Almost half Israeli Arabs believe Palestine will eventually replace Israel
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Almost half Israeli Arabs believe Palestine will eventually replace Israel

In annual survey, Arab citizens express increasing estrangement from country and society, but a desire for greater integration

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Israeli Arabs and Bedouin protest outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Israeli Arabs and Bedouin protest outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

A majority of Israeli Arabs feel they would be justified in launching an intifada, or uprising, if their situation did not improve, according to a survey conducted by Haifa University sociologist Sammy Smooha. At the same time, more than half reconcile themselves to living in a state with an Israeli-Hebrew culture.

The extensive survey, called the 2012 Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel, shows that compared to the first survey in 2003, Arab Israelis feel increasingly disconnected from and hostile to the state, though they desire greater integration. Jews, on the other hand, are slightly more open to the concerns of their Arab neighbors.

Forty-eight percent of Arabs said they thought a Palestinian state would someday replace Israel, whereas only 19% held this opinion in 2003. Eighty-two percent blame Jews for the “Nakba,” or national Palestinian catastrophe in the wake of the 1948 war.

Thirty-one percent of Arabs surveyed said they didn’t believe millions of Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, compared with 28% in 2003.

To gather data for the Index, Smooha and his team spoke with 700 Arabs and 700 Jews across the country. The study became a joint project of the University of Haifa and the Israel Democracy Institute in 2012.

The survey revealed the fear Arab Israelis feel regarding their future in the state. More than two-thirds worry about a population transfer, and 62% feel they cannot trust most Jews. In general, Arabs are more likely in 2012 to view Jews negatively compared to 2003, whereas Jews are slightly less likely to hold similar stereotypes about Arabs.

Almost three-quarters of respondents said the Israeli government treated them as second-class citizens.

In 2003, 65% of Arabs said Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish, democratic state, but that number dropped to 47% in 2012.

The report pointed to a sharp increase in Arab participation in Nakba Day ceremonies. In 2003, only 13% marked the occasion at least once in their lives, but by 2012, 48% had.

Still, Arab Israelis showed a desire to become more integrated into mainstream Israeli society. Forty-two percent said they favored living in Jewish neighborhoods, and more than one-third want their children to attend Jewish high schools. Nearly three-quarters want Arab political parties to join Israeli coalition governments.

A healthy 55% said they would rather live in Israel than any other country, but the number was down from 71% in 2007.

The Index also showed a growing desire by Israeli Jews to accommodate their Arab countrymen. Three-quarters believe that Arabs should have full citizenship rights, and 56% said Israel should allow Arabs to administer their own educational, religious, and cultural institutions, up from 49% last year. More than half of the Jewish respondents said they would accept Arab parties in government coalitions.

However, suspicions  remain. A full 65% fear that Arabs are endangering the state because of their attempts to change its Jewish character, down from 72% in 2003, and 58% avoid Arab areas in Israel.

The Index, launched in 2003, is published annually.

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