The Israel Democracy Institute has published its 2010 Democracy Index (abstract and full report). It is a particularly comprehensive document and therefore especially interesting. As always with such surveys of Israeli opinion, its reveals a deeply ambivalent, conflicted and confused society regarding what should be the nature of the Israeli state. Israelis want democracy because they realize they should. But they don’t want it so much that they would embrace all the awkward, conflicting values that go along with it. Israelis clearly are Islamophobic, misogynist, and homophobic. Yet these tendencies don’t seem to trouble them overly much. They believe that somehow they’re entitled to their prejudices due to Israel’s status as unwanted interloper in the Middle East. When you’re done reading this summary you’ll no doubt scratch your head and say: just what do Israelis want? Even they don’t know. I’d say a country whose citizens don’t know what they want their state to be are in trouble.
The following is a summary of key indices:
Israel’s high incarceration rate, combined with inadequacies in the rule of law, cause it to fall short of the accepted standard in Western countries.
Israel’s gender equality indicators have declined…
In the Political Stability Index, Israel ranks last among the democracies studied.
Israel scores low marks in the area of social cleavages; these divisions affect the country’s democratic quality and are not diminishing with time.
Here are some of the salient poll numbers:
60% of the population in Israel thinks that a few strong leaders would be better for Israel than all the democratic debates and legislation.
86% of the Jewish public (76% of the total population) thinks that critical decisions for the state should be made by the Jewish majority.
53% of the Jewish public also believe that the State is entitled to encourage the emigration of Arabs [ed., transfer].
81% of the population agrees with the assertion that “democracy is not a perfect regime, but it is better than any other form of government.” However, 55% of the public believes that Israel should put observing the law and public order before the ideals of democracy.
On a scale of 1 to 10 with ten being the highest, the Jewish public awards Israel’s democracy an average grade of 5.4…and the average grade awarded to it by the Arab public (5.1) is slightly lower.
Only 41% of respondents said that they have full or partial confidence in the police force.
72% of the population say that they do not trust the political parties…
43% of the general population feels that it is equally important for Israel to be a Jewish and democratic country, while 31% regards the Jewish component as being more important, and only 20% defines the democratic element as being more important.
…39% believe that human rights are not sufficiently implemented.
54% of the Jewish public opposes the view that legislation should be passed penalizing anyone who speaks out against Zionism.
50% of the Jewish respondents agree that it is important to allow non-Zionist political parties to participate in elections.
56% of veteran Israelis agree that people who have refused to serve in the IDF should not be allowed to vote or stand in elections
51% of the general public approves of equality of rights between Jews and Arabs. The more Orthodox the group, the greater the opposition to equal rights between Jews and Arabs: only 33.5% of secular Jews oppose this, compared with 51% of traditional Jews, 65% of Orthodox Jews and 72% of ultra-Orthodox Jews.
51.5% of the Jewish sample agrees that only immigrants who are Jewish as defined by Halakha should be entitled to receive Israeli citizenship automatically…
55% of the general public thinks that more resources should be allocated to Jewish municipalities than to Arab municipalities…
Within the Jewish public, 71% of right-wing supporters agree that more resources should be allocated to Jewish municipalities than to Arab municipalities, as compared to 46% of centrists and 38% of leftists [!]
39% of the general population supports equal funding of religious services [ed., for all religious groups]
46% of the Jewish public admitted to being most bothered by the possibility of having Arabs as neighbors. This was followed equally by people with mental illness being treated in the community and foreign workers (39% each). 25% would be bothered by same-sex couples, 23% by ultra-Orthodox Jews, 17% by Ethiopian immigrants…
Here are a few of the results that jumped out at me as especially contradictory and/or troubling. While a vast majority of Israelis supported democracy as the best, though imperfect system, a smaller majority support rule by strongmen. Figure that one out! A majority of Israelis supports the notion of transfer, though in this poll it was euphemistically referred to as “encouraging emigration” of Arabs. A bare majority support equal rights for Jews and Arabs (better known as Palestinians!). A bare majority would offer citizenship (through Right of Return) only to those considered Jewish under Orthodox halachic srtictures. A healthy majority favors a lower funding level for Arab municipalities (which has in fact been de facto policy since the founding of the State).
A result that troubles me as much or more than any other is that over 1/3 of those considering themselves “leftist” hold the racist notion that Arab municipalities should receive less government funding than Jews. In fact, these people are not leftist and have no right to consider themselves so. What they are is PEP: progressive except [for] Palestinians. But that’s not truly progressive. It’s bastardized progressivism.
A sharply divided respondent pool believes by a bare plurality that religious services for Jews, Muslims and Christians should be funded equally.
Israeli racism ranks its prejudices in the following order of intensity: Arabs, mentally ill and foreign workers, gays, and Ethiopians. To be fair, Palestinian citizens also show prejudice but mainly against gays.