Arab-Israeli conflict Israel Palestinians Zionism

Poll: many Israelis no longer accept a key part of the Zionist narrative

A surprising poll shows that many Israelis no longer agree with the most simplistic versions of the Zionist narrative. If the past is predictive, it will take about 5 years before it becomes respectable to air any of these opinions in much of the organized American Jewish community. But perhaps the “Diaspora lag” might not last as long this time, both because of the Web and because younger American Jews are more receptive to hearing and absorbing the Palestinian narrative.

Anyway, here is an excerpt from a JTA story:

Many Israeli Jews reject the idea that the Palestinians are primarily responsible for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a new study finds.

The study, funded by a grant from the International Peace Research Association Foundation, found that the collective memory of Israeli Jews in general is significantly critical of Israel’s role in the conflict, and that they have somewhat rejected the “Zionist narrative” of the conflict which holds the Arabs/Palestinians primarily responsible for the conflict.

A total of 47 percent of Israeli Jews believe that Palestinians were expelled from Israel during the 1948 war, with 39 percent saying that “The refugees left due to fear, calls of leaders and expulsion by the Jews,” and another 8 percent saying the refugees left due only to expulsion by the Jews. Another 41 percent said that the refugees left “due to fear and calls of leaders to leave,” the traditional “Zionist narrative.”

Some 46 percent believe that Israel and the Palestinians are equally responsible for the outbreak and continuation of the conflict, while 4 percent blame only the Jews. Some 43 percent primarily blame the Palestinians.

In a question about who bears responsibility for the outbreak of the 1987 intafada, 23.6 percent of respondents said it was “Mainly natural hatred towards Israel,” and another 17.2 percent said it was “somewhat due to hatred.” Some 32 percent responded that the 1987 intafada was caused “More or less equally due to hatred and other reasons (such as unwillingness to be controlled and harsh treatment by Israel).”

5 thoughts on “Poll: many Israelis no longer accept a key part of the Zionist narrative

  1. The interesting question is how long before Palestinians and other Arabs begin questioning the Palestinian narrative? I presume that this won’t occur until after a Palestinian state is established, because a truth recreation project would be divisive and Palestinians already have enough things that divide them. Plus it was only in the late 1980s that the new historians began publishing. So it took approximately 40 years before it was safe to question the narrative. And initially the publication was abroad and in English. It has taken approximately 20 years for it to filter into Israeli consciousness where it is still quite controversial. So I expect that maybe in 60-80 years after statehood, if they ever get it, Palestinians will attempt to recreate their narrative. But that would presume an open enough society to allow for questioning, something that we have not seen much of in the Arab world. Then some brave intellectuals may begin questioning why it took so long for the Palestinians to get a state. The conventional answer will be because Israel was so strong, the Jews so evil, and the other Arabs so unreliable. Will there be Palestinians, possibly in the diaspora, willing and able to challenge this myth?

  2. Tom,

    I haven’t read Rashid Khalidi’s The Iron Cage, although I thunbed through it at a book store. I am under the impression that he has questioned common assumptions and, among other things, pointed to the Palestinians’ failure to comprehend that the Zionists were not run-of-the-mill European colonialists but somethinng else, something singulsr. I might be wrong, though…

  3. The title is wrong. Many Israelis believe in an evolved Zionist narrative. The fact that the Zionist narrative can change shows how much more open they are to the marketplace of ideas and finding truth in history.

    The Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank don’t have their own democratic institutions. They jail and kill their political opponents. Arafat and his cronies used to kill any Palestinian that took a dovish stand to Israel. Now Fatah and Hamas jail and shoot each other in the knees. You would think that a people in such a dire position would be able to comprimise and unite, but no, their unity talks have failed thus far.

    I think that the Palestinians should just declare independence. But its not in their leadership’s interest.

  4. Thomas-
    The entire Arab world is still trying to relive the glory of the ancient Islamic Caliphate. True, back in the “bad old days” of European Colonialism, countries like Egypt, Iraq and Syria had newspapers with different opinions, multi-party elections with parties representing different policies and opinions. It is true that this fledgling attempt a democracy was mostly based on importing ideas from their colonialist overlords and that these ideas didn’t spread out from a small, educated, Western-oriented elite. However, what is the situation today? Has there been a spread of these ideas? No, there is regression. All those states evolved into iron-fisted dictatorships (yes, Iraq is attempting to develop democracy at the point of American bayonets, we’ll see how that works out) and radical Islam is spreading its influence in all these countries, in all the countries of the area. So, you tell me, do you think it is likely that the Palestinians are willing to question their own narratives? – and by this I mean for them to ask “aren’t the Jews native to this country and are as entitled to national self-determination here just as we are?” Jewish and Israeli “progressives” are willing to claim that the Palestinians have national rights in the country. Are Palestinians willing to say the same about the Jews? If not, then there is no meaning to any revisionism on the part of some Jews and Israelis…no matter how much they are willing to “reach out to the other side” they will not be matched by a similar outreach, but simply by an increasing extremism fueled by the view “see, they are doubting the justice of their own cause, this means we should keep up the pressure and they will then collapse on their own”. Israeli appeasement fuels Palestinian/Arab/Muslim extremism.

  5. Ya’akov,
    I don’t think that the revisionist history of the new historians is an attempt at appeasement, but rather an attempt to better recreate what actually happened in the past. This is partly in reaction to access to archives and other information that wasn’t available in the past. Also I think it was based on the feeling that it was now safe to write about history objectively rather than as part of a nationalist narrative or myth. Now, some politicians or activists may embrace the new history because they see it as beneficial to peace or appeasement, but that is hardly the fault of the historians.

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