Two Out of Three Israelis Support Deportation of African Asylum Seekers, Poll Finds

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African asylum seekers protest the Israeli government's policy to forcibly deport African refugees in Jerusalem, January 17, 2018.
African asylum seekers protest the Israeli government's policy to forcibly deport African refugees in Jerusalem, January 17, 2018. Credit: Oded Balilty/AP

A large majority of Israelis support the deportation of African asylum-seekers to third countries that agree to take them in, according to a public opinion survey published Wednesday.

The survey also found that most Israelis do not believe that the Jewish people, who suffered persecution throughout history, have a special obligation to help African asylum-seekers.

The Peace Index, a monthly public opinion survey published by the Jerusalem-based Israel Democracy Institute, found that two out of every three Israelis either “strongly supports” (45 percent) or “moderately supports” (21 percent) the recently unveiled government deportation plan. Support was considerably higher among Jews (69 percent) than among Arabs (50 percent).

Under the government plan, about 20,000 asylum seekers, mainly from Eritrea and Sudan, will be given the choice of deportation or being jailed for an indefinite period. Those who agree to be deported back to Africa will receive a $3,500 payment. Deportations will be carried out starting in April.

Asked whether Jews need to show greater generosity to asylum seekers because of their history as a persecuted people, 55 percent of those questioned said they disagree (60 percent of the Jewish respondents and 32 percent of the Arab respondents). Only about a third of the Jewish respondents said they agree.

About half of those questioned said they believe the state should examine all asylum requests without delay and allow those asylum-seekers whose requests were deemed justified to remain in Israel.

The survey included 600 respondents, based on a representative sample of the adult population, with a 4.1 percent margin of error.

The survey also sought to assess public opinion about a new government law aimed at closing down most shops on Shabbat. The findings show that a majority of Israelis support keeping grocery stores (66 percent), movie theaters (69 percent), cafes (70 percent) and supermarkets (62 percent) open on Shabbat. As many as 69 percent of all Israelis said they supported operating public transportation on the Sabbath.

The new law that forces shops to close on Shabbat was passed under pressure from the ultra-Orthodox parties that are part of the ruling coalition. Asked whether they prefer a government that did not include representatives of ultra-Orthodox parties, more than half the respondents (52 percent) said that they did. Only a minority of 25 percent said they preferred a government that includes representatives of the ultra-Orthodox parties.

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