The right to earn a dignified living is the most important right for Israelis, Arabs and Jews alike. At the same time, almost half of all respondents agree with the statement that “Jewish citizens should have more rights than non-Jewish citizens.”
These are the main findings of the September 2022 survey of the Human Rights Index, an ongoing collaborative project of Zulat for Equality and Human Rights and Reichman University’s Institute for Freedom and Responsibility.
The data was compiled by iPanel Israel, a company providing online data collection services, between 10 and 15 August 2022. A total of 1,538 respondents, 1,203 Jews and 335 Arabs, aged 18 and above completed the survey (which carries a maximum margin of error of 2.5% at a confidence level of 95%). The Jewish respondents constitute a representative sample of the adult Jewish population segmented by gender, age group, area of residence, and degree of religiosity. Given an insufficiency in the sampling of males, residents of Israel’s southern region, and respondents aged 40 and above, the Arab respondents constitute an approximate representative sample of the adult Arab population segmented by gender, age group, area of residence, and degree of religiosity.
The main question posed in the survey looked at which rights are most important to Israelis. Respondents were presented with nine basic human rights: 1. The right to equality before the law; 2. The right to marry freely; 3. The right to freedom of religious worship; 4. The right to freedom from religion; 5. The right to freedom of expression and demonstration; 6. The right to earn a dignified living; 7. The right to equality between citizens, without discrimination based on race, skin color, sex, language, religion, or political position; 8. The right to fair interrogation and punishment, without torture; 9. The right to health services.
Asked to indicate how important it is for them that the State of Israel should protect these rights, on a scale of 1 (“not at all”) to 5 (“very much”), the respondents gave the highest score to the right to earn a dignified living. At 4.77, this right was scored the highest by all respondents, closely followed by the right to health services with a score of 4.73. In fact, no less than 83% and 79% of the respondents answered “very much” when evaluating the importance of these two rights, respectively. Apart from these two rights, no other right was evaluated “very much” by more than 62% of respondents.
Slightly trailing behind was the right to equality before the law with a score of 4.50 (62% answered “very much”), followed by the right to equality between citizens without discrimination based on race, skin color, sex, language, religion or political position, with a score of 4.30 (56% answered “very much”). All other rights received scores ranging from 4.01 to 4.17, except for the right to marry freely at 3.92, the lowest score in the entire sample.
When segmented into Jewish and Arab respondents or by ideological blocs (Right, Center, Left), the results were quite similar, with very few significant differences in the ranking of the importance of the various rights. These findings show that at the end of the day, despite the disparities and conflicts, Israel’s citizens, both Arabs and Jews, care about the same basic right that enables them to buy groceries or be admitted to a hospital emergency room. The cost of living, labor disputes, the condition of the health system, and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic are all issues that resonate in the results. The fact that Jews and Arabs ranked very highly the question of equality (civil equality and equality before the law) also attests to similar priorities.
When asked “Should the state guarantee full equality of social and political rights for all its citizens?” a majority of 87% answered in the affirmative. However, the survey also revealed that the concept of equality is perceived differently by Jews and Arabs.
Asked to rate their agreement with the statement “Jewish citizens should have more rights than non-Jewish citizens,” 46% of Jewish respondents agreed with it, while only 12% of Arab respondents did the same. Almost half of Israeli Jews believe Jewish citizens should have more rights than non-Jewish ones
The differences were also evident in the segmentation of the political positions of respondents: 59% of right-wing respondents agreed that Jewish citizens should have more rights than non-Jewish ones. In contrast, only a minority of centrists (26%) and left-wing respondents (15%) agreed with the statement.
Significant differences were also evident when it comes to freedom of expression. Respondents were asked to rate their agreement with the statement “The state must guarantee freedom of expression even if it is directed against the state.” Some 82% of the Arab respondents agreed with the statement, as opposed to only 53% of the Jewish public who did not – a difference of close to 30%.
Where freedom of expression is concerned, differences were also revealed in the political segmentation. Only a minority of right-wing supporters (40%) agreed with the statement. In contrast, the majority of Centrist (71%) and Left (82%) respondents agreed with it.
These findings cast a light on how the general public perceives rights. On the face of it, freedom of speech is equally important to all. In practice, however, those who realize that for them this freedom is in danger (Israel’s Arab citizens) cling to it more. This calls for promoting educational initiatives about freedom of expression, fighting legislation restricting it, and restoring the public’s trust in the establishment’s commitment to protect the basic right to express opinions, protest, and speak one’s mind.