Israelis Less Willing Than Europeans to Take in Migrants, Survey Shows

Jews and Arabs alike don’t think migrants make a strong contribution to society, though Jewish Israelis are happy with Jewish immigrants, according to the European Social Survey

African migrants protest the Israeli government's policy to deport African asylum seekers, at the Rwandan Embassy in Herzliya, January 22, 2018.
Jack Guez / AFP

Israelis are less willing to take in migrants than are citizens of many European countries, according to the European Social Survey, which has been examining support for immigration to Europe for 15 years.

Of the 15 countries whose positions are examined in a survey every two years, Israel comes second to last in support for the immigration of people who do not belong to the country’s ethnic majority, with only the Czech Republic behind it.

Participants were asked to rank their support on a scale of 1 to 4, with Israel coming in with an average of 2.1, compared with 3.3 for Sweden and 3.0 for Norway, the countries most supportive of absorbing migrants of different ethnic groups. But when it came to supporting the immigration of people of the ethnic majority, Israel ranked first with Germany.

The European Social Survey is managed in Israel by the Science, Technology and Space Ministry, and is conducted by the B.I. and Lucille Cohen Institute for Public Opinion Research at Tel Aviv University. Some 2,500 Israelis are interviewed each time.

The latest figures, gathered in late 2016 and early 2017 and recently analyzed, show that Israelis are not just unsupportive of non-Jewish immigration, they show low support for the immigration of people from poor countries, a drastic drop from the level shown during the first survey in 2002.

Israelis rank low compared to European countries that believe that immigrants contribute to the local culture and economy. Those who described themselves as left-wing were more open to immigration than people on the right.

“It’s not surprising that Israelis stress the Judaism of anyone who immigrates to Israel, but it is surprising that Israel ranks at the bottom of European countries in the desire to absorb foreigners,” said Dr. Irit Adler, who analyzed the findings.

“One reason for this stems from the data we found showing that the public – Jews and Arabs alike – doesn’t think migrants make a meaningful contribution to the local economy and culture,” she added.

“We’re also talking about a loaded political subject, and the past decade and a half has seen a marked decrease in support for migration from poor countries among people on the political right and center.”