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Poll: a trend towards strengthening Israeli identity among Arab citizens

A new poll among Arab Israelis found that an overwhelming majority support assisting with civilian volunteering efforts during the war — such as helping evacuees, and providing medical assistance — amid a strong sense of kinship with the country in the wake of the October 7 massacres.

Asked if they feel “a part of the State of Israel and its problems,” about two thirds of respondents (65 percent) answered affirmatively, reinforcing a trend that had been observed in a similar survey in November, when the figure stood at 70% – a 20-year high.

The new survey, published Tuesday, was carried out by the Israel Democracy Institute between late November and early December. The last poll before the outbreak of the war was conducted in June, and revealed that less than half of Israel’s Arab citizens (48%) identified with the Jewish state.

Among the different religious subgroups that constitute Arab Israeli society, the Druze are the minority that identifies the most with the state (80%), followed by Christians (73%) and Muslims (62%).

Arab Israelis tend to feel a greater sense of belonging if they live in the Negev (73%) – where the Arab population is almost exclusively Bedouin – and in mixed cities (71%), while the percentages are lower in the Galilee (64%) and the central Triangle region (60%).

“This finding may be due to the fact that Negev residents are closest to the war in Gaza, and that Arab residents of Israel’s mixed cities are in close daily interaction with Jews,” the IDI wrote in its report.

Higher rates of kinship with the state were found among older respondents (76% in the 55+ age group, 68% in the 35-54 group, and 57% in the 18-34 group). The sense of identification appears to be inversely proportional to the level of education. Those with no high school diploma tended to feel more strongly attached to Israel (75%) than those who finished high school (71%) and those with an academic education (54.5%).

The overwhelming majority of respondents (78%) reported that their relations with Jewish Israelis have not changed since the outbreak of the war. However, 54% reported that they do not feel comfortable when entering Jewish or mixed localities for work or to run errands, 46% said they do not feel comfortable speaking Arabic around Jews they don’t know (such as on public transportation), and 71% do not feel they can express themselves freely on social media.

The war broke out when Hamas led an unprecedented assault into southern Israel on October 7. Some 1,200 people in Israel, most of them civilians, were massacred. Another approximately 240 people were kidnapped. It is believed that 129 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive.

Dozens of Arab Israelis were detained after the October 7 atrocities for comments they posted on social media that allegedly violated laws against incitement to violence and supporting or identifying with a terrorist organization.

At the same time, only three Jewish citizens were indicted for posts calling for the extermination of Arabs, even though social media after October 7 has been ripe with incendiary calls for anti-Arab violence, population transfers and racist stereotypes.

Majority agrees Oct. 7 was contradicted  Arab and Muslim values

The IDI poll found that 56% of Israeli Arabs agreed with a statement by Ra’am party leader MK Mansour Abbas, who said that the October 7 attacks do not reflect the values of Arab society and Islam. The figure was lower among Muslims (53%) than among Christians (68%) and Druze (69.5%).

The pollsters noted that the results may have been impacted by the fact that the question referenced a statement by a political figure — meaning, that it is likely that many Abbas supporters agreed with the assertion because of their political affiliation, while some of his opponents may not have endorsed it.

A large majority of respondents (86.5%) supported the participation of Arab Israelis in civilian volunteering efforts during the war, such as helping evacuees.

Asked who is most responsible for the harm to civilians in Gaza, 58% of interviewees said both Hamas and the State of Israel/IDF bear equal responsibility; 16% say only Hamas is responsible; and 14.5% say only Israel is responsible.

Data collection was carried out between November 27 and December 4, 2023, with 538 men and women interviewed by telephone in Arabic. The maximum sampling error was ±4.31% at a confidence level of 95%.