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February 28, 2011
Israelis in no mood for massive protests and that includes Israeli Arabs
Take a look at the news coverage of mass protests throughout the Arab world and you will see regional maps pointing to turmoil from Tunisia to Bahrain. Except in a tiny, barely visible country wedged between Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt -- Israel.
And that points up a major oversight in daily reports from the Middle East -- that virtually alone, Israel is an island of tranquility in a sea of rising and spreading turbulence. How come?
For some answers, here's a monthly poll, known as the Peace Index, that takes the political temperature of Israel -- Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs -- on a range of current hot-button topics, first and foremost a February gauge that measures Israeli expectations of how they're apt to fare in a radically changed Middle East.
No surprise that on some issues, Jews and Arabs in Israel party company. For example, 70 percent of the country's Jews have low expectations that Egypt will emerge as a full-fledged democracy. In marked contrast, 74 percent of Israel's Arabs expect Egypt will embrace democracy.
But when Israelis are asked what the chances are of major protest blow-up in Israel, both Jews and Arabs are of similar mind that they're not about to bet the ranch on any such conceivable scenario.
Among Israel's Jews, 90 percent have low expectations of an Egypt-style uprising. Ditto a big majority of Israel's Arabs -- with 67 percent highly dubious about hitting the streets with massive anti-government demonstrations a la what's happened in next-door Egypt.
One would expect Israeli Jews to dismiss any such anti-government protests. But why are Israel's Arabs in big percentages equally dismissive of any such uprising? Aren't they usually depicted by our media as alienated victims of discrimination?
Here are the reasons, according to the latest Peace Index poll:
--47 percent of Israeli Arabs -- nearly one out of every two -- say there's no need to emulate fellow Arab demonstrators elsewhere because Israel already is a democracy.
--14 percent are skeptical that any new Israeli government would make a big difference.
--10 percent are apathetic.
--and 9 percent of Israeli Arabs see no point in staging massive protests because they view the situation in Israel as quite good.
Bottom line: 56 percent of Israeli Arabs shrug off massive protests because they already live in a full-fledged democracy or they're generally satisfied with their lives as Israeli citizens.
Now, what are the odds of our mainstream media, led by the New York Times and the Washington Post, reporting these findings?
(The poll was conducted by telephone Feb. 21-22 by the Dahef Institute on behalf the Evans Program for Conflict Resolution at Tel Aviv University and the Israeli Democracy Institute. It has a possible error margin of 4.5 percent)