Do Israeli citizens really want an end to the Palestine-Israel conflict that has beset the Middle East for so many years? The findings of a poll conducted by Dialog on behalf of the Yisraela Goldblum Fund and published in Haaretz last week suggest that no, they don’t. What many of them want is the perpetuation of the existing apartheid system currently in place in Israel.
The results of the survey indicate that 58 per cent of respondents concede that Israel already has an apartheid political system. According to Dalia Scheindlin, a public opinion analyst based in Tel Aviv, the term apartheid is usually rejected among Israelis. The poll’s novel findings stop there.
In line with previous polls that have shown that many Israelis support their government’s discriminatory policies the survey revealed that 69 per cent believe that Jews should be given preference over and above Israel’s Palestinian Arab citizens as candidates for government jobs. Forty-two per cent claimed that they did not want to share a building with Arabs or allow their children to be in the same class as Arab children.
The findings support what is happening on the ground. Israeli schools are divided, with different schools for Arabs and Jews and an unequal distribution of funding; it is rare to find Arabs and Jews to share apartment blocks. In fact, access to employment, health and other public services is riddled with injustice and discrimination.
Much criticism has appeared in reaction to a discerning opinion piece by Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy about the poll’s findings. Blogger and critic Avi Mayer asked why the article did not mention the 53 per cent of Israelis who said that living in the same apartment as Palestinians “would not bother them”. Nevertheless, no matter how they are presented, the poll’s findings are shocking.
A massive 74 per cent of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank said that they favour segregated roads across the territory. Separate roads for different ethnic groups are a form of racial discrimination and part of a system that controls Palestinians’ freedom of movement along with multiple checkpoints and the separation wall.
A large section of the poll is based on a hypothetical situation. Imagine, respondents were asked, if Israel annexed the West Bank; would Jewish citizens support or oppose rights for the 2.5 million Palestinians living there?
It is important here to point out that 48 per cent opposed annexation altogether, yet 38 per cent (still a sizeable minority) would support it. Most worryingly, if the West Bank was annexed, 69 per cent of respondents said that Palestinians should be prevented from voting in elections. A further 47 per cent of Israelis support the expulsion of Arabs from Israel to Palestinian-controlled territory.
Israel’s Arab citizens have always been subject to discriminatory practices. Since 1948, Palestinian citizens have established a mere 7 communities inside Israel’s pre-1967 border, in contrast to the flourishing of 700 Israeli communities. The government has had no problems “Judaising” parts of the country that have a higher ratio of Palestinian to Jewish citizens. Palestinians in East Jerusalem struggle continually against house demolitions and unfair access to public services.
Far-fetched critics of the poll, such as Sharon Mittleman in J-Wire, who claimed that the respondents might have misunderstood the term “apartheid”, hold little sway, nor offer a reasonable excuse. Perhaps it’s true that the sample of 503 people who participated in the poll (out of approximately 6 million Jewish Israelis) was too few to be representative, but that ignores the reality: we do not need a survey to tell us that Israel is an apartheid system. The evidence is all around for us to see.
Gideon Levy blames “years of brainwashing” which have created, in Israeli eyes, the Arab image as “terrorists, criminals, or primitive people”. True, the complete absence of accountability, settlement endorsement and cynical rhetoric of Israeli politicians has not helped the situation, but people can, and must, think for themselves.
So what can be done about this? For sure, recognition of the horrors of the Nakba (Catastrophe) in 1948 would go some way towards stopping Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their own land. A fair analysis and accounts of Israel’s past (and present) narrative within the education system and media are essential.
As this poll comes just three months before an Israeli general election, change does not look imminent. None of the leading political parties have an agenda that varies in any significant way from the current coalition’s, which is riddled with racism and extremism. Change can only come through awareness-raising and consciousness among the Israeli public, along with condemnation, not endorsement, from the international community.
Apartheid is a crime against humanity and cannot be tolerated in the 21st century, in Israel or anywhere else.