About half of religious Zionist teens support stripping Israel’s Arabs of the right to vote; Haredi hatred for Arabs is among the highest between Israeli social groups; half of Arab teens hold negative stereotypes of Haredim, and secular teens have little empathy for any other group. These are among the conclusions of a new study of Israel’s “map of hatred.”
The study’s authors, researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s aChord Center, urged the Education Ministry to take immediate action to address “intolerance, hatred and rejection of anyone whom teens identify as different from themselves.”
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Three years ago, aChord began discussing how to overcome divisions created by Israel’s separate school systems for different demographic groups, which results in students rarely encountering people from outside their own group. Academics, educators and officials from the Education Ministry and the President’s Residence all participated.
They created a model for attitudes high school graduates should have to promote tolerant, respectful, egalitarian intergroup relations. Students should be “sensitive to social and structural inequality” and “actively seek to reduce inequality or injustice” toward other groups. They should also be willing to live, work and engage in cultural and other activities with members of other groups.
In the current climate, which affects and is affected by the Education Ministry, such goals border on heresy; this may be why the model was kept relatively secret. The center used it to develop a “partnership index” to examine teens’ attitudes toward their peers in other groups. The index is being reported here for the first time; it will be officially released at an online conference Tuesday.
The center surveyed 1,100 teens aged 16-18 who constitute a representative sample of Israel’s different “tribes” – secular, religious Zionist, Haredi and Arab. The questionnaires were filled out between May and July, 2020, before the second coronavirus lockdown. Had they been filled out during the third lockdown, which has intensified intergroup hatreds, the results would likely have been worse.
The survey found that a significant portion of teens view other groups as unfriendly or as having low abilities. About 60% of Haredi teens and 40% of religious Zionists view Arabs that way. Similarly, around half of Arabs and 37% of secular teens view Haredim that way.
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Arabs are the group most feared and hated by Jews of all kinds. This view was expressed by 24%, 42% and 66%, respectively of secular, religious Zionist and Haredi teens. For secular and Arab teens, hatred is dispersed among several groups; among Haredim and religious Zionists, it is more focused on Arabs.
Given that people often avoid admitting to hatred in polls, the high rates “may show that expressing hatred is considered acceptable,” the study noted.
Fully 49% of religious Zionists and 23% of secular Jews favored stripping Arabs of the right to vote. Haredim weren’t asked this question; because they had to be interviewed in-person, not online, their questionnaire was shorter. Religious Zionists also expressed the lowest support for the idea that minorities deserve equal rights.
Secular Jews and Arabs were the most willing to meet members of other groups, Haredim the least. Religious Zionists were specifically unwilling to meet with Arabs. Only secular Jews expressed relatively high willingness to improve relations with all the other groups.
Asked about how resources should be allocated during the pandemic, no group supported either equal allocation or greater help to the worst-hit groups. Secular Jews and Arabs favored relatively small inequalities; few religious Zionist and Haredi respondents supported any aid to Arabs.
Of all groups, Haredim and Arabs expressed the most negative attitudes to each other.
Yet despite the great intolerance showed in the survey, there was actually a slight improvement in a few areas – such as willingness to meet members of other groups – from the previous survey. Conducted in 2018-19, it did not include Haredim.
“One thing we learn from social psychology is that changing people’s attitudes can’t stop at cultivating empathy and tolerance, but must include a genuine struggle for equality,” said Prof. Eran Halperin, aChord head and founder. “But in Israel, hating the other is fine. It’s an accepted norm.”
Some educators, and some Education Ministry officials, are concerned about the level of hatred, he noted. Consequently, for the past three years the center has been helping 20 schools – secular, Arab, religious Zionist and even one Haredi – implement a program to promote a shared life. Yet this isn’t even a drop in the bucket. Of the 20 schools, 15 are in Tel Aviv, which spends around 200,000 shekels ($61,000) a year on a “teaching community” focused on these issues, comprising about 100 teachers.
“Five years ago, we polled teens and teachers on their attitudes toward different groups and aspects of democracy,” said Shirley Rimon Bracha, the head of the city’s education administration. “The results revealed grave ignorance, fear and considerable prejudice.”
The director of aChord, Ron Gerlitz, said the study’s results require the Education Ministry to take action by introducing programs in all school systems. “It’s critical to Israel’s future,” he said.
The Education Ministry declined comment, saying it was unfamiliar with the partnership index.