A new poll (if anyone can find the full poll results please let me know) of Israeli Jews by Camil Fuchs and commissioned by the New Israel Fund has alarming findings concerning the deterioration of democratic values in Israel. Gideon Levy writes in Haaretz that Israelis (Jews) have largely shed their previous veneer of democratic values and now hold views that can only be described as authoritarian-racist, if not fascist.
The majority of the Jewish public, 59 percent, wants preference[s] for Jews over Arabs in…job [appointments] in government ministries. Almost half the Jews, 49 percent, want the state to treat Jewish citizens better than Arab ones; 42 percent don’t want to live in the same building with Arabs and 42 percent don’t want their children in the same class with Arab children.
A third of the Jewish public wants a law barring Israeli Arabs from voting for the Knesset and a large majority of 69 percent objects to giving 2.5 million Palestinians the right to vote if Israel annexes the West Bank.
A sweeping 74 percent majority is in favor of separate roads for Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. A quarter – 24 percent – believe separate roads are “a good situation” and 50 percent believe they are “a necessary situation.”
Almost half – 47 percent – want part of Israel’s Arab population to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority and 36 percent support transferring some of the Arab towns from Israel to the PA, in exchange for keeping some of the West Bank settlements.
Although the territories have not been annexed, most of the Jewish public (58 percent ) already believes Israel practices apartheid against Arabs. Only 31 percent think such a system is not in force here. Over a third (38 percent ) of the Jewish public wants Israel to annex the territories with settlements on them, while 48 percent object.
…The survey indicates that a third to half of Jewish Israelis want to live in a state that practices formal, open discrimination against its Arab citizens. An even larger majority wants to live in an apartheid state if Israel annexes the territories.
…The interviewees did not object strongly to describing Israel’s character as “apartheid” already today, without annexing the territories. Only 31 percent objected to calling Israel an “apartheid state” and said “there’s no apartheid at all.”
In contrast, 39 percent believe apartheid is practiced “in a few fields”; 19 percent believe “there’s apartheid in many fields” and 11 percent do not know.
The clarion call for liberal Zionists (including the New Israel Fund, which sponsored this poll) has always been that Israel is a “Jewish democratic state.” No one was allowed to separate those two words and say Israel was only a Jewish state or only a democracy. It had to be both. We can no longer say this is true. The majority of Israeli Jews hold views that are clearly antithetical to democracy. In fact, they’ve largely embraced the agenda of Meir Kahane, who held that democracy was a type of illness imported from the west and alien to the Middle East. Kahane favored a Jewish state that offered no democratic rights to non-Jews. This poll shows that Israeli Jews are rapidly flocking to this point of view.
Jews favor superior rights for themselves over non-Jewish citizens. They favor denying Palestinian citizens the right to vote. They favor preferences to Jews over non-Jews in awarding government jobs. They favor an apartheid transportation system. They support the ethnic cleansing of non-Jewish citizens from the State.
In an accompanying op-ed, Levy adds:
Israelis have never appeared so pleased with themselves, even when they admit their racism. Most of them think Israel is a good place to live in and most of them think this is a racist state. It’s good to live in this country, most Israelis say, not despite its racism, but…because of it.
I’ve written here before about the similarities between far-right Israeli attitudes and the Nuremberg Laws. The most extreme of Israel’s ultranationalists harbor such views explicitly. This poll indicates that vast numbers of Israeli Jews share such views, though perhaps they wouldn’t articulate them as virulently.
I find it astonishing that a majority of Jews explicitly accept the term “apartheid” to describe what Israel is. Also interesting is the finding that while 40% favor annexing the Territories, 48% oppose this. That does not mean, of course, that this group is willing to return the Territories. More likely it means they want to retain the status quo in which the West Bank is neither a Palestinian state nor annexed to Israel.
I do not believe Israel is a country that can save itself. Once it has stopped being a democracy, the solution to its problems cannot come from within. I’m afraid that we must wait for a dysfunctional country to perpetrate an act so heinous that the rest of the world cannot help but intervene to prevent something much worse. Serbia brought such a fate upon itself through the massacre of Srebenica and subsequent genocide in Kosovo. Syria is coming to such a crossroads with its recent likely assassination of Lebanon’s security chief. Israel will follow in Assad’s footsteps. It’s only a question of when. And how much bloodshed can the world absorb before it calls Israel out for its behavior.
The poll comes on the heels of an Israeli government report that finds that for the first time there are more Palestinians than Jews in the territory that encompasses Israel and the Occupied Territories. This means that if Israel refused to accept a Palestinian state and annexed the West Bank to Israel, there would still be a Palestinian majority. That in turn means that Israelis will have further reason to jettison the notion that they live in a democracy. In such a predicament, they will have to create an apartheid state in order to guarantee Jewish political dominion. The poll results indicate that this is beginning to sink in. Which means that we must deny supporters of the Occupation regime called Israel the right to call iself a democracy. Its own citizens, as indicated in this poll, explicitly recognize that it is not:
The “Jewish” gave “democracy” a knockout, smashing it to the canvas. Israelis want more and more Jewish and less and less democracy. From now on don’t say Jewish democracy. There’s no such thing, of course. There cannot be. From now on say Jewish state, only Jewish, for Jews alone. Democracy – sure, why not. But for Jews only.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.