Are Christians Behind the Major Arab Israeli Shift in Supporting Israel?

63.5% of Israeli Arabs consider Israel to be a good place to live


This poll of Israeli Arabs is interesting and there are three ways to read it.

Between 2012 and 2013, "The percentage of Israeli Arabs who accepted Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state rose to 52.8% from 47.4% the year before. There was a more pronounced rise in the percentage of Israeli Arabs who believe that Israel can exist as a Jewish majority state to 43.1% up  from 29.6% a year earlier. The number of Israeli-Arabs who accept their identity as such without identifying as Palestinians increased from 32.5% in 2012 to 42.5% in 2013. In 2013, 63.5% of Israeli Arabs consider Israel to be a good place to live up from 58.5% in 2012."

Those are major shifts within a single year. But the years of the Arab Spring disaster have been heavy on change.

The poll can be read three ways

1. Statistical error

2. The Arab Spring has led to a major shift in the Israeli Arab perception of Israel

3. The Arab Spring has led to a major shift in the Christian Arab perception of Israel

It's possible that the answer is 2 and 3. But 3 seems particularly plausible. Christian Arabs have suffered the worst in the Arab Spring. And they have the most to lose from Islamic rule. With the decline of Arab nationalism, they face a choice between Islamism and Zionism. And Zionism treats minorities a whole lot better than Islamism.

There are some signs of the shift already.

IDF figures for 2013 show a significant increase in the small number of Arab Christian Israeli citizens opting to serve in the military, a course that has long been taboo outside the Druze and Bedouin communities of Israel

“Since last June, within the space of half a year, 84 Christians have joined the military,” the army wrote on its official site earlier this week. That figure, while small, represents a threefold increase from past averages.

Father Gabriel Naddaf, addressing a gathering of Christian Arab soldiers earlier this week, called, not for the first time, for a radical shift. “As a Christian spiritual teacher living in the Middle East, I understand that human rights are not to be taken for granted,” the IDF website quoted him as saying. “I believe in shared life between Jews and Christians in this state and a shared fate between the Christian minority and the Jewish state. I believe that we have the capability to contribute to the state and I call on the children of the Christian congregations — enlist in the IDF, help protect the state.”

There are only around 150,000 Christians in Israel so that's not as insignificant an amount as it seems. Going by existing age demographics, there would probably only be a few thousand Christian Arabs at the age where most enlist in the IDF.

The small number of Christians however also suggests that unless the poll was disproportionately weighed toward them they cannot account for the shift. Considering the events of the past few years, Bedouins seem unlikely to have become more patriotic.

The interesting X factor then might be the Druze who have seen what kind of chaos Syria has descended into.

Tags: Israel