Poll: 63 Percent of Arab Citizens Say Israel is ‘Apartheid State’

A general view shows Israeli police and residents following clashes in Umm Al-Hiran, a Bedouin village in Israel’s southern Negev Desert, Jan. 18. (Reuters/Ammar Awad)

Sixty-three percent of Israeli Arabs termed Israel an “apartheid state” in a new poll of Arab attitudes, taken after the events of last Wednesday  – in which two Bedouin residents of Umm el-Hiran were killed when officials attempted to demolish illegal structures – as thousands were on their way to the Knesset Monday to protest the events. Another 32 percent said in the poll taken by a Nazareth media organization that while not an apartheid state, Israel society suffered from “structural racism.”

The poll was taken of a cross-section of Israeli Arabs, including in the Bedouin sector. All Israeli Arabs are full citizens of Israel, and have Israeli ID cards and passports.

In addition, the poll showed that there was significant dissatisfaction with the activities of the United Arab List. While 67 percent said they were “satisfied” with the party as the political home of Israeli Arabs, 20 percent said they were “not satisfied at all,” accusing the party of being either too radical, or not radical enough.

Arabs were nearly universal in their condemnation of the events in Umm al-Hiran, where two people were killed in what police said was an attempted car ramming by radical Islamists. The two were shot at by police after the vehicle they were driving veered into a crowd of officers. Family members claimed that the incident was an accident, not terrorism.

The buildings that were demolished were among thousands for which demolition orders have been issued. The buildings were constructed on state land, without permits. Residents attempted to stop the demolitions, throwing rocks and firing shots at workers. Police responded by firing rubber bullets at the rioters.

The incident has been universally condemned by Israeli Arabs, the poll showed, with 97 percent opposed to the government’s policy of demolishing illegal structures. Fifty percent said that racism was the reason for the demolitions, while another 20 percent said that the increase in demolitions in recent weeks was due to attempts by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to deflect attention from his legal problems. Fourteen percent said that the demolitions were “compensation” to residents of Yehuda and Shomron over demolitions in outposts like Amona.

To protest the demolitions, 47 percent of Arabs said they supported “non-violent protests,” and 27 percent said they supported calming the current situation. Only 23 percent supported increasing the level of tension in order to register their dissatisfaction. Arab community leaders on Monday called on both Jews and Arabs to participate in the protest at the Knesset against the house demolitions, and what they called the “whitewashing” of police actions in the Bedouin settlement, with police seeking to “escape from their responsibility in the incident.”