Poll: 75% of Young Israeli Arabs Support Voluntary National Service

Study conducted by dean of Haifa Univ.'s social sciences dept. finds Arab public largely unaware of project.

Seventy-five percent of Israeli Arabs between the ages of 16 and 22 support voluntary national service, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The poll, conducted by the dean of Haifa University's social sciences department, Professor Sammy Smooha, was carried out among 910 participants. The study also polled 78 public figures from the Israeli Arab community, dividing them into two groups ? those who are identified with the Jewish establishment, and those who are not.

Smooha said the study shows that the government must launch a campaign challenging those Israeli Arab leaders who oppose the national service.

According to the poll, the vast majority of the Arab public is unaware of the national service, with 77.4 percent overall and 79.6 percent of youth saying they know little or nothing about the program. The lack of public awareness comes despite a vigorous campaign by Arab leaders against joining the national service as well as the service's recruitment efforts.

The poll found that, once given basic information about conditions in the national service and its goals, not only Israeli Arab youth were supportive of the idea, but so were 71.9 percent of all Arab men and 83.8 percent of all Arab women.

Support for the national service was also found to be high among supporters of Hadash (69.2 percent), Balad (77.6 percent), and other Arab political movements opposed to the project.

27.1 percent of Arab youth said they would volunteer even in the face of family members' opposition, while 35 percent said they would volunteer despite the opposition of town leaders. 42.2 percent said they would volunteer even if the majority of Israeli Arab leaders express their opposition.

68.1 percent of those who support the national service said they are in favor because it contributes to the country and Israeli society, while 89.7 percent said they support the project because it would lead to greater equality between Arabs and Jews.

74.5 percent said they are concerned that the national service will with time turn into compulsory military service in the Israel Defense Forces.