Guardian claim on the views of Arab Israelis doesn’t hold up to scrutiny

A 2016 Israeli Institute for Democracy poll did show that serious tensions between Arabs and Jews persist, but that most Arab Israelis (55%) are nonetheless proud to be Israeli. The bottom line is that the Guardian writer's contention that 'Arab-Israelis' reject their Israeli identity, and primarily identify as 'Palestinians', simply does not hold up to critical scrutiny.

The Guardian published an op-ed on Jan. 21st by Jennine Khalik that railed against the media referring to Aiia Maasarwe, the 21 year old student who was brutally murdered in Melbourne last week, as an “Arab Israeli”, claiming that it erased her Palestinian identity.

Despite the fact that Maasarawe is from Baqa al-Gharbiya in northern Israel, Khalik wrote that the term Arab-Israeli “is a vague and politically loaded descriptor” and that “the very exclusion of the word Palestinian is a political statement which erases Palestinians”.  Most, she maintained, prefer “Palestinian citizen of Israel” or “Palestinian with Israeli citizenship”.

Khalik then made the following specific claim:

According to a survey by University of Haifa professor Sammy Smooha, only 16% of Palestinians living in historic Palestine – now modern-day Israel – accept the term Arab-Israeli, which is a label prescribed by the government of Israel.

However, results of the 2017 report in question, called the “Arab-Israeli Relations Index”, available at the University of Haifa’s website, says absolutely nothing about the issue of what term these Israeli citizens prefer.  Moreover, another report that same year, published by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, contradicts the suggestion that “Palestinian citizen of Israel” or “Palestinian with Israeli citizenship” are the preferred terms.

In response to the question, “Which term best describes you?”, the largest number, 28%, replied “Israeli Arab”, whilst only 3% replied “Palestinian citizen in Israel”.

Further, the broader narrative of Khalik’s op-ed, suggesting that such citizens primarily identify as Palestinian, and aren’t proud to be Israeli, is similarly not supported by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung poll.

Here are some examples:

  • 67% of Arab citizens said they had a favourable view of the state.
  • 63% of Arab citizens surveyed said Israel is a “positive” place to live.
  • 73% responded they would be proud if a relative became a member of Knesset.
  • “Slightly more Israeli-Arabs have favorable views of the legal system, Supreme Court and police than unfavorable ones”. 

A 2016 Israeli Institute for Democracy poll did confirm that serious tensions between Arabs and Jews persist, but that most Arab Israelis (55%) are nonetheless proud to be Israeli.

So, regardless of whether or not ‘Arab Israelis’ prefer that term, or another, we once again see that the preferred Guardian narrative on the views of Israel’s minorities simply doesn’t hold up to critical scrutiny. 

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