Pew finding on expulsion of Israeli Arabs prompts sharp reactions

  • Pew
In a survey that spanned politics, religion and interfaith relations, one statistic stood out: nearly half of Israel’s Jews support expelling the country’s Arabs.
by BEN SALES | Mar 09, 2016


The Pew Research Centre’s study of Israelis' attitudes, which had its findings released on Tuesday, had asked respondents whether they agreed that “Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel.” Forty-eight per cent of Israeli Jews agreed, while 46 per cent did not. Among self-described right-wing Jews, 72 per cent agreed, along with 71 per cent of religious Zionists.

The figure was inconsistent with the findings of previous studies and provoked strong reactions in a country that sees its Arab minority as proof of its commitment to democratic values and respect for diversity. It has also shone a spotlight on what has been seen previously as a fringe proposal. No party in the Israeli Knesset advocates mass population transfer and it has never been seriously discussed as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The idea that the State of Israel could be a democracy only for its Jewish citizens is unconscionable and we must find a way to address this,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said at a meeting with officials of the Washington-based Pew Centre. “I believe that also our democratic values are born out of our Jewish faith, a love for the stranger and equality before the law.”

Rivlin called on the public to engage in “soul-searching and moral reflection”.

But Alan Cooperman, the Pew study’s lead author, says support for expulsion comports with other data points in the survey. Cooperman pointed to survey findings that nearly four out of five Israeli Jews say Israel should give preferential treatment to Jews, 60 per cent of Israeli Jews believe G-d gave the land to them, and that majorities of religious Zionists and haredi Orthodox Jews also feel Jewish law should be the law of the state.

"You see it really makes sense,” he said. “Support is strongest among [religious Zionists], very high among settlers."

Analysts say Jewish animosity toward Israeli Arabs has been exacerbated by the recent wave of Palestinian terror attacks and a government response that some consider inflammatory. Rawnak Natour, the co-director of Sikkuy, a nonprofit that works toward Arab-Jewish coexistence, pointed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech decrying "two nations within Israel" following a January terror attack in Tel Aviv.

“I think there’s a feeling of fear here that’s strengthened by the political echelon,” Natour said. “There’s a lack of familiarity of the other side.”

The Pew finding on expulsion is significantly higher than other recent polls that have sought to measure Israeli attitudes toward coexistence. The 2015 Israel Democracy Index, a survey published annually by the Israel Democracy Institute, found 37,5 per cent support for the government merely encouraging Arab emigration.

A 2015 poll by Haifa University Professor Sammy Smooha found that six in 10 Israeli Jews felt “it would be good for Arabs and Jews to always live together in Israel”. That survey also found 32 per cent of respondents in favour of encouraging Arabs to leave Israel in exchange for compensation.

Israeli pollsters have laid blame on the question itself, calling it vague and misleading. Is the question about Israeli Arabs, West Bank Palestinians or both? When would this expulsion occur, and under what conditions? Would the Arab refugees be compensated?

“It was asked in a very unclear way,” said Tamar Hermann, academic director of IDI’s Guttman Centre for Surveys. “If we didn’t get a majority on a more cautious and less aggressive version [of the question], what happened here? I would say take it with a grain of salt.”

The statistic is a sign not only of extremism but also of polarisation in Israeli society, says Steven M Cohen, a sociology professor at New York’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion who consulted on the Pew study. Regardless of the exact level of support, he called the figure a “warning sign” for Israeli and Jewish leaders.

“There's a lot of support for this notion that G-d gave this land to me - not to them, to me,” Cohen said at a panel discussion of the survey on Tuesday in Tel Aviv. “Is there a context in which it seems the authorities are trying to diminish the place of minorities in this country? Is that happening? If that’s happening, then this question becomes very critical.” (JTA)



  1. 4 nat cheiman 13 Mar
    Arabs procreate at a faster rate than Jews. Do the math.
    They will outvote the Jews in 20 years.
    Get rid of them. 
    Europe is taking them so while the going is good, Israel should start exporting
    Actually, Nat, assuming you are not being racist here and referring to "Arabs" in Israel and the Palestinian territories,. as against ALL Arabs) you are incorrect. The fertility rates are highest in Gaza, second-highest in Israel and lowest in the West Bank (occupied territories or any other a wealth of names attributed to them). Now that's a fact!    -ANT KATZ
  2. 3 nat cheiman 14 Mar
    Thankyou for putting the record straight. I was of the view that arabs in Israel were highest. I was wrong. My apology.
  3. 2 nat cheiman 14 Mar
    Post Script; I am not a racist, insofar as the "Arabs" are concerned, and your assumption was correct.
    However, I was concerned about the demographics in Israel, which, at the moment is in conflict with the torah.
    Also, be mindful of the fact that most ( not all) Arab countries are predominantly muslim and Jews are a forbidden race. That is racism, is it not?
  4. 1 Choni 16 Mar
    All opinions regarding the transfer of Arabs from Israel are worthless unless backed by Torah.
    Torah explicitly advocates and commands the transfer of all hostile (those that do not accept Jewish sovereignty over all of Eretz Yisrael) Arabs .
    The Pew survey merely shows that those who support transfer support the Torah "opinion". THey MUST be right. As Nat says, Torah is right.
    Baruch Hashem soon the percentage will be higher and higher.

    P.S. Rabbi Kahana zt'l is smiling in Heaven.


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