'You can't have democracy just for Jews,' Rivlin said in wake of Pew poll

Almost half of Israelis support the expulsion or transfer of Arabs from Israel, a new survey showed.

March 9, 2016 04:52
3 minute read.
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks next to Palestinian women in Jerusalem's Old City

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks next to Palestinian women in Jerusalem's Old City. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The president, political leaders and civil rights groups condemned as deeply worrying on Tuesday the results of the Pew Research Center report showing almost half of Israelis supporting the expulsion or transfer of Arabs from Israel.

President Reuven Rivlin said the study brings up troubling challenges that need to be dealt with immediately, after being presented with the report’s findings at the President’s Residence.

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The landmark survey showed Israelis are divided societally, religiously and politically, with little societal interaction between the different sectors.

“This poll should be brought to the attention of the government and the nation’s decision makers,” Rivlin said. “It shows even more than before the need to deal with our internal issues.”

Rivlin called the finding that 48 percent of Jewish Israelis believe Arabs should be transferred out of Israel particularly troubling.

“This is a very dangerous situation,” he said, adding that it threatens the democratic character of Israel. “You can’t have democracy just for Jews.”

He acknowledged the difficulty in combating bias and distrust of the other, as “children learn this at home even before they are old enough to go to kindergarten.”

Pew director of religion research Alan Cooperman said that while Israeli Jews were divided on many issues, what united them was the belief that Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish People, and is necessary for the survival of the Jewish nation.

MK Yousef Jabareen of the Joint List said that the results of the survey should keep awake at night anyone who cares about Jewish-Arab coexistence.

“The transfer of citizens, for whatever reason, is a crime against humanity, and I am frightened to see that half of those polled support such a step,” said Jabareen, who chairs the Knesset Lobby for Jewish-Arab Coexistence.

He said that recent years had seen “a wave of incitement and delegitimization against Arabs living in Israel led by elements in the ruling echelon” which has radicalized the views of the Jewish population against Arab citizens. He called on the country’s leaders to adopt a dialogue of respect and coexistence among the nation’s different religious and national groups, which “relates to Arab citizens as having equal rights.”

Amnesty International Israel lambasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the results of the study, pointing to his controversial comments on election day about Arab voters.

“I am not surprised that in a state in which the prime minister speaks about ‘droves of Arabs going to the polling booths in their thousands,’ there is such a large number of Israelis who echo this racism,” said Yonatan Gher, director of Amnesty in Israel.

Sikkuy: The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel, made similar comments, apportioning blame to Netanyahu and right-wing government ministers for inciting against the Arab population.

Rabbi David Stav, founder and chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical organization, addressed the results on religious choice in the country, saying the poll was a “further wakeup call” on issues of religion and state in Israel.

“Israeli Jews wish to practice their Judaism but want to do so in a manner that is not coercive or manipulated by the institutions of the State,” he said.

“Most troubling, the study drives home the reality that if we don’t find a manner to address these concerns over coercion, we are essentially creating a recipe for two Jewish nations within one state,” Stav added.

Eric S. Goldstein, the CEO of the UJA-Federation of New York, said: “We hope that policy-makers in Israel take this survey seriously and continue to invest resources to fully embrace all Israeli citizens.”

He said the UJA-Federation works in many ways “to integrate all segments of Israeli society, including the ultra-Orthodox and Arab populations.”

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