More than a quarter of Israel's Arab citizens believe the Holocaust never happened, and nearly two thirds of Israeli Jews avoid entering Arab towns, a poll by a University of Haifa sociologist showed Sunday.
The poll, conducted by Sami Smoocha, a prominent sociologist at the University of Haifa, showed a wide gap of mistrust, anger and fear between Israel's majority Jews and its Arab citizens, who make up a fifth of Israel's citizens.
In its most dramatic finding, the poll showed that 28 percent of Israeli Arabs did not believe the Holocaust happened, and that among high school and college graduates the figure was even higher - 33 percent.
According to Smoocha's analysis, radicals in the Arab world believe the Holocaust to be a political event, and many feel that by denying it they are expressing opposition to Israel.
Among Israeli Jews, 63 percent said they avoid entering Arab towns and cities, and 68 percent fear the possibility of civil unrest among Israeli Arabs.
Pollsters interviewed 721 Arabs and 702 Jews. The margin of error was 3.7 percentage points. Asked about Israel's war with Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon last summer, nearly half of the Israeli Arabs polled - 48 percent - said they believe that Hezbollah's rocket attacks on towns in northern Israel during that war were justified, even though numerous Arabs were killed and wounded in those attacks.
While 89 percent said they view Israel's bombing of Lebanon as a war crime, only 44 percent said they see Hezbollah's attacks on Israel as such. Hezbollah pelted northern Israel with nearly 4,000 rockets.
Half of Israeli Arab respondents said Hezbollah's capture of Israel Defense Forces reserves soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in a cross-border raid was justified. That incident sparked the 34-day conflict.
In a press release accompanying the poll's publication, Smoocha expressed surprise at the results.
"One would have expected more pro-Israeli results among Israeli Arabs due to the uniqueness of the most recent war: a war with no involvement of the Palestinians, a war in which the lives and belongings of Israelis were endangered, a war against an Islamic fundamentalist group that most of them don't support," Smoocha said.
MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) said he doubted some of the findings. Tibi said he could not explain the numbers indicating support for Hezbollah, but noted that usually there is no empathy for the aggressor, which Tibi said was Israel.
Tibi also said he doubted that the statistics on Holocaust denial reflect the situation in the Arab elite. Tibi called the Holocaust the worst crime ever against humanity and said Holocaust denial is immoral.
But some of the sentiments, he said, "might stem from reservations about the way the Holocaust is used as a political tool by Israel."
The poll also found that Israeli Arabs have fears about their future in Israel: 62 percent worry that Israel could transfer their communities to the jurisdiction of a future Palestinian state, an idea supported by one of the parties in Israel's current governing coalition. Sixty percent said they are concerned about a possible mass expulsion.
Among the Arab respondents, 76 percent described Zionism as racist.
But more than two thirds said they would be content to live in Israel as a Jewish state, if it existed alongside a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
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