Nearly 65 years after Israel’s creation, two Palestinian societies emerge, new study shows

60 percent of Israeli Arabs say they would not allow their daughter to marry a Palestinian from the West Bank

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

A Palestinian woman in the Rafah refugee camp, September 4, 2012 (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90)
A Palestinian woman in the Rafah refugee camp, September 4, 2012 (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90)

Palestinians living in Israel have developed a different historic narrative towards the Arab-Israeli conflict than that of their brethren in the West Bank, a new Israeli study published Tuesday shows.

A survey conducted by Ben-Gurion University’s Conflict Management and Resolution Program among 2,052 Palestinians living in Israel and the West Bank found a clear divergence in narratives regarding the War of 1948 (known to Palestinians as the Nakba, or disaster) and the economic discrepancies between the two populations.

Israeli Arabs (known as ’48 Arabs, for the War of 1948 which found them inside the borders of Israel-proper) displayed low tolerance for the conflict narrative of their Palestinian relatives beyond the Green Line (known as ’67 Arabs, for the Six Day War of 1967).

While ’67 Arabs accuse their ’48 counterparts — who remained in their homes despite the war — of acquiescing to Israeli rule, ’48 Arabs retort that they have clung to their land, choosing not to capitulate and flee.

The questionnaire asked respondents both cognitive and emotional questions, where they had to agree or disagree with a number of statements.

“Even though both communities define themselves as Palestinian, nearly 65 years of living on other sides of the line have created two distinct communities,” Shifra Sagy, director of the Conflict Management Program, told the Times of Israel. “Every group closely identifies with its own narrative and guards it.”

The narrative of ’48 Arabs was more deeply ingrained and less accepting of the opposite narrative, the research found. On the emotional level, Israeli Arabs also expressed more anger towards the narrative of the ’67 Arabs.

An astounding 60 percent of Israeli Arabs said they would not allow their daughter to marry a man from the West Bank. 41 percent of West Bank Palestinians claimed the reverse.

Sagy noted that the status of ’48 Arabs, as a “small minority, at times threatened, both within Israeli society and the Arab world,” resulted in a stronger group identity and an impetus to protect their unique collective narrative.

Life within a larger Jewish society has softened the attitude of ’48  Arabs towards Israel, the survey found. Israeli Arabs tend to blame Israel less for the displacement of Palestinians than their counterparts in the West Bank.

“This situation is somewhat similar to the divide between East and West Germany,” Sagy said. “There too, two distinct societies were formed. When the wall came down, people found that they were almost two different nations.”

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