Jewish nationalism is top priority for Israeli youth

New book shows democracy not the most important objective for youth, reveals radically opposing views among Israeli Arabs and Jews.

Jewish nationalism – and not democracy – emerged as the most important objective for Israel’s youth in 2010, according to research featured in a new book by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, published last week.
Entitled All of the Above – Israeli Youth: Identity Paradoxes, the book, written in cooperation with the Macro Center for Political Economics, includes in-depth Dahaf Institute research carried out last summer on the attitudes and beliefs of some 1,600 young people – “both Arabs and Jews” – living here.
Among the questions addressed to the 800 teens (aged 15 to 18), and 800 youths (21 to 24), was a series relating directly to the rule of law and governance in this country.
Asked to rate what was important and unimportant in terms of running the country, democracy came in only third place, with 14.3 percent seeing it as essential to the state; while 26% of Jewish respondents said that Jewish nationality was the most important factor.
The majority of Jewish youths questioned by the poll also emphasized the need for a strong leadership, over the rule of law.
In addition to examining attitudes and values regarding Zionism, democracy and national institutions, the study also probed opinions and values regarding the treatment of minorities in Israel, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Holocaust.
“The results show the near future of Israeli society,” said the publishers in a statement.
“The opinions and values of the youth can be used as a seismometer for detecting social change and future developments.”
Examining attitudes of young Jewish Israelis toward Arab-Israelis, and vice versa, the study found that close to half of Israel’s Jewish youth were supportive of the notion of revoking the basic political rights (such as election to the Knesset) of the country’s Arab population.
Asked whether they believed the statement “Most Arabs do not accept Israel’s right to exist and would destroy us if they could,” close to half said that it was “highly likely.”
Within the Arab-Israeli community, attitudes were equally disparaging, with the majority of Arab teens and youths saying they did not feel in any way part of Israeli society. Indeed, only 18% of the 15-18 age group, and 19% among the 21-24 yearolds, felt otherwise.
On the question of whether Jews and Arabs could live side by side in the same neighborhoods, both communities said it was not desirable, and not important. Only a handful of respondents showed a willingness to do so.
On a positive note, most of the youths surveyed said they supported peace negotiations with the Palestinians – but rejected compromises, preferring the existing situation.
“These positions of theyouth in Israel are not optimistic regarding the prospects of peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, or regarding the future of Israel as a democratic and pluralistic society,” co-publisher of the book Dr. Ralf Hexel said in a statement.
“It is evident that the values and opinions described present a real challenge to those social and political forces committed to the values and goals of Israel’s founding fathers.”
His publishing partner, Dr. Roby Nathanson, added: “The results of the study are unpleasant, but we, and the youth surveyed, do not live in a black-and-white world, but in a world characterized by constant change. The most important thing is that Israel must increase significantly the investment in democratic education.
“The unequivocal result of the study shows that the youth in Israel are not conscious enough of democracy as a value, and of democratic values.
Democracy is not merely voting every four years, but includes values such as tolerance and consideration of the rights of minorities, of the weak and of the different.”
The book, which will be published in English in May, also contains a comparison to previous studies on Israeli youth conducted in 2004 and 1998, as well as a series of essays and opinion pieces by some of the country’s top commentators, political figures and other celebrities.