Poll: Political leaders blamed for Israel's growing sectarianism

ADL survey finds grim situation with few optimistic about future cohesion.

October 20, 2017 10:26
2 minute read.
Likud MK David Bitan (left) and Joint List MK Ahmed Tibi gesture during Knesset debates

Likud MK David Bitan (left) and Joint List MK Ahmed Tibi gesture during Knesset debates. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


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The majority of Israelis see their society as divided, largely due to the country’s leaders, according to a survey released by the Anti-Defamation League on Thursday.

The poll found relatively low levels of trust in the country’s social cohesion, with 64% saying society today is either divided or very divided and 57% believing the situation will not be any better in 30 years, when Israel marks its 100th anniversary. Only 7% believe Israeli society is cohesive.

The majority, 75% of respondents, said the country’s political leadership contributes to that division, with traditional media trailing just behind at 73%. Rabbis and the religious establishment were also blamed by 67% of respondents, while 42% said the judiciary bears responsibility as well.

Respondents were also asked how likely they thought it was that negative attitudes toward different sectors of society would change in the future.

Half of those polled said there was no chance of changing such attitudes toward Israeli Arabs, while 37% said the same regarding negative views toward the ultra-Orthodox and 34% said similar attitudes toward leftists would remain unchanged.

When asked whether they were in favor of maintaining Arabic as the country’s second official language, about half (51%) responded affirmatively, while about one-third (32%) were opposed.

Regarding the role of Diaspora Jewry in Israel’s decision-making processes, 25% favored “very little” involvement, 26% said “little,” 27% answered “medium,” 9% “high” and 3% “very high.” There was no option for answering “none,” but respondents could choose “don’t know” or “other.”

The poll by research institution Maagar Mochot was conducted among a sample of 510 respondents through online questionnaires. The margin of error was reported to be within plus or minus 4.3%.

The ADL published the survey to mark the 40th anniversary of its Israel office and ahead of its Israeli Social Cohesion conference next Tuesday. Senior decision-makers, academics, educators and the media are expected at the gathering, the aim of which is to promote discussion on the subject of unity in Israel.

“Towards the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel, the survey proves beyond any doubt that Israeli society is divided and reflects the importance of efforts to bridge the gaps in society more than ever before,” said Carol Nuriel, director general of ADL in Israel. “Israeli society has a long way to go in order to strengthen its cohesion and social strength.”

Nuriel said that political, religious, and sector-specific leaders bear a responsibility “not only to internalize the results, but to take concrete steps and place the social issue at the top of the agenda. The Anti-Defamation League in Israel will stand alongside the various leaders and sectors in Israeli society and will work to promote social cohesion in Israel.”

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