52% of Israeli Jews agree: African migrants are ‘a cancer’

Peace Index finds 33% condone anti-migrant violence, establishes a direct correlation between racist attitudes and religiosity

Likud MK Miri Regev, center, surrounded by anti-African refugee supporters in 2012 .The sign reads "Miri we are with you." (Yehoshua Yosef/Flash90)
Likud MK Miri Regev, center, surrounded by anti-African refugee supporters in 2012 .The sign reads "Miri we are with you." (Yehoshua Yosef/Flash90)

Fifty-two percent of Jewish Israelis identify with the statement by MK Miri Regev last month that African migrants are “a cancer in the body” of the nation, and over a third condone anti-migrant violence, according to the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) Peace Index for May 2012.

Broken down by political and religious affiliation, the monthly index’s findings reveal that among Jews there is a direct correlation between right-wing political affiliation and a racist attitude toward migrants. Thus, 86 percent of Shas voters and 66 percent of Likud voters polled expressed identification with Regev’s controversial statement, as opposed to 32 percent of Labor voters and four percent of Meretz voters.

The degree of religiosity attested to by respondents also accounted for a large disparity in the findings, with 81.5% and 66% of self-described ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox, respectively, agreeing with Regev’s statement, as opposed to 38% of secular Israelis.

Only 19% of Arab respondents agreed that the migrants were “a cancer.”

The poll also found that 33.5 percent of Jews and 23 percent of Arabs identified with recent acts of violence against African migrants perpetrated by demonstrators and residents of South Tel Aviv. According to the IDI this was “very surprising, considering that most people do not tend to openly report sympathy for acts that are broadly condemned by society.”

The Peace Index also gauged respondents’ opinions of foreign workers from various countries and found that workers from Africa were a larger source of concern for Israeli Jews than were workers from other continents. Thus, while between 30 and 40 percent of Jewish respondents were moderately or greatly disturbed by the presence of non-African foreign workers, that figure climbed to 56.7 when it came to workers from Ghana and Nigeria and 65.2 for Sudanese and Eritrean job seekers.

The report termed the findings “troubling” and “surprising,” especially considering the fact that 79.5 percent of respondents said that “where they live there are only a few, very few, or no” refugees or migrant workers.

“This raises doubt about the often-heard claim that it is direct exposure or vulnerability that accounts for negative positions and feelings toward the presence of foreigners,” the report said.

The survey was conducted among 609 respondents, a representative sample of Israel’s adult population.

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