Almost half of Jewish Israelis believe Arabs should be “expelled or transferred” from Israel, a survey has found.
A study carried out by the Pew Research Centre found that around one in five adults questioned “strongly agreed” with the controversial statement, which amounts to ethnic cleansing under some definitions.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica describes the act as “attempting to create ethnically homogeneous geographic areas through the deportation or forcible displacement of persons belonging to particular ethnic group”, while a United Nations report in 1993 additionally specified the use of “force or intimidation”.
In Pew’s survey, 48 per cent of Jewish respondents said Arabs should be removed from Israel, while a similar share disagreed with the statement.
While 54 to 71 per cent of Jews who defined themselves as ultra-Orthodox, religious or “traditional” supported such a step, only about 36 per cent of the secular community did.
“While religious identity influences Israeli Jews’ views on the expulsion of Arabs, the survey finds that even after taking this and other demographic factors into account, Jews’ views on the expulsion of Arabs are most strongly correlated with their political ideology,” the Pew Research Centre report noted.
“The further to the left Israeli Jews place themselves on the political spectrum, the more likely they are to oppose the expulsion of Arabs from Israel.”
Those supporting the cleansing tended to be Russian-speaking, rather than Hebrew or Yiddish, male, and with a Jewish education to secondary level or below.
Reuven Rivlin, the President of Israel, called the findings a “wake-up call for Israeli society”.
“It pains me to see the gap that exists in the public’s consciousness – religious and secular – between the notion of Israel as a Jewish state and as a democratic state,” he added.
“A further problem is the attitude towards Israel’s Arab citizens.”
Israeli Arab is the Israeli government’s definition of non-Jewish citizens and many members of the minority, who are predominantly Muslim, identify as Palestinian.
In the same survey, almost 80 per cent of Jewish Israelis said Jews deserved preferential treatment in Israel, while a similar proportion of Israeli Arabs claimed they had seen discrimination against Muslims.
The research appeared to show that all religious and ethnic groups had lost hope for a two-state solution, with half of Arabs saying co-existence was possible compared to 40 per cent of Jewish Israelis.
The most recent round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014, just before a seven-week war in Gaza, and tensions have worsened in recent months with a resurgence of violence that has seen an estimated 28 Israelis and 172 Palestinians – mostly attackers – killed.
Pew conducted through face-to-face interviews in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian with more than 5,600 Israeli adults from October 2014 to May 2015 for the research.