The majority of Israeli Jews — 56 per cent — believe that they are the “chosen people” according to a poll conducted by Haaretz. That figure is considerably higher amongst the political right in Israel, at 79 per cent.
The findings of the survey — carried out to mark the Jewish New Year — included a number of revealing facts about Israeli society and the direction of the country’s politics. A trend that may be of great concern to those who wish to see a political resolution in Palestine on the basis of international law and justice, is that more than half of Jewish Israelis believe that their perceived right to the “Land of Israel” derives from God’s divine covenant in the Bible.
With the vast majority of Israeli Jews holding such views, the authors of the poll suggested that under the surface a religious war is raging. The religious attitude of Israeli Jews, they said, was the “ominous subtext of the bitter political debate over territories.” The Israeli government, though, presents its quarrel with the Palestinians as being about security and realpolitik. The results of “blind faith,” they added, “are easily foretold and potentially dangerous.”
According to the poll, 54 per cent of Jewish Israelis believe in God, and another 21 per cent accept the existence of an undefined superior power other than God. This is significantly higher than Western European countries, but not the US, which has a similar percentage of people who believe in God.
This finding marked a key feature in the way that the conflict is moving in the international arena and the polarisation between Israel and US on the one hand and European allies on the other. “The tense political relations between both Israel and the European Union, and recently between the EU and Washington as well, can also be delineated by religious beliefs,” said the poll’s authors. “Israelis and Americans view Europe as godless and decadent, but for the Brahmins in Brussels, Israel and the United States are drifting into fundamentalist Crazyland.”