60 Percent of Israeli Jews Favor Segregation From Arabs, Survey Finds

The support rose from 45 percent last year, before riots broke out in a number of mixed Jewish-Arab cities during the last round of fighting in Gaza

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Jews and Arabs against racism rally in Tel Aviv, 2021.
Jews and Arabs against racism rally in Tel Aviv, 2021.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Or Kashti
Or Kashti

Some 60 percent of Israeli Jews believe it is best for Jews and Arabs to live apart, according to a survey conducted by the Israeli Democracy Institute in March of this year.

This is a significant rise compared with the rate that agreed with the same statement in April 2021, which then stood at 45 percent. Last year's survey was taken before the violent incidents that broke out in some of Israel's mixed cities during the last round of fighting in Gaza, and before the United Arab List joined the government's ruling coalition.

Among Arab respondents there was almost no change in the rate of support for living apart, which has stood at 20 percent for several years. In other words, most Jews now support segregation, compared with a constant minority among Arabs.

“The report shows a complex picture,” said Dr. Tamar Herman, who led the study. “Among Arabs there has been an intensification of their sense of discrimination as a collective, as opposed to a weakening of the perception of this discrimination among Jews. The former show a rise in the desire to participate in decision-making, and among Jews there is a declining willingness to share that privilege with them.”

She added that over the past year “there has been a decline in willingness among Jews to live in proximity to Arabs or allow them to purchase land outside of Arab municipalities.” However, recent events “have not harmed the high willingness of both groups to share workplaces.”

A police car set on fire during riots in the central Israeli city of Lod, April 2021.Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

A breakdown of the sample among Jews reveals significant internal differences: Close to 70 percent of those who defined themselves as right-wing supported segregation, as opposed to slightly under half in the political center, and only a third on the left.

Significant gaps are also found along the secular-Haredi continuum. Some 80 percent of Haredim agree that Jews and Arabs should live apart, as opposed to some two-thirds of traditional and religious, and just under half of secular Jews.

Differences are found along age and gender, as well: Young people and women support separation more than do older people and men. In the sample of Arab respondents, differences were found between voters for the United Arab List and Joint List parties. Around one-third of the former support segregation, compared to one-fifth of the latter.

The data from March, alongside broad surveys conducted in April and in August 2021, are part of the “Limited Partnership” study, which examines the relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel. The last survey, conducted online and over the phone, included 760 Jewish and Arab respondents. The study was conducted at the Viterbi Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research at the Israeli Democracy Center by a team headed by Herman.

In the study, respondents were asked for their reaction to the statement that an Israeli Arab who feels part of the Palestinian people can also be a loyal citizen to Israel. Sixty-three percent of Arabs and 28 percent of Jews agreed to that statement in March. Both groups registered a drop in the rate of agreement to the statement since April 2021, but the decline was far more pronounced among Jews.

Most voters for the Labor, Meretz, UAL and Joint List parties said one can feel part of the Palestinian people and still be a loyal Israeli citizen, compared with half of Yesh Atid voters and a minority of other parties’ voters. The lowest rate of agreement – around 13 percent – came among voters for Haredi parties and Religious Zionism, compared with 20 percent among Yamina, Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu voters.

Arabs under 35 agreed less with the statement than did those in older age groups, and the rate of their agreement has dropped since the previous measurement a year earlier.

There was also a decline in Israeli Arab agreement with the statement that most Arab citizens of Israel want to integrate into Israeli society – from 80 percent in 2021 to 73 percent last March. In contrast, changes among the Jewish public regarding this statement were smaller, with about half of respondents agreeing with it.

The 2021 survey showed 80 percent of Jews holding that “decisions regarding peace and security should be made by a Jewish majority.” Thirty-seven percent believed Arab citizens should be restricted to buying land only in Arab municipalities, and 18 percent said Arabs shouldn’t be allowed to purchase land anywhere. Most Arab respondents supported adding content that is central to the Arab public to the school curriculum – as opposed to less than half of Jews.

As for relations between Jews and Arabs, a rise was seen among Jews who say they try to refrain from entering Arab municipalities, up from 65 percent last August. This contrasts with a very small minority of Arab respondents, 13 percent, who prefer not to enter Jewish localities.

Respondents of both groups said they are willing to accept members of the other group as personal or work friends. But as for living in the same building, 64 percent of Arabs find this acceptable, compared with 45 percent of Jews. When it comes to intermarriage, acceptance is very low in both groups.

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