Majority of Arab Muslim public support social protests

Study shows overwhelming majority of the Arab-Israeli public personally supported "social justice" protests.

May 13, 2012 21:47
2 minute read.
Social protesters [file].

Social protests yelling 521. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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The overwhelming majority of the Arab Israeli public saw last summer’s “social justice” protests as justified and said they personally supported them, according to figures from a study compiled by the Western Galilee Academic College.

According to the figures, 69.2 percent of Arab Muslim respondents said the protests were just, and 71.8% said they personally supported the protests. Among Druse respondents, the figures were 88.2% and 70.6% respectively.

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While the figures for the Arab Muslim sector were significantly lower than those among the Jewish public (85% and 80%), Prof. Eran Zaidise, who oversaw the survey, said they represented a remarkably high amount of sympathy for the protests from the Arab sector.

“The fact that 70% of the Arab Muslim sector supports a protest that is almost entirely run and supported by Jews is surprising because usually the Arab sector doesn’t identify with the problems or demands of the Jewish community because they have their own concerns and politics.”

Zaidise said the figures were compiled from 750 questionnaires distributed over July, August and September of last year, with 200 of those distributed at the main Rothschild tent city and 263 from students at the Western Galilee Open University, among other places.

This summer’s coming protests will either resemble last year’s in that organizers will present a non-partisan, apolitical front to draw in wider crowds, or that they will become more political and more left wing at the expense of drawing a smaller section of the public than last year’s, according to Zaidise.

“I doubt if large protests like last summer’s could have much of a difference. Politicians have no reason to change policy if there is no electoral reason to do so,” Zaidise said in regard to the importance of adopting a clear political stance in the protests.

Zaidise also accused last year’s protest organizers of “trying to hold the stick at both ends,” by saying that they were looking to change the government’s policies but not the government leadership itself.

Zaidise drew a comparison between last summer’s protests and one held Saturday night, which drew about 5,000 people to Rabin Square in Tel Aviv.

Zaidise said Saturday’s protest was clearly “more red, partisan and much more of an opposition protest than last year’s, but also much smaller. The protests last year that brought in 300,000, 400,000 people aren’t the public that supports this agenda.”

When asked what it would take for a new wave of protests to be considered successful, she said “if to succeed is to make a lot of noise and get people out on the streets, and to dictate the conversation in the national media, then it succeeded [last year], but if success is to bring widespread change in society then it didn’t succeed.”

At the end of the day, the main problem in bringing a sweeping social change through political protests, according to Zaidise, is that the public simply does not want to upend its current leadership.

“For an effective protest, you have to be willing to change the leadership and the people here aren’t ready for that yet.”

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