Sunday, March 26, 2006

Out of Touch

Public opinion polls keep surprising me. One such poll showed Israelis are extremely racist towards Arabs: two thirds refuse to live in the same building as Arabs; 40% support encouraging Arabs to leave Israel; 46% would not let an Arab into their house.

One respected commentator, Yaron London, even went as far as to say that a poll in Germany in the early 1930's regarding the Jews would be less racist. I wouldn't go that far, but I'm certainly worried. I knew racism was a problem here in Israel, but I had no idea it was this bad.

Other polls show that a lot of Israelis find these elections boring, are uninterested in politics and don't plan on voting. This is also troubling. It will strengthen the racist parties, since although it turns out most Israelis have racist views, they usually don't vote for racists. There's a big difference between wishing the Arabs were gone and actually doing something to make that happen.

Why am I so surprised? The circles I socialize with are educated liberal types. These are the kind of people who are very involved politically and abhor racism. Sure, I have a few hawkish friends, a few politically ignorant ones, and even one racist - but they are in the minority. I'm in a bubble, an ivory tower. I must say I like it there. The Israel outside it seems much worse than the one inside it.

Tags: , , , , ,


  1. I believe I published one of the polls to which you referred.

    Polls always have to be put into context of course; otherwise it's easy to jump to very stark and exaggerated conclusions.

    Clearly, like any other society, Israel is much divided on issues that are close to its heart. This can undoubtedly also be said of that other group of people, the Palestinians.

    In the case of Israel, the veering to the right and the embracing of ideas that can broadly speaking only be described as racist is in my view the result of decades of being under siege. This "Fortress Israel" situation can only promote the preference to segregation and the closing of borders as completely as possible.

    In the long run this cannot be healthy for the collective psyche of a nation, Israel or other. It distorts how a Nation views itself and others. The capacity of self-analysis and self-criticism also suffers. It's a breeding ground for extreme nationalism and suppression of any "non-patriotic" dissent.

    To some extent these are symptoms which also the fairly insular United States suffers from. As an enthusiastic European blogger and blogsurfer, I'm still regularly stunned by what the average American conservative Joe Blogs thinks about e.g. Europe, displaying an ignorance on the subject that defies belief. It's often those very same bloggers that support Israel unconditionally, neither helped nor hindered by any knowledge of the subject. It's very much a "Them v. Us" mentality.

  2. This post might have turned out more pessimistic than I originally intended. I agree that it's part of the fortress mentality. Once there are two states, the situation may turn for the better, since we'll finally take care of internal problems - including Jewish-Arab relations.

  3. I don't think your post was particularly pessimistic, going by other voices in Israeli society.

    Racism is everywhere and in all Nations worldwide. The root causes differ but the phenomenon is always there, sometimes in the background, sometimes in the foreground.

    Politicians turn these feelings on and off, according to political expediency.

    Ultimately all racism is based on an a purely artificially created vision of the "Self", which impedes us from seeing the "Other" as similar rather than different.