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

Arabs Harden Opinions Towards Jews

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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.
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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.
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Muhammad Darawsha, co-executive director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, a nongovernmental organization devoted to Arab-Jewish coexistence in Israel, said that the figures point to a deep crisis in relations between Arabs and the state. An “internal intifada,” or protests by Arab citizens like those seen in October 2000, is a real possibility, Darawasha warned. Twelve Arab citizens died in those mass protests as a result of what an official government commission later judged to be excessive force by Israeli police.

“October 2000-type clashes could happen tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, and we should cherish the moment it’s not happening,” Darawasha said.

Arab antagonism has some surprising expressions. When questioned on the Holocaust, one-third of Arab respondents replied that it didn’t happen — even though the Holocaust is part of the compulsory curriculum in Arab schools.

According to Darawsha, this doesn’t reflect a real conviction that there wasn’t a Holocaust. Arabs, too, he seemed to argue, are not always truthful in such surveys. “It’s more a matter of poking peoples’ eyes — saying that we know if we deny this, it will hurt you,” Darawasha said. “In order to make the Jews more upset and angry, people are prepared to poke their eyes.”

Paradoxically, though anger and alienation among Arab citizens toward Jews and the state are growing, Arabs also displayed a desire for further integration with both. Some 72.8% want to see Arab parties joining coalition governments. No Arab party has ever been brought into government, though ultra-Orthodox parties opposed to Zionism and to the state have been.

More than 45% of Arabs were also open to their children attending Jewish high schools, and more than 55% were open to living in Jewish neighborhoods. Still, these were down from 71% and 66%, respectively, a decade ago.

In Smooha’s reading, though, these levels remain notably high. And the reason for this, he said, is that Arabs view integration as a “channel of social mobility.”

This mindset led Arabs surveyed to take issue with their political leaders. Some 76% said that their leaders should deal more with settling daily problems and less with Israel’s dispute with the Palestinians. They were similarly skeptical about the energy that their leaders invest in trying to curb the Jewishness of Israel, with 62.4% supporting the idea that Arabs should fight more for civil and socioeconomic equality than for peace with the Palestinians and a change of the state’s Jewish character.

Smooha said: “Most Arabs in Israel today are pragmatic: They want a better standard of living, better services, less exclusion, and social and economic equality… a solution to their daily problems.”

Contact Nathan Jeffay at jeffay@forward.com


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