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

(page 2 of 3)

Over the past decade, mainstream political forces, especially within the Yisrael Beiteinu party, have raised question marks over even the citizenship of Israeli Arabs. The leader of the party, former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, argued that citizenship and its attendant rights should be contingent on pledging allegiance to Israel as a Jewish state. But this campaign seems to have had little if any impact on public opinion.

When the campaign was at its height, during the general election of 2009, the proportion of Israeli Jews who said that Arabs have the right to live in the state as a minority with full citizenship rights was actually at a high of 78.8%. Today, the figure is down slightly to 75% — but still 2.4% higher than it was a decade ago.

Smooha told the Forward that he believes that the politicians’ antagonistic stands toward Arabs has helped them in their competition against each other for hard-line Jewish voters, but has not swayed the attitudes of others toward Arabs. “The anti-Arab campaign is just successful in helping them to keep their constituents,” he said.

Nevertheless, some academics have dismissed the survey’s findings.

“If the political system does not reflect the will of the people, then Israeli politics is different in its politics than any democratic country, and I don’t trust that,” said Amal Jamal, author of the 2001 book “Arab Minority Nationalism in Israel: The Politics of Indigeneity.”

Jamal, a member of Israel’s Druze minority and head of Tel Aviv University’s graduate program in political science and political communication, told the Forward in an interview that he thinks the statistics show only that Israeli Jews have become savvier in telling pollsters what they think people want to hear. “Public diplomacy is part of the Israeli political culture; people want to be seen abroad as a prosperous democracy and peaceful society,” he said.

Jamal believes that a large section of the Jewish public is on board with hard-line politicians, but that this sector of the public just “doesn’t want to be that blunt.”

Meanwhile, in contrast to its findings on Jews, Smooha’s survey of Arabs shows that those citizens have become more antagonistic toward the state and toward Jews.

Over the past decade, the proportion of Israeli Arabs who deny Israel’s right to exist has skyrocketed to 24.5% from 11.2%. Only 12.2% feel that Israeli citizenship is the most important aspect of their identity — down from 29.6% in 2003. And some 58.6% think it will be justified if Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza start a third intifada should the stalemate in the peace process continue.

Smooha believes that the figures reflect a spiral of disillusionment in the Arab sector stemming from the collapse of the Oslo process, Israeli military actions in Gaza and the growth of the Jewish radical right in the Knesset and in public life. In his understanding, while these phenomena failed to radicalize the Jewish public, they “succeeded in reinforcing the alienation of the Arab minority and in engendering growing fear of a collapse of democracy among the elites of the center and the left.”


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!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • 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.