A Sense Of Pride

October 17, 2013
BY Maayan Jaffe
Israel Democracy Institute study reveals that Israeli Jews, Arabs are becoming increasingly divided and that a majority of Israeli Jews feel it’s important to close the growing economic gap

Forty-three percent of Israeli Jews consider their lives “so-so,” according to the 2013 Democracy Index published by the Israel Democracy Institute on Oct. 6.

The annual report, which takes the pulse of Israeli Jews and Arabs, was conducted between April 8 and May 2 and included 1,000 respondents. According to the IDI, the maximum sampling error is 3.2 percent.

The report’s findings come in stark opposition to happenings in the United States, where the government remains shut down largely over the Affordable Care Act. It was reported that 64 percent of Israelis believe that it is important to narrow socioeconomic gaps even if it means paying more taxes.

Professor Tamar Hermann, who oversaw the study as head of the IDI, said, “The origins of the Israeli state were loaded with the socialist perception, and actually, the generation that contributed the most to the construction of the Israeli narrative and self-image were those in the Second Aliyah who came from Russia and were heavily influenced by the various socialist parties and movements there.”

Hermann said the idea that the state should be deeply involved with the well-being of the individual is something “ingrained in Israeli society.” She said that in contrast to the United States and some European countries, Israel is more in line with places such as Scandinavia and Finland. And she noted that many who move to Israel jump on the communal bandwagon rather than influence Israeli society.

“I think Americans who move here tend to change their views under the influence of overall Israeli society,” said Hermann.

Gil Hoffman, chief political correspondent and analyst for the Jerusalem Post, told the JT that Israelis pay income tax of around 40 percent.

Other important findings: Israeli Jews continue to put their trust in the Israel Defense Force first (91 percent), whereas Israeli-Arabs focus on the Supreme Court (50 percent) and the media (48 percent).

Hoffman said the IDF is always at the top of these types of studies because “there is no institution that unifies Israeli Jews more than the IDF.”

Hoffman told the JT that Israeli Jews are becoming “increasingly cohesive” and that while he would not consider Israel to be racist, “the way in which they [Israelis] can show solidarity with their fellow Jews is by liking the institutions that are uniquely Israeli Jewish.”

Why the media? Neither Hermann nor Hoffman had an answer — and neither did David Pollock, Kaufman fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He said, however, “These are two completely different populations that live in the same city but have different identities. [These people] have been subject for generations to very acute conflict. I think it is remarkable that there is as much agreement as there is about anything between them.”

This year, the report found that 40 percent of Israeli-Arabs feel a sense of pride about living in Israel, down 5 percent from the previous year. Hermann says she thinks this is a response to a decision by the government to push for legislation that increases the Jewish focus of the state, as opposed to the democratic. For example, she noted, there is discussion about removing Arabic from the list of national languages.

“One of the most striking findings is that half of Jewish respondents said Jewish citizens should have more citizen rights than non-Jewish people,” explained Hermann. “Non-Jews means Arabs — this is unheard of in a democratic state.”

But Hoffman and Pollock said they feel otherwise. Rather, Hoffman said he believes the government strives to be equal but that a parliamentary democracy is “inherently discriminatory” against minorities. Pollock said that given the situation on the ground, he thinks that 40 percent is “remarkably high.”

Within the Jewish public, 37 percent believe that the Jewish character and democratic character of Israel are equally important, 32 percent assign greater priority to the Jewish element, and 29 percent give greater weight to the democratic nature. At the same time, 75 percent of the Jewish public believes that the State of Israel can simultaneously be both a Jewish state and a democratic state.

And the Jews are more likely to get their way, as Israelis remain engaged and involved with politics, 72 percent; only 60 percent of Israeli-Arabs are interested in politics.

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