Friday, April 05, 2019

New Poll on Jewish and Arab Israeli Attitudes

A new poll has recently been published providing a fascinating comparative account of Jewish and Arab attitudes in Israel.

One of the findings of the poll was that far more people self-identified as "Arab-Israeli" (46%) than "Palestinian-Israeli" (19%). Consequently most of the people circulating the poll are doing so to dunk on this IfNotNow tweet, published almost at the same time, apologizing for using the term "Israeli Arab" instead of "Palestinian Israeli".

(Another 22% of respondents simply identify as "Arab", and 14% as "Palestinian").

Certainly, I understand why folks want to take a victory lap on IfNotNow. But in doing so, they're ignoring the broader thrust of what the poll tells us -- one that is maybe less amenable to crowing about IfNotNow's naivete.

For as a whole, the poll tells a pretty sobering tale about the comparative state of Israeli Jewish and Arab attitudes. It reveals that Israel's Arab population is -- by sometimes shocking margins -- far more supportive of the basic public commitments Israel must commit to in order to retain any claim on being a liberal, democratic, and egalitarian states. Jewish respondents were, let's say, far more "conflicted" on these questions.

Let's give some highlights:

  • 76% of Arabs say Jewish/Arab interactions in Israel are usually positive, compared to 53% of Jews (right-wing Jews were more likely to characterize relationships as "bad").
  • Arab respondents were consistently more likely to believe cross-group cooperation could help create progress on various social issues (like the environment or workers' rights) -- generally around 70-75% of Arabs agreed such cross-group cooperation would be helpful, while for Jewish respondents the answers were in the low-to-mid 50s.
  • 94% of Arabs recognize Jews as a "people", while only 52% of Jews recognize Palestinians as a "people".
  • 47% (a plurality) of Arabs would vote for a Jewish party if it "represented your views", compared to just 4% of Jews who would do so for an Arab party that "represented your views".
  • Just 35% of Jews conceded it would be "acceptable" for an Arab party to serve in the Israeli government (the majority coalition), compared 87% of Arabs (lest that seem like an obvious conclusion, it has often been asserted by Israeli Jews that the reason there hasn't been an Arab party in the government is because the Arabs aren't interested or wouldn't agree to it).
The fact of the matter is, it's Israel's Arab community that still believes in Israel's liberal promise. They're the constituency that still is willing to commit to the sort of cross-group cooperation and compromise that might make an egalitarian Israel function.

The Israeli Jewish community? It's in a far more precarious place now. Polls like this are just more evidence for what's become increasingly clear: there is no route to a liberal majority in Israel that runs through predominantly Jewish parties alone. The path to preserving Israeli liberalism, if such a path still exists, runs through the Arab community. If, as Benny Gantz and Blue & White have publicly asserted, this election will decide the future of Israel as a democratic state, then their public refusal to even consider a coalitions with the Arab parties will end up being the decisive factor determining what that future will be.

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