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Israelis Growing Less Tolerant of Arabs

Israel Democracy Institute poll finds Israeli Arabs least tolerant

An annual survey among Israelis found that over half believed the country’s Arab citizens should be encouraged to emigrate and that eight out of 10 believed Arabs shouldn’t be allowed to have a say in decisions about national security.

Released in Jerusalem, the Israel Democracy Index also detected a growing intolerance for “non-Zionist” minorities in the country — ultra-Orthodox Jews and its 1.7 million Arab citizens.

In what may be a general snapshot of Israel’s Jewish population, the poll by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) found that when asked for self-definition of their political leanings, about 40% said they were right-wing, 40% said they belonged to the center and about 17% said they were left-wingers.

It found that 53% of Israeli Jews felt the government should encourage Arabs to leave the country. This was identical to the findings in 2009. In a similar vein, 86% held that Arabs shouldn’t have any say in policy on the future of the state as long as the conflict with the Palestinians wasn’t resolved.

“If the Palestinian citizens of Israel are portrayed as an extreme demographic risk to the Jewish state then I understand [Jewish Israelis] see their brothers as a risk and the schism gets bigger and bigger,” Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said at a roundtable organized by the IDI to mark the poll’s release. “This is a terrible vortex and needs to be uprooted.”

His words were echoed by Supreme Court Justice Dorit Beinisch, who said there was “demonization” of the other in Israel. “There‘s a need to nurture the common denominator through education that can hold the state as one monolithic society.

The poll also found that trust in the Supreme Court was at an all-time low, with 44% saying they had no confidence in it at all.

The survey found that 27% of Israelis felt the country was “too democratic,” which led to the finding that 60 % supported the notion that “a few strong leaders can be more useful to the country than all the discussions and laws”  Among immigrants from the former Soviet Union 78% said they shared this view.
Since its first poll in 2003, the IDI has detected a consistent finding that immigrants from the former Soviet Union are one of the least liberal-minded groups in Israel. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton raised eyebrows earlier this year when he was quoted as saying the Russian immigrants were “hard-core” and an “obstacle to peace.”

Professor Tamar Hermann, a senior fellow at IDI who assembled the poll data, said she didn’t detect any serious deterioration in the value Israelis place on democracy.

“By and large, there hasn’t been any major deterioration in major parameters, but enough to be worth dealing with,” Hermann told a press conference.

Hermann said Israeli society was known to be highly “politically engaged” and “politically literate,” noting that roughly two out of three Israelis (62%) were both interested and tuned in to current events. She said this was far higher than the 30% – 45% averaged in Western countries.
The study found that four out of 10 Israeli Arabs felt the state didn’t respect their civil rights, but it also found that two out of 10 Jewish citizens felt the same way.

The poll found that 51% believed Israeli Arabs and Jews should have equal rights. But Hermann said there was a very significant difference when broken up between religious and secular, with 72% of ultra-Orthodox Jews opposing equal rights for Arabs.

Some 62% of Jewish Israelis polled supported legislation demanding a declaration of loyalty to the state for new immigrants. When it came to tolerance among Israelis for “others,” the survey found that they least wanted to live with Arab neighbors, followed by the mentally ill, foreign workers, same-sex couples and ultra-Orthodox Jews.

When Arabs were asked who they would least like to have as their neighbors the poll found that 70% opposed same-sex couples, followed by ultra-Orthodox Jews and former settlers. Foreign workers were cited as the most “tolerable” neighbor.

“These poll results tell you that being a discriminated minority doesn’t make one more tolerant and contradicts those who believed that maybe the Arabs were going to be more sensitive to other minorities,” Hermann said

In a first time question, those polled were asked whether non-Zionist parties should be allowed to participate in elections or be punished for speaking out against Israel. It found that 54% opposed penalties for speaking out against Israel and that half agreed it was important to allow them to participate.

“Zionist parties have had a big comeback in recent years. I don’t recall such debates in the 70s, 80s, 90s and even the early part of this decade,” Hermann said. “This sort of talk belonged to the 1950s. The presenting of Zionism is interesting sociologically and politically.”

The sample included 1,200 respondents, who were interviewed in three languages: Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian. The maximum sampling error is ±2.8.