Betach - Social Security
  16. Arab List
  17. Social Justice
  18. Magen
  19. Justice for All
  20. Tzomet
  21. Yashar
  22. Zechuyoteinu B'Koleinu
  23. Older Citizens' Party
  24. Kol Yisrael Achim / Pe'ulah L'Yisrael
  25. Pirate Party
  26. Pashut Ahavah
  27. Eretz Yisrael Shelanu
  28. Na Nach
  29. Mehatchalah
  30. Hatikvah L'Shinui
  31. Kalkalah Yerukah - Medinah Achat
  32. Education
  33. Achrayut Lameyasdim
  34. Kevod HaAdam
  35. Shavim
  36. Manhigut Hevratit
  37. Ani v'Atah
  38. Mifleget HaGush HaTanachi
  39. Ichud B'nei HaB'rit
  40. B'rit Olam
Even though the broad strokes of the results (the fraction of votes that went to the Likud-led coalition vs. everyone else) look very similar to other recent elections, there were still plenty of surprises at the individual party level.  As a result, everyone had a harder time making predictions, and the top scores this time were noticeably lower than in past prediction pools.  For example, literally no one (who entered April Madness) predicted that the New Right wouldn't make the threshold.  For the tiebreaker question that asked "Of the parties that do NOT win seats in the Knesset, which will come closest?", the overwhelming choice was Gesher, and there were a few votes for Yisrael Beiteinu, Zehut, and Kulanu, but none for the New Right.

All that said, we had two entrants who tied for the winning score, correctly predicting 105 out of 120 Knesset seats: Melanie M in California, and Aaron Weinberg in Washington DC.  Congratulations to both!  What do they have in common?  They were the first two people to complete their contest entries.  Those who had access to more recent poll results did worse.  The earlier polls showed Blue & White riding high, before the pendulum started swinging back to the Likud.  But those early polls were correct - Blue & White did in fact win a lot of seats!  It's just that Likud also won the same number.  Both parties won 35 seats, which is unusually high for the modern era.  The last time any one party won this many seats was in 2003, when the Likud under Ariel Sharon won 38, and the last time before that was Yitzchak Rabin's Labor party in 1992 (44 seats).

So to pick a winner, we'll have to go to the tiebreaker questions.  For the first tiebreaker question ("Of the parties that do NOT win seats in the Knesset, which will come closest?"), both finalists picked Gesher, which means that we'll go to the second tiebreaker: "Which party will get the FEWEST votes?"  Excluding parties that officially dropped out before the election, the "winner" was B'rit Olam (which was also in last place for number of candidates running on their list: only 1).  Honorable mention to Sarah Nemzer Kohl in Jerusalem, who successfully predicted this.  So what did our finalists pick?  Melanie M predicted Education, which finished with 518 votes, and Aaron Weinberg predicted Shavim, which finished with 401 votes.  This means that Aaron Weinberg is our 2019 April Madness champion!  Congratulations!!!

We asked him for a statement, and he said:
I think my only message is that this election makes the dangerous possibility of annexation even more likely and I urge everyone to get involved with any organization or cause that they believe can help prevent that scary possibility from ever becoming reality.

 Thanks again to everyone for playing!  We'll see you again on Tuesday, October 31, 2023, unless by some chance early elections are called (which has been known to happen before).

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

April Madness 2019: Guide to the Parties

It's not too late to enter April Madness 2019!  You have until 11:59 pm Israel Summer Time on Monday April 8, 2019 (the night before the election) to make your predictions.  Once again, here is a guide to the 40 parties that are running (down from 43 when we first launched the contest! Ofek Hadash B'Chavod, Reform, and Yachad have all dropped out!).  And here are the full lists of candidates in Hebrew (official) and in English (unofficial).

Parties represented in the current Knesset:
  • Blue and White: This is a union between the centrist party Yesh Atid (headed by Yair Lapid and serving in the current Knesset) and the two new parties Hosen L'Yisrael (founded by former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, who is at the head of the combined list) and Telem (founded by Moshe Ya'alon, also a former IDF chief of staff).
  • Gesher: (Re-)founder Orly Levy was elected to the current Knesset as a member of Yisrael Beiteinu, but she left that party in 2016 and has continued to serve as an independent.  This new party is meant to be a revival of the Gesher party founded by Levy's father David Levy in the '90s, which served in the Knesset in alliances with both Likud and Labor.
  • Hadash/Ta'al: In the 2015 election, 4 Arab and Arab/Jewish parties ran together as the Joint List, and became the third-largest faction in the Knesset.  This time, the Joint List has split into 2 and 2.  This faction includes the left-wing Arab/Jewish party Hadash and the Arab Movement for Renewal (Ta'al), and is led by Ayman Odeh (who led the Joint List).
  • Kulanu: This party ran for the first time in 2015, with a focus on economic issues, and now serves in the coalition, with party leader Moshe Kahlon as Minister of Finance.
  • Labor: In the current Knesset, Labor is part of the Zionist Union (which includes Labor and Hatenuah).  Now, that union has fallen apart, and Hatenuah leader Tzipi Livni is retiring from politics, so now Labor is on its own, and led by relative newcomer Avi Gabbay (who leads the party from outside the Knesset).
  • Likud: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to be elected to a record fifth term, while fending off indictments.
  • Meretz: The left-wing Zionist party is led for the first time by Tamar Zandberg, representing a new generation.
  • New Right: Led by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, this faction recently broke off from the Jewish Home, seeking to be a right-wing party that can appeal to both religious and secular voters.
  • Shas: The Sephardi haredi party lost ground in the 2015 election, when it splintered into two factions (Shas, led by Aryeh Deri, and Yachad, led by Eli Yishai), and Yachad failed to meet the election threshold. Yachad just dropped out (in the last week) and endorsed United Torah Judaism.
  • Tzomet: Founder Oren Hazan currently serves in the Knesset with the Likud, but he split off to run with his own party after a poor showing in the Likud primaries.  Like Gesher, the name is meant to follow in the footsteps of an old party that previously served in the Knesset with the Likud.
  • Union of Right-Wing Parties: This is a new union between the religious Zionist party The Jewish Home (minus the faction that split off as the New Right - see above), the settler party Tekuma (which was already part of an alliance with the Jewish Home), and the Kahanist party Otzma Yehudit (whose leader Michael Ben-Ari was banned from running, but the party itself was not).  The combined list is led by political newcomer and former IDF chief rabbi Rafi Peretz.
  • United Arab List (Ra'am) / Balad: This list includes the other 2 Arab parties that had been part of the Joint List (see above, under Hadash/Ta'al).  The new leader is Mansour Abbas of the Islamic Movement, who also represents a new generation.
  • United Torah Judaism: This union of the two major Ashkenazi haredi parties (Agudat Yisrael and Degel HaTorah) is led (for the sixth time) by Ya'akov Litzman.
  • Yisrael Beiteinu: Avigdor Lieberman is running once again at the head of this secular right-wing party.
Parties not represented in the current Knesset:

  • Achrayut Lameyasdim: Founded by Haim Dayan (who served in the Knesset with Tzomet in the '90s), this party focuses on issues facing senior citizens.
  • Ani v'Atah: "A social-liberal, democratic, and Zionist party"
  • Arab List: Not to be confused with any of the Arab parties that made up the Joint List, this list is led by Muhamad Kanan of the Arab National Party, which used to be part of the United Arab List.
  • Betach - Social Security: Founded by Semion Grafman, who served a prison term in the US for money laundering, this party requested the letters פק because they spelled an English expletive.
  • B'rit Olam: In the past, it ran as a Jewish/Arab party.  This time, founder Ofer Lifschitz is the sole candidate on the list.
  • Education: This party calls for an overhaul of the educational system.
  • Eretz Yisrael Shelanu: Started by the father of a terror victim, this party claims to be "a party for second-class citizens".
  • Hatikvah L'Shinui: An Arab party that calls for equality for Arab Israelis.
  • Ichud B'nei HaB'rit: A mostly Arab Christian party that also calls for equality for all citizens.
  • Justice for All: Most notably an animal rights party.
  • Kalkalah Yerukah - Medinah Achat: The name means "Green Economy - One State", and is a rebranding of Da'am, the Jewish/Arab socialist party.
  • Kevod HaAdam: The leader is Arkadi Pogetz, and not much information is available beyond the candidates' names.
  • Kol Yisrael Achim / Pe'ulah L'Yisrael: An Ethiopian-Israeli party led by former Likud MK Alali Adamso, running together with a party focusing on Mizrachi immigrants.
  • Magen: One more new party founded by a retired general (Gal Hirsch), describing itself as right-wing on foreign affairs and left-wing on social and economic issues.
  • Manhigut Hevratit: This party has the distinction of finishing in last place in the 2015 election, as well as the 2013 election (under the name "Moreshet Avot").  They hope to break the streak this time.
  • Mehatchalah: A new party whose platform includes overhauling the family/juvenile court system, and establishing direct elections of Knesset members.
  • Mifleget HaGush HaTanachi: A new Jewish-Christian party (with a message that may be anti-Muslim), trying to appeal to immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
  • Na Nach: Breslov Hasidim who dance in the streets.
  • Older Citizens' Party: As the name suggests, this is another party focusing on senior citizens' issues.
  • Pashut Ahavah: "Simply Love", a multicultural Jewish/Arab party.
  • Pirate Party: Part of the international network of Pirate Parties that supports Internet freedom and includes the current third-largest party in the Czech parliament.
  • Shavim: Their platform is about education, particularly special education.
  • Social Justice: Other parties have run under this name in the past (because it's easier to use an existing registered party than to start a new one), but this time there is a focus on environmental issues.
  • Yashar: This party supports direct democracy, and has developed an app so that party members can vote on how their Knesset representatives should vote on bills.
  • Zechuyoteinu B'Koleinu: Their signature issue is the working conditions of law-enforcement officers.
  • Zehut: This new party, founded by former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, combines right-wing positions on some issues (annexing the West Bank) with libertarian positions on others (legalizing marijuana).

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Knesset April Madness 2019!

I know there haven't been any posts on this blog in years, but we're bringing it out of cold storage for... APRIL MADNESS 2019!!!  The Israeli election is coming up, and in the tradition of March Madness 2006, February Madness 2009, January Madness 2013, and March Madness 2015, we announce our fifth Knesset prediction pool!

How to Enter: Go to the April Madness link and put in your predictions for how many seats each of the 43 parties will win.  All predictions must be non-negative integers (0 is allowed), and your predictions must add up to 120. (For reasons discussed below, it is impossible for a party to win 1 or 2 seats, and unlikely that a party will win 3 seats.  However, if you choose to hedge your bets and guess that a given party will win 1, 2, or 3 seats, that is a legal entry in the contest.) Entrance is free, but there is a suggested donation of $10 to the organization of your choice dedicated to making Israel the best it can be. (If you win, feel free to share which organization you chose and why.)  Israeli citizens are encouraged to vote in the actual election as well.

The Rules (for the real election): The 43 parties have submitted ordered lists of candidates. Here is the full list of candidates in Hebrew, and lists of the parties in Arabic and English (I haven't seen an official source with the lists of candidates in English, but here's an unofficial list from Wikipedia). On election day (April 9), Israeli citizens will go to polling places in and near Israel, and vote for a party (not for individual candidates). All parties that win at least 3.25% of the vote will win seats in the Knesset, proportional to their share of the vote.  For example, suppose the Pirate Party wins 1% of the vote, Na Nach wins 33%, and Justice for All wins 66%. Then the Pirate Party wins no seats in the Knesset (since they were below the 3.25% threshold), and the other parties will proportionally split the 120 Knesset seats: Na Nach gets 40 seats (so the top 40 candidates on its list are elected), and The Justice for All gets 80 seats. If vacancies arise later in the term, there are no special elections – the next candidate on the party’s list (e.g. #41 on the Na Nach list) enters the Knesset. It is mathematically impossible for more than 30 parties to win seats in the Knesset (so at least 13 will be left out).

The Rules (for the April Madness pool): The deadline to enter is Monday, April 8, 2019, at 11:59 pm Israel Summer Time (4:59 pm EDT). When the final election results are published, each entry will receive a score based on how many Knesset seats were predicted correctly. For example, suppose the results are as in the above example (Justice for All 80, Na Nach 40). I predicted 60 seats for Na Nach, 50 for Justice for All, and 10 for Yashar. Then my score is 90, since I correctly predicted 40 seats for Na Nach and 50 seats for Justice for All.  The entry with the highest score wins!

Ties will be broken based on two tiebreaker questions:
1) Of the parties that do NOT win seats in the Knesset, which will come closest?
2) Which party will get the FEWEST votes?

The tiebreakers will be resolved in this order: exact match on question 1; exact match on question 2; closest on question 1 (if you picked a party that DOES win seats, you’re out of consideration for this one); closest on question 2.

Sometime soon, we’ll put up a post with descriptions of all the parties and links to their websites.

Good luck!!!!

Friday, July 24, 2015

#TBT: “Taxonomy of Jewish pluralism” at 10

(Crossposted to Jewschool.)

Ten years ago this week, I posted “Taxonomy of Jewish pluralism” to Mah Rabu, a new blog that was just a couple months old. It was a golden age of blogging in general, and Jewish blogging in particular. Twitter didn’t exist yet; Thefacebook existed but was just for college students; blogs were where it was at.

This post, framed as a “work in progress”, defined three different “stages” of Jewish pluralism:
  • Stage 1: “Frummest common denominator”
  • Stage 2: “Let’s make everyone comfortable”
  • Stage 3: Identity

The taxonomy came about as a result of my experiences with multiple Jewish communities that were all trying to be pluralistic, but in practice meant very different things by “pluralism”. Defining these stages was a way to articulate these different approaches to Jewish pluralism, and also a way to highlight the ways in which some views are marginalized and silenced by some forms of pluralistic discourse.

This part has often been misunderstood, but the taxonomy classifies pluralistic discourse, not pluralistic outcomes. It’s not about what the community ends up doing, but about how it gets there. So, for example, a Stage-1 pluralistic community might have identical practices to a non-pluralistic community, but the difference is that in one community, those practices are adopted because they are perceived to be a “common denominator” that is acceptable to everyone even though it is recognized that everyone has differing individual practices, while in the other community, those practices are adopted because they are seen as the norm for the community.

“Taxonomy of Jewish pluralism” seemed to arrive at a time when it was needed, and it became more influential than I ever expected; to this day I still hear about pluralistic Jewish organizations that are assigning it as required reading. It also became the backbone of the theoretical framework of the Hilchot Pluralism series, which became a place to systematically document and analyze pluralistic practices in the independent Jewish world.

So, 10 years later, do I still agree with it? Yes and no.

I still stand by almost every word in the original post. I think the categories themselves are still useful, and accurate enough as descriptions of different modes of discourse. I think the shortcomings of Stages 1 and 2, and the challenges of Stage 3, are still relevant.

Where my thinking has changed is in labeling the categories as “stages”. That’s the part of the original post that had the weakest support – I had plenty of data (from my own experiences) about how different pluralistic communities operate, but not so much longitudinal data about communities that actually changed their approaches. Two separate influences made me revisit the “stage” structure: 1) I’ve been involved in pluralistic decision-making in communities that were grappling with multiple pluralism issues, and have seen that it’s not always possible to take a uniform approach to all issues, because of the differing nature of those issues. 2) The original taxonomy was modeled after educational theories such as Piaget’s stages. Since then, my understanding of educational theory has become deeper (10 years ago I was a high school physics teacher, and now I have a Ph.D. in physics education research), and critiques of Piaget are also valid critiques of “Taxonomy of Jewish pluralism”.

Why aren’t “stages” the right description? Because this description implies that a given community is in a single stage of pluralism (or non-pluralism) at any one moment in time, and takes a single approach to pluralistic discourse around all issues that may come up. But that’s not how any community really works. Every community has issues around which it does not attempt to be pluralistic. And on issues where a community does consider itself pluralistic, it’s possible for the same community to take a Stage-1 approach to some questions and a Stage-3 approach to others. Multiple “stages” can coexist at the same time. (It’s also possible that some people in a community will try to argue for a position using discourse from one stage, while others use discourse from another. If this isn’t identified, it can lead to people talking past one another.)

For those who want to see their communities take a Stage-3 approach to pluralism, this more fragmented picture can be seen in a half-empty or a half-full way. The half-empty perspective is that even when you think you’re in a Stage-3 commmunity, the other “stages” never really go way. But the half-full perspective is that if you want to move a community towards Stage 3, you don’t have to do it all at once; this can happen one issue at a time (even if there are some issues where other “stages” are more entrenched).

What are the ways that you find it useful to think about Jewish pluralism in 2015?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

March Madness 2015: Guide to the Parties

(Crossposted to Jewschool.)

There's a week left until the Israeli election, which means there's less than a week to enter March Madness 2015!  To aid in the process of making your picks, here is a guide to the 26 parties running in the election, as we have done in the past.  We include links to their websites if we can find them (English if available, otherwise Hebrew if available, otherwise Arabic if available).  The full candidate lists are available in Hebrew.  Again, we're using the translations of the party names from the official election website (whether or not these are the most accurate translations).

Those who have been following past Israeli elections might notice that, while 26 sounds like a lot, this is actually the fewest parties we have seen in a long time.  There are two likely reasons for this: 1) The new election threshold of 3.25% has forced smaller parties to consolidate.  2) It has only been 2 years since the last election, so there has been less time for new parties to form.

Parties represented in the current Knesset:
  • Habayit Hayehudi: This far-right party, with links to the (overlapping) settlement movement and Religious Zionist movement, first ran in its current configuration in 2013, with Naftali Bennett at the head, and he is running at the top of the list again.  Habayit Hayehudi was a key coalition partner in the current Knesset, and will likely be again if Netanyahu forms the next government.
  • Joint Arab List: An alliance of 3 Arab parties (United Arab List, Ta'al, and Balad), and the left-wing Arab-Jewish party Hadash.  It was forced into existence by the new election threshold, since Hadash and Balad each got less than 3.25% of the vote in the last election, and the combined UAL-Ta'al list got slightly more, so all the parties feared for their survival.  As a result, it is diverse, comprising factions from the Islamic Movement to the Communist Party (no, Fox News, those aren't the same thing).  At the head is the new Hadash leader, former Haifa city councilmember Ayman Odeh.
  • Likud: The Likud is led once again by (and strongly identified with) incumbent PM Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu, who hopes to become the first person since Ben-Gurion to be elected to a fourth term as prime minister. Whether he will succeed depends not only on how many seats the Likud wins, but on whether the right-of-center (and haredi) parties collectively add up to 61 seats.
  • Meretz – Israel's Left: Meretz is on the left with respect to both Israeli-Palestinian issues and domestic issues, and is led again by Zahava Gal-On.  They're hoping to block Netanyahu from forming the next government.
  • Shas: It's the first election since the death of founder R. Ovadiah Yosef, and the Sephardi haredi party has been beset by internal struggles, between Eli Yishai (who led the party through the 2000s) and Aryeh Deri (who led the party through the 1990s, went to prison, and returned to the Knesset in the last election).  Deri won out, and Yishai left to start his own party (see Yachad, below).  But then posthumous recordings were released in which R. Yosef said bad things about Deri.  Humiliated, Deri resigned from the lame-duck Knesset, but he's still at the top of the Shas list for the election, so he'll be back.
  • United Torah Judaism: In an election campaign filled with mergers, splits, and other excitement, the Ashkenazi haredi party is the island of stability.  They have 7 incumbent MKs, and those men (all men, of course) are filling the first 7 spots on the party list.  Yaakov Litzman is at the top of the list for the 5th time.
  • Yachad: After losing the leadership of Shas (see above), Eli Yishai started a new party.  While its platform shares some issues with Shas, Yachad is more of a right-wing party than a standard haredi party, recruiting candidates such as MK Yoni Chetboun (who left Habayit Hayehudi over their support for the haredi draft bill) and Baruch Marzel (of the far-right Otzma Leyisrael party).  Its platform calls for the annexation of the territories and for a greater role for religion in the state (but also for protecting the environment and reducing economic inequality).
  • Yesh Atid: This party, focusing on social and economic issues, was new in the 2013 election and came out of nowhere to win 19 seats (which actually makes them the largest party in the current lame-duck Knesset, following the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu split and some other shifts).  Party leader Yair Lapid served in the government as Finance Minister, but was fired by PM Netanyahu after public disagreements, leading to the collapse of the coalition and to this election.
  • Yisrael Beiteinu: This right-wing party with a Russian immigrant base, led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, ran on a joint list with the Likud in the last election, but the two factions split last summer during the Gaza war (Lieberman was concerned that Netanyahu's response was not hardline enough).  In recent months, a number of senior party members have been implicated in a corruption scandal.
  • Zionist Camp: A center-left alliance between Labor (which leads the opposition in the current Knesset) and Hatenuah (which was part of the coalition until Justice Minister Tzipi Livni was fired from the government).  Under the agreement creating the joint list, if the Zionist Camp forms the next government, Labor leader Yitzchak Herzog will serve as prime minister for 2 years, followed by Hatenuah's Livni (if, of course, the government lasts 4 years).
Parties not represented in the current Knesset:
  • Arab List: Not to be confused with the Joint Arab List (whose name in Hebrew and Arabic is just the Joint List, but voters could still get confused), this party brings together other Arab Israeli factions that didn't enter the Joint List.  It was founded by former MKs Taleb a-Sana of the Arab Democratic Party (formerly one of the factions within the United Arab List) and Muhammad Kanan of the Arab National Party (a breakaway from the UAL).  However, a-Sana has since endorsed the Joint List.
  • Democratura: This party, founded by Doron Hakimi (author of Who is Muhammad? and other books), proposes a new constitution for Israel that would elect each MK from a geographic district.
  • Green Leaf: As usual, their signature issue is marijuana legalization, and their tag line this year is "Proud of my choice".  This time, their platform also emphasizes health care.  They broke 1% of the vote in the last election, but that didn't make the election threshold.
  • Green Party: The Green Party focuses on environmental issues, and has had some success at the local level, but it has never been elected to the Knesset.  This year, they originally submitted their party list under the name "The Greens Don't Give a [possibly untranslatable]", but this name was rejected by the Central Elections Committee.
  • Hope for Change: An Arab party that supports full equality and integration for Arab Israelis.  In the 2013 election, they came in second to last.
  • Kulanu: In almost every election, there seems to be a new party that exceeds expectations by attracting voters who are disaffected with the conventional left-right spectrum.  It was Gil in 2006, Yesh Atid in 2013, and Kulanu hopes to be that party this year.  Kulanu was founded by former Likud MK Moshe Kahlon, who served as Communications Minister and deregulated the cell phone market.  Prominent first-time Knesset candidates include Michael Oren (former ambassador to the US) and Rachel Azaria (deputy mayor of Jerusalem).  The platform focuses on economic issues and transparency.
  • Light: A secular party calling for separation of religion and state, and universal military or national service.
  • Perach: Shefa, Bracha, Chaim Veshalom: The name means "Flower: Abundance, Blessing, Life, and Peace", and it's a haredi party based in Beit Shemesh.  You can join the party as a Copper Club, Silver Club, Golden Club, or global Diamond Club member.  They're not aiming high: they have only 5 candidates on their list.
  • Protecting Our Children – Stopping to Feed Them Pornography:  A better translation, of course, would be "Stop Feeding Them Pornography"; amusingly, this sounds like the opposite!  The name sums up the platform.  UPDATE: The party has dropped out and endorsed Habayit Hayehudi.
  • Rent with Honor: This party calls for more direct democracy, including giving voters the power to recall Knesset members and to propose Knesset bills.
  • Social Leadership: It ran last time under the name "Moreshet Avot", and finished in last place.  Party leader Ilan Meshicha Yar-Zanbar has pledged to donate most of his Knesset salary to the needy, and has suggested that MKs should be paid minimum wage.
  • The (Temporary) National Team: They oppose corruption and economic inequality, and call for returning wealth and power to the people.  I think the "temporary" part of the party name is meant to indicate that they don't intend to be career politicians, but it's not entirely clear to me.
  • The Economics Party: This party was founded by American-born brothers Danny and Benny Goldstein.  This time around, the brothers have had some disputes, leaving Danny in the #1 spot on the list, and Benny all the way down at #5.  The platform focuses on economic reforms.
  • The Pirates: ARRRR!  They're not actual pirates, but they're connected to the Pirate Parties in various European countries.  The party leader, Ohad Shem-Tov, lives in New York and is not planning to return to Israel to vote.  This time they are calling themselves the "petek lavan" (blank ballot), suggesting that they are a protest vote.
  • Ubezchutan – Haredi Women Making a Change: No, that's not a typo for Uzbekistan; "uvizchutan" means "and by their (f.) merits".  This party was founded by haredi women to protest the exclusion of women candidates from the major haredi parties.  Not surprisingly, it has stirred controversy in the haredi world.
  • We Are All Friends: The Na Nach party is back!  Their campaign slogan this time is "Im tirtzu" ("If you will it"), and the platform is about the power of positive thinking.  (Since the name of the party in Hebrew is "Kulanu Haveirim", will some voters mix them up with Kulanu?)
Good luck!  One more week to enter!