Perhaps these results should not be surprising, considering that a 2008 poll cited byYediot Ahronot discovered that “40 percent of Jewish Israelis did not believe that Arab Israelis should be allowed to vote.”
In late April 2010, a survey commissioned by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University found that over 57% of the respondents agreed that human rights organizations that expose immoral conduct by Israel should not be allowed to operate freely, the majority felt that “there is too much freedom of expression” in Israel, 43% said “the media should not report information confirmed by Palestinian sources that could reflect poorly on the Israeli army,” 58% opposed “harsh criticism of the country,” 65% thought “the Israeli media should be barred from publishing news that defense officials think could endanger state security, even if the news was reported abroad,” and 82% said they “back stiff penalties for people who leak illegally obtained information exposing immoral conduct by the defense establishment.”
The poll also found that “most of the respondents favor punishing Israeli citizens who support sanctioning or boycotting the country, and support punishing journalists who report news that reflects badly on the actions of the defense establishment.” Additionally, of those polled who described themselves as right-wing, 76% said “human rights groups should not have the right to freely publicize immoral conduct on Israel’s part.”
“Israelis have a distorted perception of democracy,” said pollster Daniel Bar-Tal, a professor at the Tel Aviv University’s School of Education, as he analyzed the survey’s findings. “The public recognizes the importance of democratic values, but when they need to be applied, it turns out most people are almost anti-democratic.”
In 2006, according to the Israel Democracy Institute, 79% of Israelis trust the IDF more than any other institution. This poll came shortly after the Israeli devastation of Lebanon, in which the IDF killed over 1,180 people (about a third of whom were children), wounded over 4,050, and displaced about 970,000 others as direct result of the more than 7,000 air attacks by the Israeli Air Force and an additional 2,500 bombardments by the Israeli Navy in the short span of a month. The assault, with its utter contempt for international humanitarian law and willful commission of war crimes, also deliberately targeted the civilian infrastructure of Lebanon, destroying or severely damaging airports, seaports, water and sewage treatment plants, electrical facilities, power plants, fuel depots, over 200,000 meters of road, 120 bridges, 900 commercial enterprises and factories, and over 30,000 residential properties, offices and shops (including 15,000 civilian homes, houses, and apartments). Israel bombed a milk farm and grain silos. Two government hospitals were completely destroyed, while three others were severely damaged.
Another 2006 poll found that 68% of Israeli Jews fear that Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel would “initiate an intifada” and 64% believe that “Arabs endanger the security of the state because of their high birth rates.” Other polls from 2006 and 2007 revealed that 50% of Israeli Jews support the “transfer” of Arabs out of the country, 42% desire the “nullifying Arab Israeli citizens’ right to vote,” and 55% supported the “notion that the government should encourage Arab emigration.” The Israel Democracy Institute’s June 2007 report found that 55% of Israeli Jews surveyed support the idea that the government should encourage Arab emigration and 78% are opposed to Arab political parties (including Arab ministers) joining the government.
Additionally, surveys found that 75% of Israeli Jews “oppose living in the same apartment buildings as Arabs,” 55% believe that “Arabs do not have the ability to reach the same level of cultural development as the Jews,” 61.4% were unwilling to have Arab friends visit their homes, 55% supported segregated recreational facilities for Jews and Arabs, while 37% of them “view Arab culture as inferior.”
A few years ago, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel reported that 49.9% of the Jewish population feels fear when hearing Arabic spoken in the street, 31.3% feels revulsion, 43.6% senses discomfort and 30.7% feels hatred.
A different poll, conducted by KEEVOON Research and Strategy company, showed overwhelming support in the Hebrew-speaking Jewish population of Israel for the Jewish National Fund’s policy of selling land to Jews only. 81% of respondents favored the 100-year old policy, with only 10% opposed.
Is it any wonder, then, that the 2007 Israel Democracy Index Survey, conducted by the Israeli Institute for Democracy, revealed that 54% of the Arab Israelis polled felt that it was “impossible to trust the Jewish majority,” while 51% believed that Jews were racist?
That year, Ha’aretz journalist Bradley Burston wrote of the Jewish inclination to demonize Palestinian citizens of the Israel:
Too many of us want our Arabs to be traitors. Too many of us see Israeli Arabs, as a group, as hypocrites, parasites, their dual-loyalty a thin disguise for support of terror in the service of Palestine.
There is a quiet sense among many of us, that Israeli Arabs are fleecing the state, even as they grouse about inequality and nurse plans to de-Judaize the national home of the Jewish People.
It is, in many ways, a form of classical anti-Semitism in which the Semites in question happen to be Israeli Arabs.
We complain that they live off the rest of us, that they flaunt our zoning laws and evade the taxes we pay, that they are happy to take our welfare while spurning the notion of defending the country.
It makes us feel somehow more secure in our own identity as Jews in a Jewish state. It makes our dislike of them, our educational, economic, and social discrimination against them, seem more of a reasoned response than what it actually is, which is institutional racism.
These sentiments echo those of the distinguished South African sociologist Stanley Cohen, who was the Director of the Institute of Criminology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in the 1980’s. In 2001, The Guardian quoted Professor Cohen as stating, “Denial of the injustices and injuries inflicted upon the Palestinians is built into the social fabric… There are, of course, good historical reasons why Israeli Jews should have a defensive self-image and a character armour of insecurity and permanent victimhood. The result is a xenophobia that would be called ‘racism’ anywhere else, an exclusion of Palestinians from a shared moral universe and an obsessional self-absorption: what we do to them is less important than what this does to us.”
Aharon Barak, Israeli Supreme Court President from 1995 to 2006, summed up the conundrum thusly: “We have still not worked out properly the interrelationship between the Jewishness of the state and the fact that it is a state of all its citizens.”
Sadly, many years later, these findings and observations hadn’t changed much.
Does anyone actually know the meaning of the term “Jewish state” that we bandy about so much? Does it mean a state for Jews only? Is it not a new kind of “racial purity”? Is the “demographic threat” greater than the danger of the state’s becoming a religious ethnocracy or an apartheid state? Wouldn’t it be better to live in a just democracy? And how is it even possible to speak about a state being both Jewish and democratic?
How, indeed? These are questions J Street’s Ben-Ami and Hebrew University’s Taub should answer. Instead, as we have seen, they — as representatives of the so-called “left” — suggest compromise. Does the Jewish Israeli population polled above really seem like the compromising type? How exactly should Palestinians be expected to compromise when, at best, they are being told to accept the “generous offer” of 42% of the 80% of the 22% of 100% of their original homeland? Should those demanding justice and equality really just sit back and wait for their oppressors and occupiers to suddenly change their minds, especially when 77% of Israeli Jews even oppose the artist boycott of settlements?