Friday, April 29, 2005

Anti-Arab sentiments in Israel

Ferry Biedermann:

More than four years of violence between Israelis and Palestinians may have abated at least temporarily, but its effect is still being felt on relations between Jews and Arabs inside Israel. A string of recent polls, events and policy issues shows that both popular and official attitudes toward the country's Arab minority remain problematic.

From separate polls, it emerged that more than half of the Jewish population does not wish Arabs to live in their neighborhoods and that many Israelis would like to see the government encourage Arab citizens to leave the country. There has also been an upsurge of racism on football fields.

The Beitar Jerusalem football club was fined earlier this month after its fans shouted "death to the Arabs" among other slogans during a match against the largely Arab club Bnei Sakhnin. This comes in the wake of Bnei Sakhnin's captain Abbas Suan scoring the equalizer against Ireland in a World Cup qualifier. "Abbas Suan doesn't represent us," a Beitar fan had said earlier, echoing the view of most fans.

Arab and Jewish researchers agree there is a high level of antipathy between the two communities, but emphasize different causes. While a prominent Arab Israeli researcher points at the Jewish nature of the state and the inherent bias this has always brought, a Jewish political scientist says that the violence over the past four-and-a-half years has further polarized the communities.

The Arab researcher, Assad Ghanem from the University of Haifa, released a poll earlier this month that had been carried out for the Madar research center in Ramallah. The poll indicated that 42 percent of Israeli Jews want the government to encourage Arab citizens to leave the country. Another 40 percent did not agree.

"I'm fed up," Ghanem told IPS. "I will stop doing this kind of research, always presenting figures that show the same thing."

The other poll, in which it emerged that more than half the Jewish population does not want to live in the same neighborhood as Arabs, was presented to parliament last month on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The findings refer to Israel's Arab citizens, not Palestinians in the occupied territories. The Arab minority in Israel are the people who did not flee or were not driven out during the war of 1948/1949 when Israel was founded, and their descendants. They now make up some 1.2 million of Israel's 6.8 million citizens.

They have the vote and are represented in parliament, both by specifically Arab parties and in the major Israeli parties. Very few serve in the army, and their relationship with the Jewish state is ambiguous at best. They feel like second-class citizens, often have strong bonds with Palestinians outside the country, and are regarded by many Israelis as fifth columnists.

News and Blogosphere:

Racism in Israel

Most Israeli Jews say Israeli Arabs should emigrate: poll

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