Arab-Jewish Index Conference

Summary of

Givat Haviva Winter Conference

Presenting the 2015 Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel

 Monday November 23, 2015

 Givat Haviva Campus, Golan Auditorium


The Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel, produced by Professor Sammy Smooha since 2003, examines the attitudes of Arab and Jewish citizens towards each other and towards the state.

Dr. Sammy Smooha, from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Haifa University, presented findings from his 2015 Index of Arab-Jewish Relations, based on a survey of hundreds of Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel. He described the two major theories regarding Arab-Jewish Relations. The first, Radicalization Theory, cites an increase in Islam and Palestinian identification on the part of Arabs and the rise in religious radicalization and nationalism on the part of Jews, asserting that the state is becoming less democratic and Jews and Arabs are growing further from each other and more antagonistic. The second, Approach Theory, cites deepening acquaintance between Jews and Arabs and points to the gaps between Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the territories without citizenship, asserting that Jews and Arabs are in fact learning to live together and the state is growing increasingly democratic.

Smooha stated his support for the second theory, noting how little violence occurs within the green line, significantly different from the situation in most deeply divided societies. He said that while the Radicalization Theory is prevalent among the public and in the media, he does not see it borne out by the survey results. Another important finding was the deep divide among Jews in Israel between left and right, possibly as wide as the gap between Jews and Arabs.

Even though the two populations may be growing closer, the situation on the ground is still worrisome. Other interesting findings Dr. Smooha presented included:

  • 60% of Jews avoid entering Arab settlements within the green line.
  • 20-30% of Jews are against co-existence.
  • Over 50% of Arabs mistrust Jews in general, and government in particular, however Arabs show a high level of faith in professional organizations, such as health services.
  • 27% of Arabs say they have personally suffered directly at the hands of Jews (e.g. insults, threats, violence, discrimination).
  • 20% of Jews say they have personally suffered directly at the hands of Arabs.
  • 60% of Arabs and 20% of Jews have received help from the other side.
  • Both sides feel a high level of threat.
  • The two groups hold opposite and contradictory narratives based on the other group’s status as essentially foreign and their presence thus temporary.
  • A third of Arabs do not believe the Holocaust was real.
  • More than half of Jews do not believe the Nakba was real.
  • Both groups reject the other’s identities, which are based on Zionism and the Nakba.
  • The Arab public is pragmatic; over 60% accept the state.
  • The Jewish public accepts the personal, cultural, and even collective rights of the Arab public.
  • A majority of Arabs are badly disappointed by the Arab spring, and want Israel to be part of the West, not the Arab surroundings.

One highly significant finding sheds encouraging light on Givat Haviva’s activities bringing the two groups together: The best predictor of attitudes toward the other group is the amount of time spent in each other’s company.

After Dr. Smooha presented his findings, many researchers, activists and politicians offered their responses. Among them, Dr. Muhammad Amara, Head of Graduate Studies, Beit Berl Academic College, mentioned a growing fear of shared public space, in the form of the sense of public space as a battlefield and a sense of loss of control expressed by both Jews and Arabs. Arabs mentioned a feeling of being viewed not as second-class citizens, but as enemies. Dr. Daniel Bar-Tal, Professor Emeritus, Tel Aviv University, asserted that although both sides live in fear of each other, there is a balance of deterrence in which coexistence based on interests of both groups and a balance of power is the order of the day.



Findings of the previous Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel 2012