Palestinians in the West Bank and Israeli Arabs show increasing signs of wanting to keep their distance from each other, and maintain different narratives about the history of the conflict, according to a new study conducted by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev researchers.

Among some of the findings that researchers found most remarkable, 60 percent of Israeli Arabs surveyed said they would not want their daughter to marry someone from the West Bank, while 41% of West Bankers had the same attitude to their daughter marrying an Arab with Israeli citizenship.

A full 18% of Israeli Arabs said they wouldn’t want to live in the same neighborhood as Palestinians.

Equally striking were their views on the outcome of Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, which Palestinians call the nakba (catastrophe). Prof. Shifra Sagy, director of the Conflict Management and Resolution Program at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, who conducted the study in cooperation with Palestinians and with funding from the German research foundation DFG, noted that those who stayed in their villages and became citizens of Israel referred to themselves as ’48 Palestinians, and those who either fled or were forced out and came to live in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank as ’67 Palestinians.

“There are different narratives among the ’48 and ’67 people, and one major issue is the question of loyalty to the land.

“We asked Arabs of ’48 about their narrative, which is that they were loyal to their land when they didn’t desert it and stayed. The ’67 people look at the same issue, and they say the ’48 Arabs stayed on their land because they gave up and succumbed to the occupation without any resistance,” Sagy said.

Each group largely sees its narrative as the legitimate one, she added.

“Both groups think of themselves as Palestinians, but narratives are different regarding very crucial issues,” Sagy said. “What it reveals here is that over the past 60 years, this has really become two distinctly different groups.”

Another interesting question in the survey, which has only had its most preliminary data analyzed so far, involved the relative well-being of Israeli Arabs in comparison to their West Bank counterparts.

“The ‘48 Arabs say this is our right as citizens of Israel, but in the West Bank, the popular narrative is that this relative affluence is because Israel coopted them into being loyal,” she said.

The findings are likely to be disconcerting for some Palestinians, both in Israel and in the Palestinian territories, who would like to view Palestinians as one people.

Sagy notes that the study came at the initiative of some of her Palestinian students. It was codirected with her postdoctoral student Dr. Adi Mana, and PhD students Anan Srour and Serene Madjali.

They interviewed 1,104 “1948 Arabs” and 948 “1967 Arabs” aged 18 and older in an in-person, Arabic-language survey. The purpose of the study was to examine how each group viewed the other and how sympathetic they were to the other’s narrative.

The two societies have evolved in different ways since their separation 64 years ago, yet little research has been done in examining the differences between those narratives and relations between the two groups, Sagy added.

Srour, who is from the Galilee, said that they had also hoped to include the Gaza Strip, but were told that it was too risky.

“Perhaps there are some radicals who see this survey and will think it’s too controversial,” Srour said. “We heard this occasionally in comments from the participants, in both directions. Some said that it’s really an issue, that we are two groups.

And others criticized us, saying there’s no relevance for this research, because we’re all one people.”

Sagy noted the likelihood that many Israeli Arabs feel concerned about maintaining their status in Israeli society, and as such have developed a unique identity that is different from that of Palestinians in the territories.

“It is possible that the ’48 Arabs’ status as a small minority, at times threatened, both within Israeli society and the Arab world, has strengthened their group cohesion and their need to protect their unique collective narrative.

Despite feeling that their common connection and identity with the ’67 Arabs is very important and significant, that connection could come at a heavy price, according to respondents, by bringing into doubt their connection to Israeli society. It is possible that it is for this reason that they distance themselves from the ’67 Arabs more than the ’67 Arabs do, and stress their unique potential as a “bridge” between the two nations,” Sagy said.

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