Israelis increasingly feel that their society is divided and the breaches are widening, and they put the blame on political and religious leaders as well as on news media, according to a survey released Sunday.
The Anti-Defamation League poll found that 81 percent of Israelis felt there are growing divisions in society, compared to the 69% who said they felt that way in a survey four years ago.
Only four percent said they see Israeli society as united or very united.
The leading contributors to division in society are political leaders (90%), social media (84%), news media (84%) and rabbis as well as the religious establishment (74%), the survey revealed.
On the other side of the balance, 69% said the Israel Defense Forces, where service is mandatory for most Israelis, is the biggest contributor to unity.
“At a time when Israeli society is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and faces political and social instability, there is an increasing sense among Israeli citizens that our society is more divided than ever before,” said Carole Nuriel, director of ADL’s Israel office.
Ethiopian Israelis were seen as the most discriminated-against members of society, with 21% of respondents holding that opinion, followed by Arab Israelis (19%) and the LGBT community (16%).
However, among ultra-Orthodox respondents, 54% felt that their community was the most discriminated against. Arab Israelis similarly responded that they were the most discriminated against, with 64% of the community feeling that way.
In response to the question “Are Israel’s Arab citizens an integral part of Israeli society?” only 30% of those who gave an opinion answered in the affirmative, the ADL said.
Asked about willingness to see a government coalition based on partnership with Arab parties, 50% said they would be unwilling to see such an arrangement, with only 28% expressing willingness to a large or very large extent.
Nearly half of respondents said they have changed their views for the worse about ultra-Orthodox members of the population, partly due to how the community was perceived as behaving during the coronavirus outbreak.
Over the past year, there have been numerous media reports of flagrant violations of rules that banned large events. COVID-19 infection rates were consistently higher in the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, community.
Only 31% of the survey participants said they saw the ultra-Orthodox as an “integral” part of Israeli society. In 2019, before the start of the virus outbreak, an ADL poll found that 43% said the Haredim were an integral part of society.
“The increase in the negative sentiments toward various sectors in Israeli society, along with the unwillingness to unite forces between sectors – both politically and socially – should concern all those who value the health and cohesion of our democracy,” Nuriel said.
The ADL Israel Social Cohesion Index survey was carried out by Maagar Mohot Institute in February 2021, and sampled 500 Israeli adults. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.
The poll was released ahead of the ADL’s annual Israel Social Cohesion Summit, which will be held on March 9.