By Alexander Yakobson
The Israel Democracy Institute’s ‘Israeli Democracy Index 2012’ – an annual comprehensive survey of the mood of Israeli society, widely considered one of the most authoritative in the field – provides some fascinating data about attitudes among Arab-Israelis regarding Israeli democracy and the state itself. The findings (not significantly different to previous years) certainly reflect a critical attitude towards the Israeli reality and government policies. But they also reflect something else: a huge gap between the responses of Arab-Israelis and the typical discourse of the Arab elite in the country; between opinion at the base and rhetoric amongst the political leadership of this community.
Before setting out the findings, we must ask how reliable they are. It is sometimes suggested that the relatively positive results of these kinds of surveys reflect the reluctance of Arab participants to express their views with full candor and their desire to appease the establishment or the Jewish majority. But one of the survey’s most interesting findings is the negative answer given by the great majority of Arab respondents to the question, ‘Do you think that the Knesset Members from Arab parties are more radical than the general Arab public?’ Only 24.4 per cent think so; almost half of the rest say the Arab MK’s are actually more moderate than the Arab public at large. This is obviously a very disappointing answer from the viewpoint of the Jewish majority. Those who gave it were clearly not afraid of anybody and not trying to please anybody. Precisely for this reason, it can be regarded as strengthening the credibility of the other answers in the survey: after having expressed support for their political leadership, the Arab citizens proceeded to give, on many important points, answers that are hugely different from what the leadership is saying.
There is a huge difference between the responses of ordinary Israeli Arabs and the typical discourse of the Arab elite.
The picture is thus complicated, and the fundamental attitude of the Arab minority towards the State appears to be deeply ambivalent. But given the prolonged national conflict, with no end in sight at this point, this ambivalence should be regarded as good news. The Arab parties express the negative aspect of this ambivalence well enough; but anyone reading the survey will notice that the other aspect exists as well, and it is not at all negligible.
Proud to be Israeli. Some 44.5 per cent of Arab citizens (compared with 89 per cent of Jewish Israelis) answered affirmatively when asked whether they are ‘proud to be Israeli’ (14.1 per cent ‘very proud’, 30.4 per cent ‘quite proud’, 20.4 per cent ‘not so proud’ and 29.3 per cent ‘not at all proud’). This reflects a decline from last year, when 52.8 per cent of Arabs responded positively, but it is still within the normal fluctuations over the last decade (between more than 40 and more than 50 per cent). Some argue that a state that defines itself …read more