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Poll: Majority of Israelis Support Apartheid Against Arabs

Israel’s West Bank separation barrier is often referred to as the “apartheid wall.” (Photo: Marc Venezia)

A new poll has revealed shocking widespread discriminatory views held by Israeli Jews toward the country’s Arab citizens and majority support for apartheid policies toward occupied Palestinians.

The leading left-leaning Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz originally reported on the results of the survey, carried out by Israel’s Dialog polling group, under the headline “Most Israelis Support An Apartheid Regime In Israel.” That headline proved too controversial, and so it was changed. But what’s most shocking is not the headline but the findings of the Dialog poll.

A third of those surveyed said that Israel’s Arab citizens, who number about 20 percent of the nation’s population, should be denied their voting rights. Nearly half– 47 percent– said they want Israeli Arabs stripped of their citizenship. Half said they believe Jews should be treated better than Arabs, and 59 percent said they want Jews to receive preferential treatment in public sector employment.

More than 40 percent of the 503 Israelis polled said they want segregated housing and classrooms for Jews and Arabs. Forty percent back annexation of the West Bank, part of Palestine which was invaded in 1967 and has been illegally occupied ever since. In the hypothetical event of annexation, fully 70 percent of the poll respondents said they want to deny the Palestinians living in the West Bank their voting rights. Three-quarters said they favor separate roads for Israelis and Palestinians. While annexation is a hypothetical scenario, Israeli-only roads are an everyday fact of life for Palestinians living under the cloud of occupation and apartheid.

The poll’s troubling results “reflect the widespread notion that Israel, as a Jewish state, should be a state that favors Jews,” Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf is quoted in The Independent. “They are also the result of the occupation… After almost half a century of dominating another people, it’s no surprise that most Israelis don’t think Arabs deserve the same rights.”

The survey “lays bare an image of Israeli society, and the picture is a very, very sick one,” Haaretz reporter Gideon Levy wrote. “Now it is not just critics at home and abroad, but Israelis themselves who are openly, shamelessly, and guiltlessly defining themselves as nationalistic racists.”

“If such a survey were released about the attitude to Jews in a European state, Israel would have raised hell,” Levy added. “When it comes to us, the rules don’t apply.”

Racism and the notion that Jews are God’s chosen people permeates all levels of Israeli society. Dr. Mordechai Nissan, a respected professor at the prestigious Hebrew University of Jerusalem wrote:

“[The Jews] are designated as a “light unto the nations…” a nation that has deeper historical roots, greater spiritual obligations, higher moral standards and more powerful intellectual capacities than others. This… is not at all based on arbitrary hostility towards non-Jews, but rather on a fundamental existential understanding of the quality of the Jewish peoplehood.”

Yitzchak Ginsburgh, an influential US-born Israeli rabbi, adds that:

“If a Jew needs a liver, can you take the liver of an innocent non-Jew passing by to save him? The Torah would probably permit that. Jewish life has an infinite value. There is something infinitely more holy and unique about Jewish life than non-Jewish life.”

Theoretically, Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy almost all of the same rights as Jews. But many Israeli Arabs feel like second-class citizens. There is widespread employment discrimination, even though many Arabs hold advanced university degrees. Although one in five Israelis is an Arab, it took 59 years for the government to appoint an Arab to the cabinet.

A 2011 study commissioned by Israel’s Courts Administration and the Israeli Bar Association found that Israeli Arabs are given jail sentences more frequently than Jews convicted of the same crimes. Arabs also tend to receive longer sentences than Jews jailed for the same offenses.

Arabs have also been convicted of highly dubious “crimes;” a Palestinian man was found guilty of raping a Jewish woman after she had consensual sex with him because he told her he was Jewish. “I would like to raise only one question with the judge,” Gideon Levy wrote. “What if this guy had been a Jew who pretended to be a Muslim and had sex with a Muslim woman? Would he have been convicted of rape?”

The new Dialog poll is but the latest to reveal racist sentiment among Israeli Jews. A 2007 survey conducted by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel found that 55 percent of Jews believed Arabs should leave the country, 75 percent would not want to live in the same neighborhood as Arabs and 74 percent said that Arabs are “unclean.” More than half of the respondents to that poll also said that a Jewish woman who marries an Arab man was “committing a betrayal of the country and the Jewish people.”

Indeed, even the prospect of Jewish women dating Arab men has brought seething crowds of racist Jews into the streets of Israeli towns like Bat Yam, where one protester handed out flyers accusing Arabs men of “ruining” Jewish girls. “We are not racist, we’re just Jews,” one speaker at the rally insisted. “The Arabs are coming and taking our daughters,” another shouted. “We will not allow it! Any Jewish woman that goes with an Arab should be killed; any Jew who sells his home to an Arab should be killed.”

The Bat Yam rally came just weeks after dozens of municipal chief rabbis issued a religious edict that forbids renting homes to non-Jews, especially Arabs. The ruling states that doing so will depress property values and commands the neighbors of those who rent to non-Jews to name, shame and ostracize the “offenders.” More than 250 rabbis signed on to the directive, including many government employees. Among those who support the measure is Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Safed, who once proposed hanging Palestinian children from trees.

Racism and notions of divinely-ordained Jewish superiority are deeply ingrained in Israeli children from the youngest age. Classroom lessons teach that before their country was Israel it was “a land without a people for a people without a land,” almost always failing to acknowledge that today’s Israel was more than 90 percent Arab just a century ago and that more than a million Palestinian Arabs were driven from their homes, often by force, during the Nakba ethnic cleansing campaign that accompanied Israel’s independence as well as after the 1967 war. These children are taught that God himself promised Israel solely to the Jews, His own Chosen People, and that the Jews took a barren desert and made it blossom by virtue of their superior intelligence and industriousness. This message is reinforced during compulsory military service, which both men and women must complete and in which dehumanization of Arabs is a daily fact of life.

Most Israelis bristle when the word ‘apartheid’ is used to describe the way in which the Palestinians are treated. But even many Israelis readily admit that their country is an apartheid state. Poet, author and journalist Yitzhak Laor wrote that “the system preserving this apartheid is more ruthless than that seen in South Africa,” a sentiment shared by former South African deputy President Baleka Mbete, a woman who knows a thing or two about apartheid.

Former US President Jimmy Carter also agrees that Israel’s apartheid is even worse than that of the former South African regime:

“When Israel [occupies] territories deep within the West Bank, and connects the 200-or-so settlements with each other with a road and then prohibits Palestinians from using that road, or in many cases even crossing that road, this perpetuates even worse incidents of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa.”

Israel’s apologists reject such criticism out-of-hand as “anti-Semitism,” “a trick we always use,” as former Israeli education minister Shulamit Aloni admitted. If the person criticizing Israeli policies or actions is Jewish, then he or she is labeled a “self-hating Jew,” even if they are a Holocaust survivor.

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