Israeli Jewish youth are staunchly and increasingly right-wing. What does this imply for the future of Israel?
Nearly half of religious and nearly a quarter of secular Israeli Jewish youth support stripping the citizenship of Palestinian citizens of Israel, while most ultra-Orthodox youth expressed hatred towards Arabs, a recent survey found. The survey comes in the backdrop of an increasingly hawkish Israeli society, where youth identify as right-wing at higher levels than their parents.
The study by the aChord Center of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem asked 1,100 youth between the ages of 16 and 18 about perceptions and attitudes towards social groups with the aim of creating a “map of hatred”, according to Haaretz.
According to the study, secular Jewish youth felt hatred towards the ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities at similar levels, at 23 and 24 percent, respectively. Religious and ultra-Orthodox youth overwhelmingly expressed hate towards their fellow Arab neighbours and co-citizens, at 42 and 66 percent, respectively. There are nearly 2 million Palestinian Arabs in Israel, making up a little more than one-fifth of the Israeli population.
Among Palestinian citizens of Israel, the numbers in the index were much lower overall. Arab youth supported stripping the right to vote of the secular, religious, and ultra-Orthodox at 9, 13, and 16 percent, respectively.
The high rate of hateful expression in the questionnaire despite general expected hesitance to express such sentiments “may indicate that hate speech is perceived as an accepted social norm," according to the study, reports Haaretz.
“Not right-wing enough”
Whereas many criticise Israel as an apartheid state, or at least warn of “democratic backsliding” with the rise and expansion of far-right parties in the Jewish state, less than half of Israeli Jewish youth showed concern about the democratic system in Israel, according to the most recent Israel Democracy Index report.
In comparison, over 60 percent of those in the 55+ age group saw a danger to the system. Similarly, over half of those surveyed in the in the younger age cohort (ages 18-24) agreed with the statement that Jews and Palestinian Arabs should live separately to “preserve Jewish national identity”.
While the numbers may seem shocking, especially as the Jewish population in the US tends to be politically liberal, and similarly-aged youth in America have markedly more liberal views and attitudes, recent research in Israel shows that Israeli Jewish youth are increasingly identifying as right-wing.
In fact, it was the youth vote that has given Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party an edge over his main challenger Benny Gantz, from the centre-right Blue and White, during the 2019-2020 elections. Israeli Jewish youth have even expressed that Likud was “not right-wing enough”.
Haaretz also reported findings on intergroup attitudes through the expressed desire to get to know other groups: Palestinian Arab and secular Jewish youth were the most curious about other groups, while ultra-Orthodox youth expressed the least willingness to meet those from other groups. Religious and ultra-Orthodox Jewish youth expressed little to no willingness to meet Palestinian Arabs.
The rising ultra-Orthodox population in Israel has brought to the forefront questions about the future orientation and foreign policies of Israel. Netanyahu has continued and expanded an ongoing aggressive illegal settlement campaign, unilaterally proclaimed Jerusalem as the state capital in violation of international law, announced annexation plans, and has been condemned for Israel’s systemic and institutionalised discrimination and rights violations of Palestinians.