Errors and Omissions Excepted

The headline of a news article last week was misleading. Most Israelis do support an apartheid regime, but only if the occupied territories are annexed; however, most Israelis oppose such annexation.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

This article is meant to fix a few mistakes. They shouldn't have happened; we must acknowledge them, apologize for them and fix them. They were not made intentionally, but as a result of neglect due to time pressure. Now is the time to make things right.

The Dialog poll commissioned by the Yisraela Goldblum Fund, whose results were published in Haaretz last week, unearthed extremely serious and disturbing findings. It sketched a troubling portrait of a nationalistic and racist Israeli society. This isn't the first survey to demonstrate such a trend and, unfortunately, it won't be the last. The Hebrew headline of the news article describing the survey results ("Most Israelis support an apartheid regime in Israel" ) was misleading. Most Israelis do support apartheid, but only if the occupied territories are annexed; and most Israelis oppose such annexation. Haaretz explained this in a clarification published in the Hebrew edition on Sunday.

The article itself, which I wrote, did not contain any mistakes. It provided a precise and detailed description of the survey results. In my analysis of the survey, which appeared as a separate article, there was a single sentence that did not accurately represent the poll results and contradicted what I had written in the news piece a short time beforehand. My sin was to write: "The majority doesn't want Arabs to vote for the Knesset, Arab neighbors at home or Arab students at school."

The truth, as I wrote in the news piece, is different: "Just" 33 percent of the respondents said they don't want Arabs to vote in parliamentary elections, "just" 42 percent wouldn't want an Arab neighbor, and about the same proportion said it would bother them if there were an Arab student in their child's class. Not a majority - just a (large ) portion of Israelis espouse these frightening views. Cold comfort.

Imagine a similar survey in France: A third of the French don't want Jews to be eligible to vote and nearly half don't want a Jewish neighbor or a Jewish student in their child's class. The right-wing propagandists who are currently causing a ruckus about my mistake would be among the first to shout "anti-Semitism." But for us, the Jews, it's allowed.

The routine excoriation took off. The mirror reflects an unsightly image? Let's smash it. The messenger stumbles? Let's slander him, and to hell with everything else described in his article, even discounting the mistake. This is what propagandists always do. One particularly pathetic one has built an entire career out of ridiculously rummaging through negligible errors. Instead of anger being directed toward the findings of the survey - which is what should have caused a scandal - many readers and commentators focused on the unfortunate mistakes that were made. Those errors did not change the survey results even one iota, but they did divert the public's attention from the important to the trivial.

This deviation from the important issue, this incitement against the mistakes, was done deliberately. It was intended to obscure the truth revealed by the survey, which justifiably has garnered harsh responses around the world. It was the final means of propaganda available to those who seek to blur the true image of Israeli society and paint an unrealistic, imaginary portrait instead.

The most important thing was, and remains, that a significant portion of Israel's Jewish society advocates positions that can only be described as nationalistic and racist. Nearly half of the respondents don't want an Arab neighbor or an Arab student in their child's class; a third don't want Arabs to vote; nearly half want to discriminate against Arabs living in the country. Isn't that enough to scare anyone who fears for the future of this country?

But the right wing and its mouthpieces aren't interested in any of that. They are interested solely in an unfortunate mistake that barely changed anything. Herein lies a challenge for those who are not bothered by the results of the survey but are horrified by the errors made in reporting it: Bring us another reliable poll that proves Israeli society is not as racist and nationalistic as depicted in this survey. That would really make things right.

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