This column has frequently referenced polls in the past which demonstrate a strong trend for Israeli Arabs to apparently feel more integrated and at home in Israeli society. I have noted that this may be in part because recent Israeli governments have placed a priority on programs that encourage such integration – in education, hi-tech jobs, in the civil service, in Israel’s largest private sector companies, in municipal funding, in national service, etc. – even if this effort has received little international attention.
Here is yet another poll exemplifying that overall trend. A poll of Israeli Arabs conducted in August by the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation at Tel Aviv University’s Dayan Center and Keevoon, a research, strategy and communications company, found the following:
• When asked “which term best describes you”, 54% said something that was a variation of “Israeli” – “Israeli Arab,” “Arab citizen of Israel,” “Israeli,” or “Israeli Muslim.” Only 24% chose some variant of “Palestinian” – mostly commonly simply “Palestinian”, followed by “Palestinian in Israel,” “Palestinian citizen in Israel” and “Israeli Palestinian.” Israeli identification was up sharply from 2012, when a similar poll found only 32.5% of Israeli Arabs chose a variation of “Israeli” when asked about their identity.
• 60% of Israeli Arabs have a favourable view of Israel overall, compared to 37% whose view was negative.
• 63% of Arab citizens surveyed said Israel is a “positive” place to live, with 34% saying it is negative. Respondents said they especially appreciated the country for having a “strong” degree of personal freedom and a “strong” amount of stability.
This is not to say everything is fine. The survey found racism was a matter of concern for many Arabs, with 22% saying it was their top concern, equal first with “personal security and crime”. The Palestinian issue was listed by only 13% as their most important concern.
Nonetheless, surveys of Israeli Arabs continue to make one thing perfectly clear – people who say Israel is some sort of “Apartheid” state are flying in the face of the majority view of the people who are supposed to the be the primary victims of that Apartheid – Israel’s Arab minority. Israel’s Arab citizens have their concerns, of course, but overall, most view their country as a good place to live, and are increasingly identifying with and integrating into the mainstream of the Jewish state.
The best Ambassadors
As I noted above, Israeli Arabs are, through polls, implicitly telling the outside world that claiming Israel is an Apartheid state is just nuts. Moreover, some, especially the younger generation, appear increasingly willing to say it even more explicitly.
In a video that went viral on Facebook (viewable at tinyurl.com/DimaTaya), Dima Taya, a young Muslim Israeli Arab from the town of Qalansawe, near Haifa, was very explicit in a recent interview with an unidentified Arabic TV station. She told the interviewer, in Arabic:
“Israel is not an apartheid state and anyone who believes this should be ashamed of himself.
“You live in this country and enjoy the full benefits of its citizenship. You are free to work, study, express yourselves and whatever you desire. You lead and educate the next generations in a state that respects you. Look at Syria, Iraq, Egypt and the rest of the Arab countries. What have they done for the good of their people?”
She later added,
“I’m proud to stand up and speak for Israel and that I’m an integrated part of it… I hope that all Arab countries will adopt the Israeli democratic regime – and for your information, 90% of Gaza Strip citizens and the West Bank wish they were under such a regime.”
Ms. Taya was part of a group of seven Israeli Arabs from various communities – Muslim, Christian and Druze – who undertook a tour of US campuses in mid-October organised by the Israeli NGO, Reservists on Duty, mainly intended to counter the BDS movement calling for boycotts and sanctions against Israel.
But she is not the only Israeli Arab making a splash by countering anti-Israel messaging on social media. Also racking up big Facebook viewer numbers was Nuseir Yassin, a Harvard graduate from the town of Arraba in Israel’s north, currently living in the US. Yassin made a short video on BDS after Kuwait Airlines refused to allow him to board a flight from New York to India because he held an Israeli passport. In the video, which can be viewed at tinyurl.com/NuseirYassin, he said:
“Dear Kuwait. If you want to boycott Israel, be my guest. Refuse me service. But also give me your USB flash drives, your phones, your safe driving cars, your Viber, your Waze or your anti-virus. This is also Israel.”
“If you want to boycott Israel because of Palestine, I don’t think you actually care. Because you’re also boycotting 2,000,000 Muslim Palestinian Israelis, like me.”
“This stupid ban is pure politics. And the only people benefiting from it are not the airlines, not the Muslims and not the Jews. It only benefits the people in power. The outdated, undemocratic kings of the Arabs and the far-right Israeli leaders. And that’s not us.”
In other words, there are growing signs that not only are Israeli Arabs increasingly feeling more Israeli than ever, the younger generation are showing the potential to be Israel’s best ambassadors.