A new wide-scale study of relations between Palestinians who are citizens of Israel and Palestinians living in the West Bank, conducted by BGU researchers, has found that while the dominant strategy is to strengthen ties, Palestinian citizens of Israel (’48 Arabs) are more likely to embrace their own narrative and retain some distance from Palestinians living in the West Bank (’67 Arabs).
“Israeli Palestinians are perhaps wary of losing their status in Israeli society if they identify themselves too closely with ’67 Arabs,” said Prof. Shifra Sagy, incumbent of the Shane Family Chair in Education, director of the Conflict Management and Resolution Program and chair of The Martin-Springer Center for Study of Conflict Management and Resolution at BGU. She and her team, postdoctoral student Dr. Adi Mana and PhD students Anan Srour and Serene Madjali, conducted the study.
They interviewed 1,104 ’48 Arabs (622 women) and 948 ‘67 Arabs (466 women) aged 18 and older. The purpose of the study was to examine how each group viewed the other and how sympathetic they were to the other’s narrative. The two societies have evolved in different ways since their separation 64 years ago, yet little research has been done in examining the differences between those narratives and relations between the two groups, according to Sagy.
The study revealed that the dominant strategy was indeed one of combination – a willingness to connect and reduce the differences between the groups by stressing that which is common and binding between them. Nevertheless, Sagy and her team discovered that there was relatively low acceptance of the “other’s” narrative, particularly among Israeli Arabs. There were also high levels of anger and less empathy towards the ’67 Arabs and vice versa. Israeli (‘48) Arabs were more likely than ’67 Arabs to stick to their own narratives, were less willing to create certain connections with ’67 Arabs, specifically marriage, and were less likely to blame Israel for separating the two groups.
“It is possible that the ’48 Arabs’ status as a small minority, at times threatened, both within Israeli society and the Arab world, has strengthened their group cohesion and their need to protect their unique collective narrative. Despite feeling that their common connection and identity with the ’67 Arabs is very important and significant, that connection could come at a heavy price, according to respondents, by bringing into doubt their connection to Israeli society. It is possible that it is for this reason that they distance themselves from the ’67 Arabs more than the ’67 Arabs do, and stress their unique potential as a “bridge” between the two nations,” she says.
The survey was conducted as part of a joint project between Israelis, Palestinians and Germans funded by the German research foundation DFG.