2011 Israeli Democracy Index indicates racism in society

Israel Democracy Institute survey shows that a third of the Jewish population doesn't regard Arab citizens as "Israelis."

Israel Flag March 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel Flag March 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Disturbing signs of racism have been detected in a poll conducted in March, 2011 on behalf of the Israel Democracy Institute by the Dahaf Institute, headed by legendary Israeli pollster Dr. Mina Zemach.
In a nationwide representative sample of 1,200 adult Israeli citizens aged 18 and upwards, responses to questions relating to the Arab population indicated that approximately a third of the Jewish population does not regard Arab citizens as “Israelis.”
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On the other hand, 72 percent of citizens who are Arab do regard themselves as Israelis, Tamar Hermann, who headed the team that devised the questions, told The Jerusalem Post.
The complete Israeli Democracy Index for 2011 was presented to President Shimon Peres on Sunday by IDI President Dr. Arye Carmon, who was presenting the seventh such annual index at the President’s Residence, and who noted that not only was the poll very comprehensive in nature, but in the interests of accuracy, questions in Russian and Arabic had been put to respondents who were more comfortable in those languages.
Carmon confessed to being concerned about the Jewish attitude to Arab citizens, stating that some of the views expressed regarding Arabs ran counter to civil rights.
Peres was equally concerned, and said that in not perceiving others as we should, we are basically punishing ourselves.
On the other hand, he was very pleased to learn that 82.3% of respondents are proud to be Israeli, including more than half the Arab citizens interviewed. He had recently read a similar poll about Russia he said, and there it was found that 60% of young Russians want to leave.
Peres said he was very encouraged by the patriotism indicated in the Israeli responses.
Curiously, even though about a third of the Jewish respondents did not consider Arab citizens to be Israeli, 52% rejected claims that Arabs in Israel suffer discrimination.
Although the index obviously did not deal with events and attitudes at the United Nations towards the end of last week, Peres could not refrain from commenting.
“What happened in New York is the battle for public opinion,” he said “and now an effort must be made to bridge the political gap between Jerusalem and Ramallah.”
The two peoples must reach a situation in which the political distance between them does not override the geographical distance, he said.
Peres endorsed the position of the Quartet with regard to direct negotiations and reiterated his oft-expressed contention that negotiations must be without any outside intervention because other countries have self interests that get in the way of issues that pertain strictly to the Israelis and the Palestinians.
The bottom line, he emphasized, is whether peace is preferable to the prevailing disquiet.
Carmon had observed in his opening remarks that although the Israeli summer, as compared to the Arab Spring, had been a period of great awakening, Israelis, according to the Index, are still turning their backs on politics.
“We have to interest them more in democracy,” he said.
Taking his cue from Carmon, Peres said that it wasn’t politics that caused people to turn away – it was the lack of vision.
“The public is yearning for vision, and there is much greater anxiety about the future than there was in previous generations,” he said.
“Young people know that they have to be better prepared for the future than ever before, because the world has become so competitive. We have to invest much more in our youth.”
This statement was borne out in the responses.
The most critical problem emerging from the findings, Hermann said, is that young people today – especially among the Arab population – believe that they have fewer career and housing opportunities than those enjoyed by their parents.
The Arabs are more inclined to attribute the problem to the presence of foreign workers, whereas Jews are more tolerant of foreign workers, she said.
Another interesting finding was that even though the poll was taken before the demonstrations for social justice, change was in the air, because responses showed greater concern for economic viability and social security than for the strengthening of military power.
What hasn’t changed from year to year is that the public overwhelmingly believes that it cannot influence government policy.
Dissatisfaction with the way in which the government is operating was expressed by 70% of respondents, and two thirds were of the opinion that politicians are not fulfilling their roles.