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!
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • 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.