Pew Survey of Israeli Public Opinion: Palestinian Knesset Members & Citizens Respond

March 08, 2016 IMEU

In a survey released this week by the Pew Research Center, about half of Israeli Jews (48%) said that "Arabs should be transferred or expelled from Israel."

Several Palestinian citizens of Israel, including two members of Israel's parliament (Knesset), respond.


Dr. Ahmad Tibi, Longtime member of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) and leader of the Ta'al (Arab Movement for Renewal) party, which represents Palestinian citizens of Israel. He is a part of the Joint List coalition and one of 10 deputy speakers in the Knesset:

Last month an Israeli man was sentenced to only four months in jail for throwing hot tea on me, causing burns to my face and eyes. Even though I am a member of Israel's parliament, what happened to me did not come as a shock precisely because of the rampant anti-Arab racism in Israeli society highlighted by the Pew findings.

As long as Israelis continue to see Palestinians as unworthy of basic human rights and dignity, the crisis here will persist. We were here before the state of Israel was created and we will remain steadfast in the face of efforts to "transfer and expel" us from our homeland. We are the indigenous inhabitants of the land yet the Israeli government treats us like invaders or unwelcome guests. We will not accept this reality that the extremist Israeli government encourages, the primary inciter being Netanyahu. We will continue in our struggle for justice and peace.


Basel Ghattas, a member of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) from the Balad party, which represents Palestinian citizens of Israel. He is a part of the Joint List coalition and is currently one of three Palestinian Knesset members serving a four-month suspension:

Sadly, these findings do not surprise me at all. Palestinians face Israeli racism and discrimination -- regardless of whether they are citizens of Israel, residents of the occupied West Bank and Gaza, or refugees in exile. Even as a member of Israel's parliament, I am not exempt. I have been suspended for four months by my colleagues and have encountered other efforts to silence my voice simply because my concerns, identity and history as a Palestinian are unwanted here. And I am not alone -- I am facing this alongside my Palestinian colleagues here in the parliament. We must move toward a future where the humanity, dignity, and legitimate rights of Palestinians are recognized.


Diana Buttu, Ramallah-based analyst and Palestinian citizen of Israel, former advisor to Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian negotiators, and policy advisor to Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network:

The results of the Pew survey are entirely unsurprising. Palestinians in Israel live under an oppressive regime that aims to demonize Palestinians, particularly Palestinian citizens of Israel. Israeli political parties have run election campaigns calling for our ethnic cleansing. We've been frequently referred to and treated as a fifth column, and scores of laws discriminate against us. It is acceptable to be racist in Israel: the Prime Minister has made latent racism mainstream.


Yousef Munayyer, Policy analyst at the Arab Center of Washington and executive director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Munayyer is also a Palestinian citizen of Israel:

These findings demonstrate how a state that claims to be both Jewish and democratic actually functions. Toward non-Jews, primarily Palestinians, living under its control, the state is Jewish. Toward Jews, it is democratic.

This system of privilege, which 79% of Israeli Jewish respondents support, is aimed at treating people differently based on who they are so that one group can remain firmly in control of power. This is what apartheid looks like and while the Israeli system has always been this way, the recent rightward and nationalist drift of its politics has led the public to proudly embrace what was once less openly discussed. This troubling reality has deteriorated in recent years to this new low. Observers should take note as the sentiments expressed by respondents in this poll may quickly translate to new and even harsher apartheid policies.


Suhad Bishara, acting general director of Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel:

The views unveiled in Pew's new poll indicating that 48% of Jewish Israelis support the transfer of Arab citizens of Israel are striking and alarming. The racist and discriminatory opinions harbored by those surveyed are a reflection of the inflammatory rhetoric and exclusionary policies of the Israeli government.

Jewish Israeli politicians, most notably former Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman, have called for the transfer of Palestinian citizens of Israel and even incited to violence against them. Following a devastating Supreme Court decision in January 2016, work is now underway to destroy an Arab Bedouin village in the Negev (inside Israel) and displace its 1,000 residents to establish a Jewish town in its place! Last month, a new bill was proposed targeting Arab members of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) that would allow for the expulsion or suspension of political representatives if they hold views oppositional to the majority.

Although the current situation on the ground is dangerous, normalized racism in the public discourse, which has reached new heights, cannot be divorced from the systemic inequality, exclusion and discrimination initiated by the government, and legitimized in the courts. These actions deliberately preserve a system of exclusion and inequality against Palestinian citizens of Israel.