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Israel's Arab minority feels closer to country in war, poll finds

he Gaza war has dramatically increased the sense of solidarity with Israel among its 21 per cent Arab minority, who often identify as Palestinian and have long complained of discrimination by the state, a poll published on Friday found.

Asked if they feel part of the country, 70 per cent of Arab citizens polled said “yes”, up from 48 per cent in June, the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) said, describing it as the highest finding for the sector since it began such surveys 20 years ago.

However, just 27 per cent of Arab respondents said they felt optimistic about Israel’s future, compared to 72 per cent of Jews.

Among Israel’s Jewish majority, 94 per cent feel part of the country, the IDI said, a peak last matched in 2003, when the country was at the height of military operation against Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank.

Israel went to war in Gaza following an Oct 7 cross-border onslaught by Hamas gunmen in which some 1,400 of its civilians and soldiers were killed, among them Arab citizens. More than 10,000 Palestinian in Gaza have been killed by Israeli forces since.

The Arab minority, who are predominantly Muslim, are descended from Palestinian Arabs who remained in Israel when it was founded in the 1948 war in what had been British-ruled Palestine. Hundreds of thousands of their kinsmen fled or were expelled.

Asked if, given an alternative Western citizenship, they would leave Israel, 80.5 per cent of Jewish respondents said they would stay, as did 59 per cent of Arab respondents, the IDI poll found.

Israel’s far-right minister for police has warned that internal Arab unrest could be sparked as it was during a previous Gaza war in 2021. But this has not been borne out.

Police have carried out arrests among Arab citizens accused of social media posts inciting pro-Palestinian violence, and on Thursday arrested five leaders of the Arab community who had planned to organise an anti-war protest.

Lawyers for those arrested called the moves undemocratic.

The IDI is a non-partisan think tank. Its poll was conducted on November 5-6, had a representative sample of 502 respondents and a margin of error of 4.04 per cent.

(Published 10 November 2023, 10:18 IST)

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