JERUSALEM (JTA) – Many Israeli Jews reject the idea that the Palestinians are primarily responsible for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a new study finds.
The study, funded by a grant from the International Peace Research Association Foundation, found that the collective memory of Israeli Jews in general is significantly critical of Israel’s role in the conflict, and that they have somewhat rejected the “Zionist narrative” of the conflict which holds the Arabs/Palestinians primarily responsible for the conflict.
A total of 47 percent of Israeli Jews believe that Palestinians were expelled from Israel during the 1948 war, with 39 percent saying that "The refugees left due to fear, calls of leaders and expulsion by the Jews," and another 8 percent saying the refugees left due only to expulsion by the Jews. Another 41 percent said that the refugees left "due to fear and calls of leaders to leave," the traditional "Zionist narrative."
Some 46 percent believe that Israel and the Palestinians are equally responsible for the outbreak and continuation of the conflict, while 4 percent blame only the Jews. Some 43 percent primarily blame the Palestinians.
In a question about who bears responsibility for the outbreak of the 1987 intafada, 23.6 percent of respondents said it was "Mainly natural hatred towards Israel," and another 17.2 percent said it was "somewhat due to hatred." Some 32 percent responded that the 1987 intafada was caused "More or less equally due to hatred and other reasons (such as unwillingness to be controlled and harsh treatment by Israel)."
Rafi Nets-Zehngut, an Israeli, a fellow at the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Teachers College of Columbia University, and Daniel Bar-Tal, a faculty member at the School of Education at Tel Aviv University, conducted the study last summer.
The survey, conducted by the Dialog Israeli center for public opinion research, reached a representative sample of 500 Israeli Jews. The questions in the survey examined the collective memory regarding 25 major issues associated with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the late 19th century to the beginning of the 21st century.
"The fact that we found this memory of the conflict to be somewhat critical, even though the conflict is still going on, is encouraging," Nets-Zehngut said. "It suggests that the Israeli-Jewish society has changed to become more critical, open and self-reflective, allowing it to adopt less biased narratives.”
“Holding such a Zionist narrative serves as an obstacle to peace," Bar-Tal said, "since it promotes negative emotions, mistrust, de-legitimization and negative stereotypes of Arabs and Palestinians.”