American-Arab lobbyist-pollster James Zogby has accused the New York Times of conducting “apologia” on behalf of Israeli Jews, following a Pew poll that found 48% of Israeli Jews supported a statement regarding the expulsion of Arabs, while 46% opposed it.
The Times article that Zogby objected to, written by Isabel Kershner on March 8, reported "that nearly half of Israeli Jews said that Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel."
Zogby noted that Kershner then added that "Israeli pollsters found the wording of the question problematic."
“The addition of that phrase was a classic example of deflection – a device often used in New York Times' articles to sow doubt or confusion among readers so as to soften the blow of facts that are damaging to Israel,” he accused. “Actually,” he stated, “the question was quite clear.”
Zogby is wrong
Zogby is not, however, a native Hebrew speaker, and thus cannot judge just how clear the question was.
In fact, the question is very unclear, although not necessarily in the ways that Kershner’s interviewees cited.
The findings have been represented as showing that nearly half of Israeli Jews would like to see the Arab citizens of Israel expelled.
And yet, the wording of the Pew poll’s question does not make it clear if the Arabs being discussed are all, some or just a few of Israel’s Arabs. For instance, the question could be understood as referring to expulsion of Israeli Arab citizens who commit terror acts, or to their families. These ideas have been gaining currency in Israel of late, as the Arab knife intifada gathers steam.
Moreover, it does not specify whether the Arabs in question are the Arabs who live inside the sovereign state of Israel – who are Israeli citizens – or Arabs who live in the Land of Israel. The latter group would include all of the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, and possibly Gaza, including all the residents of the Palestinian Authority.
The Hebrew summary of the Pew poll results reflects this confusion, and includes two different phrasings, one of which references “the Arabs” and the other – just “Arabs.” The former would imply that one is talking about all Arabs in Israel, while the latter could refer to just a subgroup. The different phrasings are highlighted in yellow below.
This analysis is strengthened by the part of the Pew poll summary that refers to other polls that asked similar questions.
The most recent Index of Arab-Jewish Relation survey, conducted by Haifa University in 2015, asked specifically about the expulsion of Israeli Arab citizens. It found that 32% of Israeli Jews agree or tend to agree with the statement, while 64% disagree or tend to disagree. This is very different from the Pew finding.
An October 2015 poll conducted by the Maariv newspaper asked Israeli Jews whether they “support the idea of a voluntary transfer of Palestinians from Judea and Samaria.” In this case, a clear majority of Jews favored the idea (58%), while 26% opposed it.
Therefore, it stands to reason that the Pew poll’s findings reflect an ambiguity in its wording. People being polled did not necessarily know if the question referred to Israeli citizens or to residents of the PA, and they did not know if the question referred to all or some of them.
Sammy Smooha, the professor of sociology who conducted the University of Haifa poll, criticized the wording of the transfer query in the Pew survey on similar grounds.
The wording of the question is “vague,” he told Haaretz, since “it’s possible that respondents thought it referred to the transfer of West Bank residents who reside in Israel proper but are not Israeli citizens per se.” Moreover, he noted, “it does not state whether the expulsion would affect all Arab citizens in Israel, or only those who support the country’s enemies or are deemed to be subversive.“
All the above is not meant as apologia for the poll's findings, but as an attempt to clarify what the poll seems to have found, and what it does not seem to have found. It appears that despite the ongoing terror war against Israel, most Israelis are still not in favor of the expulsion of all Arabs from the Land of Israel. This could change as the war drags on.
It should also be noted that as far as we know, most Arabs in Judea and Samaria hold much more extreme views regarding Jews, and would like to see all Jews expelled, enslaved or murdered.