Most of Us Don't Want Apartheid

There's a lot of room for improvement in Israeli society, but Gideon Levy's article does an injustice to the State of Israel, the Jewish people and the truth.

Yehuda Ben Meir
Yehuda Ben-Meir
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Yehuda Ben Meir
Yehuda Ben-Meir

Last week Haaretz wrote about a survey of a representative sample of Israeli Jews. In Hebrew, the article was entitled "Most Israelis support an apartheid regime in Israel," and below it appeared the subhead: "A new survey reveals racist viewpoints of Israeli Jews."

I compared the article's conclusions with the survey's findings (which the Hebrew edition published in full on Page 3 - to Haaretz's credit ) and I recalled a story about the Jew who wanted to see an eye and ear doctor. When told that there was no such doctor, the Jew said his problem was that "what I hear isn't what I see and what I see isn't what I hear."

The same is true of the article and the survey: The article and the numbers in the Dialog survey, commissioned by the Israela Goldblum Fund, are two different things. As someone who has been involved in public opinion research for many years and has lectured about it at a university, I'm offering here a different analysis of the same findings - a more balanced, correct and precise analysis that also sees the glass as half full.

Let's begin with the headline; its dramatic effect is in direct proportion to its misleading information. There is no basis in the data for maintaining that most Israelis support an "apartheid regime" in Israel. In fact, in the article, the small print, the sensational conclusion is restricted by the words: "If it [Israel] annexes the territories." But even after the correction, the conclusion is mistaken and misleading. That's because it's based on the fact that 69 percent said they opposed granting the right to vote to the Palestinians if the West Bank were annexed.

But this finding must be examined in light of the fact that according to the survey, most Israeli Jews oppose annexing the territories. In response to the question "Would you want Israel to annex the territories with settlements in them?" (and note, it does not refer to the territories but only to those "with settlements in them" ), 48 percent said they opposed annexation, while 33 percent supported it.

But here's the thing: Most Israeli Jews really do object, and rightly so, to letting the 2.5 million Arabs in the territories vote in Knesset elections, because that means the end of Israel as a Jewish state and the end of the Zionist dream. But the same majority is also unwilling to live in a country with an "apartheid regime," so it opposes the annexation of territories. That's the survey's most important finding, and its conclusion is exactly the opposite of what's written in the article's headline.

The pull quote that says 58 percent believe that an "apartheid regime" already reigns in Israel is mistaken and misleading. According to the findings, when asked "Is there apartheid in Israel?" 31 percent said there was no apartheid at all, only 19 percent said there was apartheid in many fields, and 39 percent said it existed "in a few fields." The very use of the word "apartheid," which was not even defined, is somewhat misleading and clearly shows the objective of the people who commissioned the survey.

The most reasonable meaning of the response "in a few fields" is that in Israel there is discrimination against Arabs on certain issues. Unfortunately, that's the situation and it needs improvement, but it's a far cry from concluding that most Israeli Jews believe that an "apartheid regime" reigns in Israel.

In his opinion piece on the article, Gideon Levy claims that most Israeli Jews do not want the Arabs to vote in Knesset elections. But the data show just the opposite: Two-thirds said Israeli Arabs should not be prevented from voting for the Knesset.

There's a lot of room for improvement in Israeli society, but this article does an injustice to the State of Israel, the Jewish people and the truth.

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