42%: Rabbis worsen conflict with Arabs

Is there a connection between the religious faith and the way Jews treat Israeli Arabs and Palestinians? A survey conducted recently ahead of a conference of the Jewish-Arab Center at Haifa University found that a significant part of the public believes there is.

The survey, directed by New Wave Research among 500 respondents who constitute a representative sample of the adult Jewish population in Israel, revealed that 42% of the country's Jewish public believe that rabbis worsen the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, compared to 14% who think they moderate it and 29% who say rabbis have no influence.

The poll also showed that the more religious the public, the more positive its stand towards rabbis as moderators: Thirty-five percent of the ultra-Orthodox public see the rabbis as reconcilers, compared to only 6.7% of seculars.

On the other hand, 63% of seculars see rabbis as an element worsening the conflict, compared to 5% of haredim.

A similar picture was found in a discussion of religion's role in Jewish-Arab relations within Israel. Forty-five percent of the Jewish public in Israel think religion pushes Jews and Arabs apart, 6% think it bridges between the groups and 38% believe it has no influence whatsoever.

Seculars' negative stance

"The conference's goal is to hold a public discourse on religion's place in the Jewish-Palestinian conflict, and the fabric of relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel," explained Prof. Itzchak Weismann, head of the Jewish-Arab Center and a lecturer at the Department of Middle Eastern History.

"The survey reveals that the secular public in Israel has very negative stances in regards to religion's role in Jewish-Arab relations in Israel.

"Apart from the concerning gap between seculars and religious in the perception of reality, the figures appear to point to denial or repression among the religious Jewish public in regards to its part in inflaming the conflict and preventing any possibility of reaching a compromise," Weismann argued.