The Racism of Israel’s Left, part II: The Blue and White Poll


As I mentioned this past Wednesday, a new poll (Heb) was recently published by the “blue and white future group.” If you have not already done so, I recommend reading Mairav Zonszein’s excellent writeup of the poll in English, focusing on the 36% of respondents who seem to outright favor an apartheid system. 

More interesting for me, though are the latter questions and party breakdown. One narrative that you often hear, especially in the United States, is that Israel’s unwillingness to seriously pursue peace is the result of the current government. If only the U.S. could get a Labour prime-minister rather than this Netanyahu fellow, then we’d have peace in no time, or so the narrative goes. This poll, however, ought to give us pause.

Now, whenever you review any poll, you have to apply all the standard caveats, and for this poll there are a great many. First, this is not a poll of Israeli citizens, but only of the  ~75% of Israeli citizens who are Jewish. The common exclusion of the roughly 1 in 4 Israelis who are not Jewish from most public opinion polling is one of the ways that Israeli racism is perpetuated. Rather than provide a simple ethnic breakdown, as in commonly done in public polling elsewhere, the blue and white poll and most other Israeli public opinion polls quite literally tells non-Jewish Israelis that their opinions do not matter to the nation.

The racism of this poll is further reflected in the questions asked, which seek to ascertain how Israel might be able to maintain its “Jewish and democratic” character. Anyone who thinks that it is not desirable or even possible to maintain both of those characteristics simultaneous has no way of registering their dissent on the poll.

That said, the poll does list “Annexing Yehuda and Shomron [the West Bank] and giving full rights of citizenship to Palestinians” as one of the possible vectors for accomplishing this task. Although the language used to describe this option is highly objectionable and patronizing, this is essentially describing a bi-national one-state solution. Zonszein takes this as a sign of hope that some small Leftist core still exists in Israel today:

It should also be noted that the seven percent of the polled Jewish Israelis said they support giving Palestinians full civil rights within a bi-national state – not so tiny considering how marginalized the left-wing one-state vision is in Israel.

The party breakdown, however, does not bare out such an analysis. Indeed, the more right-wing a person is, the more likely they are to support what is essentially a bi-national state. Whereas 12% of Naftali Bennet’s ultra-right religious-nationalist voters and 17% of the religious right Shas party voters support the annexation of the West Bank and the granting of full rights of citizenship to Palestinians, only 9% of left-wing Labour and Meretz voters and 0% of Tzippi Livnis’ Hatnuah (usually, if problematically described as center-left) support such a solution. 

Our ability to determine what the mainstream Israeli Left wants is somewhat limited by the poll’s unfortunate choices in question-wording. The poll lists only four options for maintaining Israel’s Jewish and democratic character: annexing the West Bank with full citizenship for Palestinians (bi-national state), annexing without full citizenship rights (formalized apartheid), maintaining the status quo (informal apartheid), or establishing a Palestinian state along the border of the separation barrier (fantasy).

As such, an Israeli Jew who supports other versions of the two-state solution – such as division along the Green Line, with or without Jerusalem, or the Lieberman plan of forcibly transferring Palestinian citizens of Israel to a future Palestinian state – has no real way of registering their desired outcome. That said, an earlier question in the poll did simply ask if one was in favor of the general principle of “two states for two people” and you see only a very slight drop-off from those who support the general principle to those who support the specific plan of using the current route of the Apartheid Wall as the border. So if there is a range of opinion being hidden by the limited options, it does not appear to be particularly dramatic. 

Further on in the poll, we get another question about a possible two-state solution, asking if Israel should unilaterally withdraw to the 1967 boders plus the annexation of the large settlement-blocs, including Jerusalem, Maale Adumim, and Gush Etzion. Once again this is a pretty bad question, as we have no way of distinguishing whether people might object to a unilateral withdrawal or to the proposed borders. That said, we once again find large majorities on the Left agreeing with this statement: 68% of Meretz voters and 59% of Hatnuah and Labour voters answer positively. As Mya Guarnieri has covered (part 1part 2), such annexation would make the existence of a Palestinian State all but acceptable, even if Israel could somehow force this raw deal.

So, contrary to the commonplace narrative of an enlightened Israeli Left, waiting in the wings to seize power and finish the Oslo accords, we find a vast majority of the Israeli Left clinging to racist positions. The Left appears to favor unilateral action, refusing the notion that Palestinians maybe ought to have a say in their own future. The unilateral action they favor entails not only the maintenance of the Apartheid Wall in its current form, but also its further expansion to encompass even larger swaths of the West Bank.

In other words, whereas the mainstream Israeli Right appears roughly even divided on whether to maintain an informal apartheid system or shift towards a formalize one, with a small minority favoring a bi-national single state, the Left seems united in its support for continuing an informal apartheid system by means of setting up Bantustans

The racism of the mainstream Israeli Left may not be quite as spectacular as that of the Right. You usually don’t get Leftists talking openly about how they are proud to be racist or how they wish to ethnically cleanse Israel. And yet, if the results of this poll are to be trusted, then there is little evidence that the Left’s priorities are any better than the those of the Right. In fact, they may be worse. 

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