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Poll: Half of Israeli Arab public sees racist motive behind home demolitions

While 27% look for calm, almost equal number want to increase tensions; large majority of respondents say PM, police chief untrustworthy

Police forces at a planned home demolition in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran that turned violent, with at least two killed in the ensuing clashes, on January 18, 2017. (Courtesy/Arab Joint List)
Police forces at a planned home demolition in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran that turned violent, with at least two killed in the ensuing clashes, on January 18, 2017. (Courtesy/Arab Joint List)

A new poll published Friday found that half of Arab Israelis believe demolitions of illegal Arab construction are motivated by racism on the part of the government.

The poll, conducted by the StatNet research institute in the wake of the destruction of homes in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, found that 50 percent of respondents felt the move was a racist initiative, while 20% thought it was in order to distract the public from the ongoing investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for suspected corruption, Israel Radio reported.

Netanyahu pledged to crack down on illegal construction in the Arab community last month, as he sought to soothe tempers over plans to demolish buildings at the unrecognized settlement outpost of Amona. The High Court later granted the outpost a 45-day stay of execution.

The poll also found that 47% of the Arab community believes that it is important to use all legal means to fight against further demolitions, through non-violent protests.

A policeman, Erez Levi, was killed Wednesday in a suspected car-ramming attack during clashes over home demolitions in the long-contested Bedouin town of Umm al-Hiran. The driver Yaqoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an, was shot and killed after driving into the police line in the southern town. Local residents dispute claims that it was a deliberate attack, saying Abu Al-Qia’an lost control of the car after it came under police fire before he hit the officers.

Arab-Israelis hold protest banners against the demolition of homes in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, January 19, 2016. (Courtesy)
Arab Israelis hold protest banners against the demolition of homes in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, January 19, 2016. (Courtesy)

A little over a quarter — 27% — of respondents said they wanted to defuse the tensions and calm things down. In contrast, almost one quarter sought to increase protests. This is the highest percentage of Arabs expressing a desire to intensify the struggle against the government since October 2000, the beginning of the Second Intifada.

Yaqoub Mousa Abu al-Qia’an (Courtesy)
Yaqoub Mousa Abu al-Qia’an (Courtesy)

Less than 8% of the Arab public said they trust Netanyahu, as opposed to 85% who do not trust him.

Seventy-three percent of those questioned do not trust the Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, while only 13% do have faith in him. Alsheich on Wednesday leveled harsh criticism at leaders of the Arab community for their response to the death of the officer in the Bedouin village.

Police officer 1st Sgt. Erez Levi, 34, who was killed in an alleged car-ramming attack at Umm al-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (Courtesy)
Police officer 1st Sgt. Erez Levi, 34, who was killed in an alleged car-ramming attack at Umm al-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (Courtesy)

One third of respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of the Knesset members from the Joint (Arab) List, as opposed to only one quarter who said they were satisfied.

The survey included Arab citizens of Israel from 72 different villages. However, Israel Radio did not give the actual sample size.

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