Israel Zionism

Signs of hope, believe it or not, for co-existence

My inaugural post.  Drum roll, please:

A story in yesterday’s Maariv by Yonathan Haleli has gotten no attention in the U.S. It is about a poll of Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews. It begins on a predictably disturbing note, with responses indicating fear for the future on both sides. But dig a little deeper, and you will find an urge for co-existence and reconciliation that gives me a shred of hope…Not many shreds of hope are available these days. 

The money quote from the pollster,  Sammy Smooha, is at the end: “The findings of the 2006 index show unequivocally that Arabs in Israel are strongly connected to life in Israel, see their future as part of the state and are not willing by any means to be annexed to a Palestinian state. Since for Jews a Jewish state is a hegemonic idea that must never be renounced, the question is which version of a Jewish-Zionist state can be acceptable to the Jews and fair to the Arabs.”

 Here is the article, with translation courtesy of “Israel News Today,”  followed by a question from me:           

Sixty-eight percent of the Jewish population fears the possibility that Israeli Arabs will begin a popular rebellion, while 63 percent do not go to Arab communities in Israel, according to the Jewish-Arab relations index for 2006. The Arab population has fears of its own: 62 percent of Arab citizens fear the annexation of the Triangle into a Palestinian state as part of a future agreement, while 60 percent fear transfer.

The full index will be presented at the first Haifa Conference for Social Responsibility, which will take place next week at the University of Haifa.The study was conducted by Professor Sammy Smooha, the dean of the Social Sciences Faculty at the university. The index that Smooha developed is based on a poll that was conducted among a national representative sample of 702 Jewish citizens and 721 Arab citizens, who were asked about their positions on various subjects regarding the Jewish-Arab rift. The results indicate a feeling of fear and suspicion on both sides.

 Of the Jews, 64.4 percent fear that the Arab citizens endanger national security because of their high birth rate. 71.3 percent fear a change in the Jewish character of the state, while 83.1 percent fear Israeli Arab support of the Palestinians’ struggle. 80.1 percent of the Jews believe that decisions about the state’s character and borders require a majority among the Jews and that a majority among all the citizens is not enough. Seventy percent have a feeling of distance from Arab citizens, while 73 percent believe that most of the Arab citizens will be more loyal to the state of Palestine than to the state of Israel. Five percent believe that citizens who declare themselves “Palestinian citizens in Israel” cannot be loyal to the state.

At the same time, 77.4 percent of the Israeli Arabs fear that their civil rights will be harmed, approximately 80 percent are worried about mass land appropriations, 73.8 percent fear violence on the part of the state and 71.5 percent fear violence on the part of Jewish citizens.

Together with these statistics, which show suspicion and lack of trust, there are findings that indicate a possibility for coexistence between the two peoples. Seventy percent of the Jewish public thinks that both sides have an historical right to the country, 74 percent support the formula of two states for two peoples as a way to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and 65 percent think that the state should take significant measures to reduce the gap between Jewish and Arab citizens.

An attitude of reconciliation may also be found among Arab citizens.75.4 percent agree that Israel within the Green Line has a right to exist as an independent state in which Jews and Arabs live together, and 67.5 percent believe that Israel within the Green Line has a right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state in which Jews and Arabs live together. A comparison to the findings of polls that were conducted in the past shows that over the past 30 years, there is a trend of drawing closer rather than of extremism among both Jews and Arabs. The percentage of Arabs who negate Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish-Zionist state, which reached a peak of 73.1 percent in 2004, decreased to 62.6 percent in 2006. The percentage of Arabs who negate Israel’s right to exist decreased from 20.5 percent in 1976 to 15 percent in 2006.

“It is easy to distort reality with the selective and manipulative use of statistics,” Professor Smooha said. “The findings of the 2006 index show unequivocally that Arabs in Israel are strongly connected to life in Israel, see their future as part of the state and are not willing by any means to be annexed to a Palestinian state. Since for Jews a Jewish state is a hegemonic idea that must never be renounced, the question is which version of a Jewish-Zionist state can be acceptable to the Jews and fair to the Arabs.”

So, what’s the answer? Is it conceivable to create a Jewish-Zionist state that can be acceptable to the Jews and fair to Arabs who live there? The far-left doesn’t think so. And, even if it isn’t conceivable, how close can Israel come to reaching that goal? I would love to hear from people who believe the Jews deserve a state of their own, just one little state, but are also deeply concerned about the rights and the plight of Arab citizens of Israel. —- 

On another note: Check out my remarks on the Mearsheimer and Walt paper on both the Ameinu  web site  ( as well as the Meretz blog (

16 thoughts on “Signs of hope, believe it or not, for co-existence

  1. Great post. You’re right. There isn’t much hope available from that part of the world these days, and this provides it. Thanks!

  2. For those of us who are progressive Zionists, this is a time of hope coupled with despair. I read about the Saudi initiative which, while not perfect, is a small step in the right direction. I then open my e-mail today and read about the work of AIPAC in trying to destroy any chance for peace. I know that older freinds have reminded me that the right comes out full strength when it feels like it is losing but it is a difficult time. My students ask me the following questions and I do not have a very good answer: do I have hope? do I despair? which emotion will win out?

    Thank you for a place in which we can hold both emotions simultaneously.

  3. Thanks for that kernel of hope. But the first half is very distressing. I think the Shin Bet recently warned about increased radicalism among the Arabs of Israel, more and more of whom have written off the chance of co-existing peacefully. I don’t see how this will ever work, frankly.

  4. I don’t think there is any hope. The very idea of a `Jewish state’
    runs counter to the idea of a full-fledged democracy. The Israelis havebeen repressing that obvious truth for years and they are not likely to stop the repression now.

  5. It would be a wonderful next step if a similar survey were done with American Jews and American Palestinians. It would be interesting to see how we differed from our counterparts in the Middle East. I often feel that the majority opinions (on both sides) are not heard hear in the US and that our “leaders” are out of touch with the feelings of the two communities.

  6. Dan, why did you pick such a nightmarishly complicated topic for your first posting? Who in the hell knows how to solve this one? Affirmative action? Give Palestinians in Israel functional autonomy (an idea that I understand is floating around places like the Van Leer Institute)? Call Israel “a state for all its citizens?” Get a new national anthem that doesn’t mention Jews? Except for the one about affirmative action, I can’t imagine that Israel would take any of these stpes.

    Mazel tov on this blog but if you want comments why don’t you write about something easier, like solving the Palestinian problem or overturning AIPAC or curing mysterious diseases? 🙂

  7. Victoria,

    And what of a Muslim state? Or a Christian state?

    As the descendant of Jews expelled from North Africa, I always want to ask those who are so bothered about a Jewish state what they think about the countries that are now Judenrein? Or is it simply Jews who have no right to a state of their own?

  8. Solomon,

    I am not saying the Jews should not have a state, in principle. In practice, their drive for self-determination has meant that other people have either lost their land or must live as second class citizens in a “Jewish state.”

    There is no logical way to reconcile the commitment to a self-described Jewish state and the rights of Arabs living there. as even if they can vote, they will be economically and emotionally and psychologically disenfranchised. The American and Israeli Jews who care about them have never been able to admit that to themselves. I bet you haven’t either.

  9. I’ve always found it better to think progressively. Instead of complaining about how awful the situation is, people should be thinking more like you do, Dan. All anyone can do is learn the facts and try to make solutions off of them as best they can. The people who sit there complaining about how horrible everything is are the people who will eventually destroy the world. I think it is people like you Dan, who will eventually save the world.

    Hey Bubby, if we only discussed the easy issues, how could we possibly get even close to solving the difficult ones?

    I congratulate you Dan, on a brave first post!

  10. It is part of our nature to want a home and that is at the core of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. However most people want peace and equality so that they can live their lives to the fullest. We all must recognize this or there is no hope.

    I agree with you Dan, I see hope in these numbers.


  11. Dan, I have great admiration for your initiative, eloquence, and optimism in creating and maintaining this blog. I hope that by your selecting and describing the essential core problem of zionism as the first topic of your blog, you will succeed in stimulating many people to respond and wrestle with this critical problem.

    I believe that a stable solution to the problem of maintaining a democratic Jewish state which is fair to all its citizens and recognizes the nationalistic aspirations of the Palestinians for their own state will evolve from intensive interactions (conferences, seminars, joint courses, and constructive joint projects) among the various interested parties. These interactions should occur at the grass roots, academic and political levels both in Israel and in the U.S. AMEINU might initiate such activities in various U.S. cities and, hopefuly, the Israel Labor Party could make such activities a priority on its agenda. Direct personal interactions with the “other” side should significantly lower the levels of mistrust, blind neglect, and militant actions.

    This is just a germ of an idea to consider.

  12. Victoria,

    First of all, you do not know me. You do not know my beliefs so please cut the nasty tone.

    Secondly, there are Arab Jews in the state; “Arab” and “Jew” are not mutually exclusive identities.

    I do believe there can be a democratic state Jewish in nature that supports all its citizens. Interestingly, those of you who critique Israel never talk about whether other states can do the same. My family’s experience certainly shows that is not only Israel dealing with this.

  13. Solomon,

    Sorry that you thought I was nasty. I have yet to hear any workable ideas for Palestinians living in Israel. That is what Dan Fleshler was asking for, I believe. So if you have a plan that will enable Muslims and Christians (whose families have lived in Palestine for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years) to feel like they are part of state that is ‘Jewish in nature,” and to end the discrimination that has been part and parcel of their experience, I would be curious to read about it. The fact that other states can or can’t solve similar problems is irrelevant, because this particular state, Israel, is the source of so much global tension. Other states, other places, certainly do deserve to be critiqued. But I feel that those who use that argument are often trying to evade the issue of Israel’s culpability.

  14. Victoria,

    Thank you for the apology; I appreciate it. I agree that many do try to evade Israel’s hand in all of this but I would ask you to consider a few things. I think many of those people who ask the similar questions I did will wonder why Israel, as you state, is the source of so much global tension. They will go on to ask why everyone focuses on the evils of Israel when other countries have been discriminating aganst minorities for far longer, including the countries that complain about Israel. It just seems like a double standard…Do some of these people use this as an excuse to do nothing? Of course! But there is a kernel of truth in their question.

    I have also come to realize that many people who care deeply about the situation never have anything to say about my family’s experience in the Middle East. They simply see it as Ashkenazim going to Palestine and forget that we were there since 70 CE as well. They also forget that some people migrated to Palestine later in the 19th century. Unfortunately, the history of that regios has become so politicized. Both “sides” trying to prove that the other does not belong there.

    Also, there are many groups that are working on issues of discrimination in Israel vis-a-vis Israeli Arabs. The cynics might then ask what other countries are doing about their anti-Jewish policies.

  15. i’m not as concerned with the rights of arabs in israel as i am with the rights of jews in arab/muslim countries…israeli arabs, the real ones, the citizens, have full civil rights.
    as for the arabs in gaza and the west bank, they need their own country, and will get it as soon as they give up on the idea of destroying israel.

  16. “The very idea of a `Jewish state’
    runs counter to the idea of a full-fledged democracy”

    no more than the very idea of a french state or a german state or a turkish state.
    as long as their are minority rights, it’s not a problem.

    and of course there are minority rights in israel, but not in the arab countries, with a couple exceptions.

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