Israeli Arabs Prefer Integration with the West

Sep 09, 2008 Published under Europe, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, United States

It is not surprising that Israeli Jews prefer Israel’s integration with the West over the "Middle East."  But what is interesting is that even a majority of Israeli Arabs (or Palestinian citizens of Israel) prioritize raprochement with the West (Europe, US) over the Mideast. click here.


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War and Peace Index
August 2008
Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann
The world of images that the concept “Middle East” arouses in the Israeli Jewish
population is mainly negative and includes adverse opinions, perceptions, and
emotions. This emerges from analyzing the answers to an open question that we
presented to a representative sample of this public as part of August’s Peace Index
survey: “When you think about the Middle East, what is the first word that comes to
mind?” Of all the words the interviewees quickly came up with, 61% had negative
connotations, 20% neutral, and 19% positive. As expected, the negatively weighted
words were mainly related to war, terrorism, and Islam. These came along with
expressions of a general, colorful nature such as: “a nutcase region,” “a shitty place,”
“a morass,” “I can’t take any more of it,” “God help us,” and “What the hell are we
doing here?” On the positive side, most common were words expressing an
aspiration to peace. The neutral words mainly related to names of countries (Egypt,
Jordan, Iran) or relevant continents (Africa, Asia) and to the climate (hot, drought).
Given this negative tendency, it comes as no surprise that a majority of the Jewish
public not only does not believe Israel will succeed in the coming decades to
integrate with the Middle East politically (71%), economically (52%), or culturally
(59%), but also is not interested in doing so, clearly preferring integration with the
West (Europe-United States) in all three spheres. In the political sphere, 63% are
interested in integrating with the West vs. 28% who are interested in integrating with
the Middle East; in the economic sphere—74% vs. 18%; and in the cultural sphere—
69% vs. 15%. A comparison with data collected on these questions about a decade
ago (February 1995), that is, in the early stages of the Oslo process, shows that the
tendency to prefer integration with the West over integration with the East has
strengthened, most likely as a result of the failure of the process.
An analysis of the answers to the questions by sociodemographic characteristics of
the Jewish population (ethnic extraction, age, education, level of religiosity, and
political positions, that is, support or opposition to negotiations with the Palestinian
Authority) reveals that for all three spheres, the political, economic, and cultural, the
pattern of preference for integration with the West over integration with the Middle
East is dominant, with the gaps between the different groups, including between
Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, only involving the intensity of the preference. Only one
group—those with low education (partial high school and below)—prefers integration
with the Middle East. It is also worth emphasizing that the tendency to prefer the
West is especially pronounced among young people up to age 29, immigrants from
the former Soviet Union, third-generation Israelis, and seculars.
Nevertheless, the desire to integrate with the West does not entail loss of one’s
unique identity. In response to a question concerning which of the three cultures—
Western, Jewish, or Arab—one feels closest to, over two-thirds said they felt closest
to the Jewish culture (64%) compared to 31% who felt closest to the Western culture.
Only a tiny minority (2%) felt closest to the Arab culture.
The Jewish public also shows great uniformity in tending to prefer the Jewish culture
over the Western and the Arab culture, with two exceptions: in the cross-section by
ethnic extraction, immigrants from the former Soviet Union are divided between
preference for the Jewish culture (47%) and the Western culture (48%), and a
segmentation by degree of religiosity found that the seculars tend by a small margin
to prefer the Western culture (51%) over the Jewish culture (45.5%). There is,
however, a clear preference for the Jewish culture among the haredim and the
religious (over 90%) and the two traditional groups: the traditional-religious (79%)
and the traditional-secular (73%).
Despite, and perhaps because of, the Middle East’s negative and threatening image
in the eyes of the Israeli Jewish public, that public shows great interest in media
information about the Arab world. About two-thirds say they are very or moderately
interested in reports on the subject, with about one-third saying they are almost or
totally uninterested. Seemingly the interest, then, is mainly instrumental in terms of
“Know the enemy.” As for the scope of media reporting, the most frequent opinion
(38%) is that the quantity of media reports on the Middle Eastern region is
appropriate, with the rest divided almost equally between those who see it as too
great (25%) or too small (27%).
The findings on the Israeli Arabs’ positions on these questions are particularly
thought-provoking. Their world of images regarding the Middle East is more
balanced—34% presented neutral words and images, 32% negative ones, and 34%
positive ones. Here too, though, the majority prefers integration with the West
(Europe-United States) and not with the Middle East. In the political sphere, 49.5%
prefer integration with the West vs. 39% with the Middle East; in business and
economy, 63% vs. 39%; and particularly surprising is the preference for the West
over the East regarding cultural integration—49.5% vs. 23% (the rest, about onefourth,
have no clear opinion on the issue). Yet, when asked about their closeness to
one of three cultures that were mentioned, an overwhelming majority of 88% said
they felt especially close to the Arab culture, 7% to the Jewish culture, and 4% to the
Western culture (the rest did not know).
The War and Peace Index is funded by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research
and the Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution of Tel Aviv University.
The telephone interviews were conducted by the B. I. Cohen Institute of Tel Aviv
University on September 1-3, 2008, and included 599 interviewees who represent the
adult Jewish and Arab population of Israel (including the territories and the kibbutzim).
The sampling error for a sample of this size is 4.5%.

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