Most Israeli 12th-graders Support Deportation of African Refugees

Tel Aviv University study shows that high school students are learning from politicians that Arabs are 'inferior citizens,' says Mohammad Darawshe, co-executive director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives.

Nearly 60 percent of Jewish 12th-graders in Israel support the deportation of African refugees and almost half think their children should also be deported, according to a survey that will be presented at this year's Haifa Education Conference, scheduled to take place at the Haifa Auditorium today.

The survey, supervised by Tel Aviv University statistician Camil Fuchs (who also supervises Haaretz-Dialog polls), found that 21 percent of Jewish students starting their last year of high school, and 2012 high school graduates, believe that refugees already in Israel should be granted residency status, compared with 58 percent who think refugees should be deported and 46 percent who think their children should be. Ultra-Orthodox teens were not included in the survey.

There was a stark difference in the degree to which various segments of the Jewish population expressed an interest in living next to an Arab family, with 86 percent of religious seniors saying they would not want to do so - nearly double the figure for other Israeli Jews.

That finding demonstrates that Israeli schools have failed to transmit the right values and shows that high school students are learning from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and other politicians that Arabs are "inferior citizens," said Mohammad Darawshe, co-executive director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, a charity that aims to promote coexistence and equality among the country's Jewish and Arab citizens.

"That is the first stage of racism, after which comes incitement to violence," he said. "It's a dangerous statistic that serves as a red warning light."

But Darawshe was encouraged by the study's finding that 43 percent of Jewish 12th-graders said they think their Arab peers don't have equal opportunity in Israel, saying that recognizing the problem goes halfway toward resolving it.

"I hope that gradually more people will learn to recognize discrimination and accept the Arab population's demand for equality," he said. "What we primarily need is government leadership that will deal with the unequal policy it created with its own hands."

The survey also found that 60 percent of the respondents, on the cusp of being inducted into the army at 18, said they don't want to join a combat unit, and 19 percent said they would refuse to serve in the territories.

More than a third - 35 percent - said they would prefer not to serve in the territories, though they wouldn't refuse to obey orders to do so.

Here too, there was a marked difference between the responses of the seniors who identify as religious and those who don't, with 55 percent of the religious respondents saying they would happily serve in the territories, compared with 26 percent of the others.

The vast majority of respondents - 83 percent - said they do not see draft exemptions for the ultra-Orthodox as a justification for others to evade military service, and 73 percent said Haredi yeshiva students should be drafted.

The survey also found that religious students read more and have less violence in their schools than other non-Haredi Jewish seniors, or at least they say they do.

Two-thirds of the students who identify as "secular" or "traditional" rather than "religious" reported some level of violence in their schools - double the proportion of religious students. And while one-third of all respondents said they don't read books, that figure rose to 40 percent among students who identify as secular or traditional.

A split between ideology and action can be detected in respondents' comments on the social protest, geared toward improving the quality of life in Israel and reducing economic inequality.

Seventy-six percent said they support the protest, but just 17 percent were active participants in demonstrations during the summer of 2011, when the protest began. This summer, just 3 percent took part.

When asked about Israeli politics, 43 percent said they were not satisfied with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while 20 percent said they have great faith in him and another 20 percent said all the prominent political figures are the same.

Eighty-one percent said they would vote if elections were held today, but nearly 40 percent said they don't know whom they would elect.

The survey had a sample size of 410 respondents who are either entering 12th grade when school begins next week or completed it at the end of the last school year.

lynch Jerusalem
Emil Salman
High school students taking an exam.
Alon Ron
Migrants queue for food in Tel Aviv.
Daniel Tchetchik