Do Palestinians Living in Israel Count?

gaza-popular-warJewish Israelis are not the only people living in Israel. Even though they make up about 20 percent of the population, Arabs are too often ignored or excluded (Extra!, 3/09).

This is especially noticeable when it comes to opinion polling within Israel. In an article discussing the “withering international criticism” of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Gaza attacks, the New York Times (8/6/14) reported this about Israeli opinion:

In a survey for the newspaper Haaretz conducted Tuesday after the onset of the cease-fire, about half of the Israelis surveyed said that neither Israel nor Hamas had won. Nearly six out of 10 said the goals declared by the government of destroying the tunnels and dealing Hamas a harsh blow were only partly achieved.

The same survey, according to Haaretz, also showed that the “Israeli public…overwhelmingly approves” of the goverment’s performance.

But neither the Times or Haaretz specified if Jewish Israelis were the only ones surveyed.

This is important because the exclusion of Palestinians from public opinion polling in Israel is actually quite common–though it’s not always reported clearly. A recent Washington Post article (7/29/14) ran with a headline proclaiming, “Israelis Support Netanyahu and Gaza War, Despite Rising Deaths on Both Sides.” The Post cited various polls demonstrating support for the Israeli government’s current campaign in Gaza:

A poll this week for Israel’s Channel 10 news, conducted by the Sarid Institute, found that 87 percent of Jewish Israelis support continuing the Gaza operation. A survey by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 95 percent of Israeli Jews think the operation in Gaza is just, and 4 of 5 oppose a unilateral withdrawal. Just 4 percent said the Israeli military has used excessive force.

And in another survey this week, by the University of Haifa, 85 percent of Jewish Israelis said they are “very satisfied” or “satisfied”  with Netanyahu’s leadership.

It doesn’t take much to realize that the only ones surveyed in these polls were Jewish Israelis, which effectively excludes the opinions of non-Jewish Palestinians living in Israel, many of whom may have very different views about the devastation in Gaza.

The Post should have clarified or corrected the headline. In an article about Israeli public opinion on the Gaza War, the website Vox (7/31/14) cited the same survey by the Israel Democracy Institute; however, Vox later issued a correction specifying that the survey only polled “Jewish Israelis, rather than all Israelis” and modified their headline accordingly.

It’s possible that including Palestinians living in Israel in the polling might affect poll results (Al Jazaeera, 7/8/14, 8/5/14). But at the very least, if polls of the Israeli public exclude Arabs, journalists should acknowledge this fact. Not doing so only serves to further marginalize a perspective that is already seldom heard in US media.

Aldo Guerrero is a FAIR intern.