As protests continue to reign across Israel, the most recent of which have become violent, an Israel Hayom survey set to find out what Israelis really think of the demonstrations.
This week's survey, held against the backdrop of a number of violent incidents occurring in a number of demonstrations, asked respondents their opinion of various topics regarding the protests, such as what respondents believed to be the cause behind the protests, if the police are using proper conduct, and if the protests should really be characterized as violent or not.
The survey was conducted among 505 respondents constituting a representative sample of the adult population in Israel, and was done through the Maagar Mochot Institute and led by Professor Yitzhak Katz.
The majority of protests have been held against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his official residence in Jerusalem, as some demand action be taken over his handling of the public health and financial crisis caused as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, while others gather over his misconduct in government overall. Other groups have joined in, some defending Netanyahu, while other activist groups, such as women's rights and pro-Palestinians groups have tagged along over government misconduct both during and before the crisis.
When asked what they believed to be the main reason for the recent demonstrations and protests, 26% responded that demonstrators were protesting in opposition of the prime minister, 19% answered that it was distress from the coronavirus crisis, and 49% responded that they felt it was both. The remaining 6% responded they didn't know or answered differently.
Asked who they felt the driving demographics of the protests were, 25% responded that self-employed and employees who were hurt financially during the lockdown measures were the driving forces, compared to 21% who answered that they believed that the driving forces are political activists, and 48% responded that both groups were equally involved. The remaining 6% responded they didn't know or answered differently.
In recent months, even before the protests, tensions have been high between the public and police forces after the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in the United States which ignited a global response, and was then heightened in Israel after Border Police shot and killed a Palestinian special needs student who they allegedly suspected of carrying a weapon in the Old City in Jerusalem but was unarmed.
Phrases such as "I can't breathe," the last words of George Floyd and "Justice for Iyad al-Hallak" the name of the Palestinian student are often heard among the protests in conjunction with clashes between protesters and police. Various organizations and activists have called out the police's conduct during these demonstrations, such as the number of people arrested and the use of water cannons used to disperse crowds after police warn protesters that they have stayed past an illegal hour.
In light of these events, the survey asked respondents their opinion on police conduct during the demonstrations and whether they thought it was too violent. Among the respondent group, 44% responded that police conduct was too violent compared to 12% who thought that forces weren't strong enough, and the 30% who stood in the middle. Meanwhile, 14% responded either that they didn't know, or responded with a different answer.
In the last week, several reports of violence having broken out at the protests have been made. Just days ago, on July 29, pro-Likud far-right activists, reported to have been affiliated with the "La Familia" gang violently attacked protesters who had gathered to protest against police brutality and Public Security Minister Amir Ohana's attempts to prevent protests from taking place outside the Prime Minister's Official Residence in Jerusalem. At least five of those attacked required hospitalization.
Two days later, on July 30, two camera men and a Muslim bypasser were attacked by the same extremist group, leading the ensuing arrest of 16 La Familia members.
In the survey, respondents were asked how they would characterize the protests, with more than half (52%) responding that they're "violent or very violent," compared to the 27% who responded that they felt the protesters were balanced and thought out, and 12% who responded that they were relatively quiet. Nine percent responded that they didn't know or answered otherwise.
Lastly, respondents were asked if they believe whether protesters blocking roads is a legitimate method of protesting. Forty-nine percent responded that it's not legitimate, compared to 23% who believe it is, while 21% believe that it depends on who the protesters are, and what they are protesting. The remaining 7% answered otherwise.