New Study Finds Arab Teens' Mistrust Toward Jews on the Rise

Young Arabs in Israel's fear and hatred toward Jews grew following the military campaign in Gaza last May. While Jewish teens' sentiments have not changed, their dislike of Arabs was stronger to begin with

Shira Kadari-Ovadia
Shira Kadari-Ovadia
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Israeli teens celebrating in front of an Arab business during Guardian of the Walls military campaign last May
Israeli teens celebrating in front of an Arab business during Guardian of the Walls military campaign last MayCredit: Tomer Applebaum
Shira Kadari-Ovadia
Shira Kadari-Ovadia

A new study examining Arab and Jewish youths’ mutual feelings shows that the Arabs’ hatred and fear of Jews have increased over the past year, while the Jewish youths’ feelings toward Arabs, which were higher to begin with, have remained stable

According to the survey, after the last military campaign in Gaza in May, Arabs felt more fear and hatred toward Jews, compared to the previous three years. Although the Jewish youths’ level of fear and hatred toward Arabs was higher than the Arab youths’, there was no marked increase over the same period.

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The study, held among 1,000 youths, was conducted by the aChord Center in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a non-profit organization that specializes in the social psychology of intergroup relations. Since 2018, the center has been holding annual surveys to map attitudes among young people from grades 10 to 12 of various communities toward each other.

This year, the survey’s findings focused on the relations between Jews and Arabs following the military campaign in Gaza, and the rising tensions in Israel at the same time.

Dr. Liat Netzer, Shira Ran, Coral Azouri and Mona Aweda, who conducted the survey, says it enables them “to detect trends and processes of change in intergroup feelings and perceptions.”

Arab students attend class in an Arab school in Kuseife, Southern Israel, Last AugustCredit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The survey also examined to what extent the teens wanted to maintain work or friendship relations with the other group. Among the Arab youths, there was a notable decrease in the desire to have future relations with members of all the Jewish groups – secular, religious and ultra-Orthodox.

No change was detected among the secular, religious and ultra-Orthodox Jewish teens compared to last year. Over the years the Arab youths’ desire to maintain ties with their counterparts has been stronger than the Jews’.

The groups’ members were also asked to what extent they believed in their group’s ability to influence the future of the Israeli state and society. The Arab teens’ faith in this has decreased since 2018 and in the past year the decrease has been especially sharp.

Researchers find this trend to be especially concerning, saying that the annual decline in the group’s perception of its own capability is bad news for the education system and for anyone wishing to advance a joint society.

“It should be seen as an urgent warning sign about the need to foster and advance Arab teens’ sense of capability and to make them part of Israeli society,” they wrote.

Jewish students attend class in a religious all-boys school in Modi'in last JuneCredit: Gil Cohen-Magen

Not just cause for despair

The study also brings up some positive points, apart from the troubling findings. “Both Jewish and Arab teens are not indifferent to the situation and are interested in learning more about shared life in their schools. These findings, like the barriers indicated by the index data, provide a compass as to the character and content of the educational acts that must be carried out to jump-start social healing processes.”

The aChord Center wants to use the data to shape educational moves that will have a positive effect on the students’ positions regarding life together. “Like they measure educational achievements in schools in Meitzav and Pisa exams, the way students perceive the various groups should be standardized,” Ido Oren of aChord told Haaretz.

“We’re dreaming of the day in which this tool will be used in schools as a starting point to educational activity,” Oren says, adding that these surveys could help the system to detect the barriers that must be overcome to educate the youngsters to adopt more containing and egalitarian views.

In addition to research activity, the center operates discussion groups for teachers from various communities about advancing joint life and developing study programs on the subject, with the intention of introducing it to as many schools as possible.

Teens from the bilingual school in Jerusalem stand in front of a banner calling for Jewish-Arab coexistence Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

According to the curriculum being drafted, an emphasis will be placed on the students’ knowledge and skills in the classroom.

Oren says this must be done as a matter of routine, not only regarding current events. “When events take place, the educational space must be a partner in lowering the flames,” he says. “This is an essential educational activity. We must produce tools and support for teachers that will enable it.”

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