EI: Survey on Racism Among Israelis
Posted by uscsjp on September 1, 2011
Video survey: Racism rampant among Israeli youth
“Over the past three years, my wife Pennie and I have been working on a documentary film about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During our second production trip to the region, one of the many remarkable people we encountered was Uri Davis. He is one of a handful of Israelis who has built a life for himself among the Palestinians of the West Bank. This made him a very interesting subject for our film, which examines the practical and moral failings of the two-state solution.
During our interview with Davis, one of the questions we asked was whether he had encountered any anti-Semitism in the West Bank. The question was motivated by a desire on our part to address a narrative — prevalent among American and Israeli Jews — which claims that anti-Semitism is an obvious feature of Palestinian culture.
As these two groups are an important part of our target audience, we felt that it was our responsibility to address this perception. Who better to ask about the veracity of this narrative than a Jew living among Palestinians? Davis answered by saying that although Palestinian anti-Semitism does exist, it is a marginal phenomenon, while anti-Arab sentiment among Israelis is a mainstream phenomenon. Shortly after the interview, it occurred to us that we could either substantiate or disprove Davis’s provocative statement with our cameras.
We began our survey in February 2011 and completed it in early March. On the Israeli side, we interviewed a total of 250 Jewish Israelis in Haifa, Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Jerusalem and Beersheba. For this part of the survey I conducted the interviews myself from behind the camera in Hebrew. On the Palestinian side, we interviewed a total of 250 Palestinians in Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron. (Despite multiple attempts, we were unable to procure permission to enter the Gaza Strip.) Here, we collaborated with local journalist Mohammad Jaradat who, using my questions, conducted the interviews in Arabic.
The questions we asked pertained to a number of sensitive political topics and the idea was to get people to talk long enough to detect if there was any racism at play in their answers. In sociological terms, we were engaged in qualitative analysis, but unlike typical qualitative interviews, we spent minutes, not hours with our subjects. Our survey is not exhaustive and our method was very simple. We went to public places and asked people to talk to us on camera. In designing the questions, I set out to distinguish actual racism from conflict-based animosity. That is, to allow for the possibility that Israelis might exhibit animosity towards Palestinians without being racist and to allow the same on the Palestinian side in reverse.
The very first question we asked of Jewish Israelis was the extremely broad ‘What do you think about Arabs?’ It is only reasonable to expect that people who harbor anti-Arab sentiment would mask their feelings when answering such a direct question on camera. Most people responded to this question with some variation of “They are people,” although we were surprised that a sizable minority used the opportunity to launch into anti-Arab diatribes.
One of the most disturbing trends that we noticed was the strong correlation between age and anti-Arab sentiment. The majority of Israeli teenagers that we spoke to expressed unabashed and open racism towards Arabs. Statements like ‘I hate them,’ or ‘they should all be killed’ were common in this age group…”
–Eli Ungar-Sargon, The Electronic Intifada, 18 August 2011