Israel poll misleads


Sydney Morning Herald – Monday Oct 29, 2012


As anyone acquainted with Israel and its people can attest, the conclusions of the poll of Israelis reported on in the Herald seem puzzling (”Poll finds Jewish Israeli support for segregation”, October 25). However, detailed scrutiny of the poll data and questions reveals that, in fact, the poll itself is methodologically questionable, and the interpretation being placed on its data even more so.

As in every other country with minorities, social gaps and some discrimination exist in Israel. But the government, high court and civil society are achieving much to reduce both – the number of Arab civil servants is up 78 per cent since 2003, well-funded programs exist to encourage and support Arab university students, gaps in welfare budgets are closing, and tax breaks and other benefits for communities under the current ”national priority areas” program disproportionately benefit Arab-majority areas.

The answers pollsters received regarding whether the respondents felt ”apartheid” existed in Israel were meaningless since the question failed to define this non-Hebrew term. Moreover, the study’s authors acknowledge they intended to use the word ”apartheid” to mean simply discrimination or a ”desire for separation” – not a system of legal and institutionalised racism. Furthermore, they concede that many respondents probably misinterpreted the word’s meaning.

The other question referred to, wherein most Israelis would oppose granting Palestinian residents citizenship if the West Bank was annexed, shows, not that Israelis want discrimination, but that they favour a two-state outcome. As other questions in the survey showed, very few Israelis want to annex all of the West Bank – but the option of saying so was not included in this question. Israelis oppose annexation precisely because they do not want to face the dilemma of either granting Palestinians there citizenship, jeopardising Israel’s status as a Jewish homeland, or not doing so, thus severely compromising Israel’s democracy.

Other polls show that large majorities of Israelis, often upwards of two-thirds, want most of the West Bank and Gaza to become a Palestinian state as part of a peace agreement.

Therefore, the article’s suggestion that the poll’s results indicate that the two-state model for a negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians is becoming ”no longer viable ” contradicts the data both in this poll and others.

Colin Rubenstein

Australia-Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

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