Palestinian flags waving in West Bank 370.
(photo credit: Reuters)
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.
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
“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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.