Israeli Democracy Index: Israelis Believe Jews Should be Privileged, Non-Jews Should Not Decide Major Issues

Richard Silverstein

[Originally posted on this blog on 10/10/13]

The Israel Democracy Institute released its latest Democracy Index (summary and full findings), which I’ve covered here in the past. The findings, as I’ve reported before, confirm that by and large Israelis hold racist views and reject bedrock democratic principles, while believing that their country should be both Jewish and a democracy.

Just under 50% (48.9%) believe Israel should privilege Jewish citizens over non-Jews. Of those, younger Israelis showed an even higher preference for Jewish privilege (65%). 47% of Jews said that in terms of neighbors, their greatest aversion was to having an “Arab” neighbor. The survey, of course, perpetuates this racism by calling Israeli Palestinians by the common Jewish-used term, “Arab.” An even greater proportion, 56% expressed antipathy to having a foreign worker as a neighbor (among whom would be included African refugees). 42% of Palestinian respondents shared an aversion to a Jewish family as neighbors. 44% support policies encouraging Palestinian citizens to emigrate from Israel. This racist policy, known as population transfer, began in the 1970s as a hallmark of the Kahanist movement. But it became mainstream over the years (though the percentage of Israelis supporting it has gradually declined in recent years).

68% of Jews believe only they should be allowed to determine matters of peace and security, while 57% believe this should also hold true for economic matters. 31% (a plurality) believed that only Jews should be permitted to vote on any referendum on the final status of the Occupied Territories. 65% of Israeli Jews believe that Jews are “the chosen people.”

Of those, the majority tend to believe non-Jews should have no role in determining major national policy choices. The older the respondent the less likely they were to believe Jews were chosen. It should go without saying that these views are flagrantly anti-democratic and conflict with the view that most Israeli Jews hold that Israel is and should be democratic.

75% believe Israel can be Jewish and democratic. Only 37% prefer Israel to be equally Jewish and democratic (this number has been falling over the past three years). 33% prefer it to be Jewish. 29% prefer it to be democratic (this number has been rising). Younger Israelis gave the highest preference to “Jewish,” while older Israelis gave the highest preference to “democratic.” A worrying development for Israel’s future.

While 75% of Israeli Jews believe Israel can be both Jewish and democratic, only 35% of Israeli Palestinians believe this.

50% of Israelis are “satisfied” with the functioning of Israeli democracy, while 46% are “dissatisfied.” Interestingly, the results have charted upward over recent years among those who are satisfied with Israeli democracy. It can’t be an accident that during those years Israel has been moving in an increasingly rightist (non-democratic) direction. So it would make sense that Israelis endorsing such views would be happy with the direction the country was taking, even if democracy was actually eroding. 68% of Israeli Palestinians were dissatisfied with Israeli democracy.

Only 35% of Israelis believed that decisions by the Knesset that violated due process, minority rights, and freedom of expression were not “democratic.” Meaning that the majority of Israelis believe that such rights could be violated in legislation with Israel still entitled to consider itself a democracy. 52% of Israelis believe that human rights NGOs cause “harm” to the State.

A 43% plurality of Israeli Jews assessed the overall situation of life in Israel as “so-so,” meaning not particularly good and not particularly bad. A 39% plurality of Israeli Palestinians rated the situation “bad.” 83% of Jews feel “proud” to be an Israeli while only 39% of Israeli Palestinians feel proud.

A 48% plurality disagreed with the statement that the Knesset and its members were “doing a good job.” 69% believe that politicians “look out more for themselves than the public.” A remarkably low 55% believe there is a marked difference among the political parties. 58% believe it doesn’t matter who you vote for because it won’t change the political situation.

63% of Israelis believe that soldiers should not have the right to refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories. But a much lower 50% believe soldiers do not have the right to refuse to evacuate Jewish settlements in the Territories. 53% believe that Israelis should not be permitted to criticize the State in “harsh” terms. Meaning that freedom of speech is not a deeply ingrained value for most Israelis.

Though 73% of respondents believe that the use of violence to further political goals is impermissible, that number has done a nose dive over the years from 87% only last year. Thus Israelis are gradually becoming more inured and accepting of such violent acts as the price tag phenomenon increases in intensity. Again, young people are the most accepting of the use of violence.

91% of Israeli Jews place great trust in the IDF, while only 35% of Israeli Palestinians (who largely do not serve) did. Nearly 50% of Israelis Palestinians place their greatest trust in the Supreme Court (which explains why Israeli rightists have lobbied strenuously to diminish the power of the Court). Among the lowest level of trust were the “political parties.”

A development I find particularly shocking because it is so at odds with polls here is that younger Israelis are more nationalist and right-wing than older Israelis. This may reflect the fact that the birth-rate among Orthodox Jews is far higher than among secular Jews. But it still indicates that the younger generation is even less amendable to political compromise than the older. A very dispiriting phenomenon, I’m afraid.

The Democracy Index also rated Israel’s performance in a number of international indices that ranked democratic values and culture by country (27 were included). Israel was 12th out of 27 countries in “perception of corruption.” It was 23rd in the level of military interference in politics (between Syria and China!). 20th in civil rights. 25th in “religious tensions.” 27th in ethnic tensions.


Article published here: Tikun Olam-תיקון עולם. Image 1: Uprooted Palestinians. Image 2: © N/A


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