Survey Finds Israeli Arabs Accept Jewish, Not Zionist, Nature of State

Yoav Stern
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Yoav Stern

The vast majority of Israeli Arabs accept the definition of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, but reject the description of it as a Zionist state. These were the findings of a survey conducted by Prof. Sami Smooha and funded by the Jewish-Arab Center at the University of Haifa and the the Citizens' Accord Forum.

Around 70 percent of the Arabs who participated in the survey agreed with the statement that "Israel, within the Green Line, has the right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state in which Jews and Arabs coexist." However, according to the study, the vast majority of Israeli Arabs believe that Zionism equals racism, and reject all of the state's Zionist goals.

The survey also found that most of the Jewish population wants Arab citizens to accept Israel as a Zionist state, as it is accepted by the international community, even though these Zionist ideals are often at the expense of Arab citizens.

The results of the survey appear in "The Arab-Jewish Index 2004," and are being published here for the first time. The survey was conducted in late 2004, and includes personal interviews with a representative sample of 700 Israeli Arabs aged over 18, and telephone interviews with 700 Jewish citizens.

According to the results, while 70 percent of Israeli Arabs are able to accept Israel as a Jewish, democratic state, only 13.8 percent agree to the concept of Israel as a Zionist state. Over 72 percent believe that "Israel as a Zionist state, in which Jews and Arab live together, is racist."

Given the prevailing assumption that most of the Arab citizens of Israel reject the Jewish nature of the state, the results of the survey are rather surprising. According to Prof. Smooha, Israeli Arabs differentiate between Israel's Jewish character and its Zionist nature. Israeli Arabs believe that a Jewish state is a state in which most of the citizens are Jewish, whereas a Zionist state is a state for the Jewish people from around the world.

"For Zionists, one of the goals Israel should set itself is maintaining its Jewish majority at all costs," says Smooha. "That is a Zionist goal, and includes settlement in the Jewish sense and the ingathering of exiles by means of the Law of Return. But the Arabs are not willing to accept this situation in perpetuity."

The survey also found that 75 percent of the Jewish respondents agreed with the statement, "Israeli Arabs have the right to live here as equal citizens with full rights." Some 80 percent of the Jewish respondents, however, said that an Israel Arab who defines himself as "a Palestinian Arab in Israel cannot be loyal to the state and its laws."

According to Smooha's analysis of the findings, Jewish respondents believe that Israeli Arabs' right to be full and equal citizens of Israel is conditional on them renouncing any nationalistic inspirations of their own and recognizing the Jewish people's national and exclusive rights to the State of Israel. This stems from the fact that Jews appear to believe that Israeli Arabs need to fulfill their right to self-determination in a Palestinian state, rather than at the expense of the Jewish state.

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