Israeli Attitudes Toward Arabs Soften — But the Feeling's Not Mutual

Arabs Harden Opinions Towards Jews

Getty images
Not the Norm: Israeli Arab children play next to wall daubed with racist graffiti. Hate crimes grab headlines but a new study suggests that Jewish attitudes towards Arabs have moderated slightly over time.
getty images
Getty images Not the Norm: Israeli Arab children play next to wall daubed with racist graffiti. Hate crimes grab headlines but a new study suggests that Jewish attitudes towards Arabs have moderated slightly over time.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published August 03, 2013, issue of August 09, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Despite widespread perceptions, Israeli Jews aren’t becoming more antagonistic toward Israeli Arabs. So concludes a new survey that also shows how Israeli Arab attitudes toward Jews have turned harsher.

The past four years have seen a wave of legislation that many Arabs and civil rights advocates view as attacks on the civil rights of Israel’s Arab citizens. The most prominent example, the so-called Nakba Law, permits cuts in government funds to private nongovernmental organizations and state-funded institutions that mark Israel’s Independence Day as Nakba Day, a common Palestinian reference to the occasion, which means “catastrophe day” in Arabic. The term, which offends many Israeli Jews, connotes for Israeli Arabs expulsions, land expropriations and loss of rights that they associate with the day.

Religious leaders and social activists have also mounted campaigns that are openly hostile to equal rights for Arab citizens. Most famous was the plea by right-wing rabbis in 2010 for Jews to refuse to rent or sell homes to Arabs. So-called “price tag” vandalism attacks against mosques by right-wing settlers in response to what they view as offensive government concessions to the Palestinians have also turned lately to Israeli Arab targets within Israel’s pre-1967 borders. Earlier they took place only in the occupied West Bank.

But the Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel, an annual survey, suggests that the Israeli Jewish public does not support these developments. In fact, the survey’s findings indicate that even as some mainstream politicians, rabbis and activists on the right are upping the ante against Israel’s Arab minority, the general Jewish public is becoming more conciliatory.

“Whatever the media thinks, Jews have not become more extreme,” said Sammy Smooha, a senior professor of sociology at The University of Haifa who directed the survey, during his presentation of the survey’s findings at a June 30 conference in Jerusalem. The conference, attended by Jewish and Arab academics, public figures and politicians, was dedicated to debating the study.

The survey, which interviewed 700 Jewish citizens and 700 Arab citizens, is co-sponsored yearly by Haifa University and the Israel Democracy Institute, a think tank that declares its mission as advancing democratic values in Israel. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7%.

Among other things, the survey’s findings suggest that the 2010 plea issued by state-funded rabbis to keep Arabs from moving into Jewish neighborhoods has fallen on deaf ears. According to the survey, the number of Israelis who are prepared to accept Arab neighbors has climbed by 10 percentage points over the last decade — and 7 percentage points since 2008. A majority of Israeli Jews are still against the idea, but the portion accepting it has grown to 45.7% from 34.5%. Openness toward Arabs attending Jewish schools has also grown, to 54.8% from 51.5%.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.