One in every four Israelis experienced racism last year, poll finds

A new study by the Coalition Against Racism in Israel reveals that the vast majority of Israelis believe their society has become more racist over the past two years.

By Yael Marom

Palestinian citizens of Israel stand on a car during clashes in Umm al Fahem, Israel, October 27, 2010. (photo: Oren Ziv/
Palestinian citizens of Israel pose during clashes in Umm al Fahem, northern Israel, October 27, 2010. (photo: Oren Ziv/

Over half of Israelis believe that Israel has become a more racist society over the past two years, according to a new poll published on Sunday by the Coalition Against Racism in Israel.

The poll, conducted with Israeli pollster Rafi Smith and surveyed 400 Jewish Israelis and 100 Arab citizens, was published to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is held annually on March 21. According to the findings, 79 percent of respondents believe that there is racism against Arabs; 77 percent claimed that there is racism against asylum seekers; 75 percent believe there is racism against Ethiopian-Israelis; 41 percent say Mizrahim (Jews with origins in Arab or Muslim countries) suffer from racism; 39 percent believe that immigrants from the former Soviet Union face discrimination; and 20 percent responded that there is racism against Ashkenazim (Jews of Eastern European ancestry).

According to the survey, 25 percent said they had personally faced racist behavior in the past year. Twenty-four percent of Israeli Jews said they personally experienced racism, as opposed to 28 percent of Arabs. Among Russian-speaking citizens, 37 percent said they experienced racism in the past year.

Only 11 percent of those polled said they believe Israel has become a less racist place in the past two years (11 percent Jews, 1 percent Arabs). On the other hand, 49 percent of Jews and 67 percent of Arabs believe Israel has become more racist over the past two years.

The majority of those polled (72 percent) feel that social media networks only serve to exacerbate racism in Israel. Only 24 percent of respondents claimed that social media reflect an already-existing reality in Israeli society.

According 73 percent of respondents, the way to fight against racism is through education, while 11 percent (10 percent of Jews, as opposed to 15 percent of Arabs) said that political leaders must be the ones to set an example. Only six percent believe enforcement is the best possible way to fight racism, while another 6 percent believe the fight should start with legislation.

According to Attorney Nidal Othman, director of the the Coalition Against Racism in Israel, “the Israeli public is more aware if racism, it knows how to identify it and is interested in getting rid of it. Recognizing the disease is a critical stage in treatment, and racism is a disease whose spread could lead to the end of our society.”

“This is the time for elected officials, leaders, and members of the government to take these statistics seriously, and begin fighting against racism in Israeli society. In a society where so many people are cognizant of racism, and where the majority of the public believes Israeli society has become even more racist, there is room for intensive treatment, which must begin at the top echelon.”

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article was originally published in Hebrew. 

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