As Americans, we are endlessly reminded by our leading politicians about the importance of the special relationship with Israel–the only Liberal Democracy in the Middle East (TM). Judging from the rhetoric alone, it’s almost like we think of Israel as the 51st state. Criticizing the Israeli government is almost unheard of, and even expressing a desire to be neutral draws immediate condemnation, as Donald Trump learned in last night’s Republican debate.
Many harsh realities get obscured by this consistently positive narrative on Israel. I suspect most Americans would be shocked to learn that settlement building is effectively Israel’s 21st century version of Manifest Destiny. Others would probably be surprised to discover that Palestine isn’t actually its own independent state right now.
But what might be most shocking of all to an American audience, is how perfectly common and acceptable it is in Israel to be racist against Arabs. This election cycle, Donald Trump’s crude rhetoric on Mexicans and Muslims has been denounced by many as a betrayal of American values. But if Trump were an Israeli politician, he wouldn’t even really be on the fringe of mainstream opinion. A bold claim perhaps, but a new opinion survey on the Israeli public bears it out.
Conducted by Pew Research, this new poll on Israeli and Palestinian attitudes has many interesting findings. Here are a few of the highlights:
- A plurality (48%) of Israeli Jews agree with Arabs being expelled from Israel
- 97% of Israeli Jews would be uncomfortable with their child marrying a Muslim. (Other religious groups in Israel had similarly widespread discomfort about having a child marry someone of another background.)
- A plurality (42%) of Israeli Jews also agree that the settlement building policy helps Israel’s security
- 79% of Israeli Jews believe they should receive preferential treatment in Israel, relative to other groups
- 64% of Israeli Arabs say that Israel cannot be both a Jewish state and a democracy