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Sunday, October 4, 2015

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Israeli and West Bank Arabs' outlooks differ

Tags: Israel
Shifra Sagy

Israeli Arabs and their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank generally hew to different historical narratives, says an Israeli scholar who has just completed a study on the subject.

According to Shifra Sagy, director of Ben-Gurion University’s Conflict Management and Resolution Program, Arab citizens of Israel and Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank have each formulated their own distinctive narratives.

Israeli Arabs believe that their decision to remain in Israel rather than flee to neighbouring Arab countries during and after the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948 was “an expression of true devotion to the land,” Sagy said in an interview last week

By contrast, Palestinian Arabs living in the West Bank regard the presence of Arabs in Israel after the war as an acceptance of “the occupation without resistance,” she added.

Sagy and her team of researchers interviewed more than 2,000 Arabs in Israel and the West Bank and discovered a relatively low acceptance of the other’s narrative, particularly among Israeli Arabs.

Sagy, a professor of psychology whose survey was funded by DFG, a German research foundation, offered an explanation for why Israeli Arabs continue to adhere to a made-in-Israel narrative.

“It is possible that [their] status as a minority, both within Israeli society and in the Arab world, has strengthened their group cohesion and their need to protect their unique collective narrative.”

Sagy did not explicitly ask the Israeli Arab respondents whether they consider themselves loyal to Israel.

“But it appears that their unique identity as Israeli Palestinians includes a strong connection to Israel and a strong desire to take part in Israel’s life as equal citizens,” she observed.

The gap between the two communities causes a measure of tension, Sagy said.

Despite their differences, she noted, Israeli Arabs have voiced a desire to bolster connections with their fellow Arabs in the West Bank by emphasizing the ties that bind them.

Israeli Arabs, numbering in the vicinity of 1.3 million, comprise about 20 per cent of Israel’s population.

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