Low Expectations for Hard Bigotry in Israel

I just got an e-mail from an Israeli PR firm that proclaimed, in bold, caps-lock, underlined type: “Israelis More Tolerant of Islam Than Swiss.”

The release, datelined Jerusalem, came on behalf of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, a coalition created by New York Rabbi Marc Schneier and media mogul Russell Simmons to form good black-Jewish relations and also reach out to Muslims. Seems like a good enough organization with good enough aims.

But this latest overture seems a bit overblown. The poll, conducted in the wake of a November vote in Switzerland for banning minaret construction, found that a 43 percent plurality of Israelis oppose hypothetical legislation banning minarets in Israel, which 29 percent of respondents supported. Those numbers don’t seem so hot to me. One would expect a tolerant populace could at least muster a slim majority to oppose such a goal. (I wonder what the numbers would look like in more multicultural European countries or the U.S.)

That 57 percent of Swiss voters supported the legislation doesn’t mean that having 43 percent opposition is such a great number. It’s a bit silly to brag about clearing a bar that was set so extremely low by the Swiss.

What struck me is that this is something of the opposite public relations expected by Juan Cole on his Informed Comment blog. At the time of the Swiss vote, Cole wrote that he anticipated a slew of Islamophobes to support banning minarets by making comparisons to the straw-man intolerance of the Muslim world. His point is rather the same as I’m making here: that the comparisons shouldn’t exactly make you proud.

Among the nearly 60 Muslim-majority states in the world, only one, Saudi Arabia, forbids the building of churches. Does Switzerland really want to be like Saudi Arabia?


The other Wahhabi state besides Saudi Arabia, Qatar, has allowed the building of Christian churches. But they are not allowed to have steeples or bells. This policy is a mirror image to that of the Swiss. So Switzerland, after centuries of striving for civilization and enlightenment, has just about reached the same level of tolerance as that exhibited by a small Gulf Wahhabi country, the people of which were mostly Bedouins only a hundred years ago.

So now I guess we have to ask Israel: Do you really want to be held to the basement-level standard of tolerance set by Switzerland?

The full press release follows:

January 7, 2010

Revealing Opinion Poll Concludes:

Oppose “Swiss-style” Legislation that Would Ban Construction of Minarets on Mosques in Israel

National Religious and Ultra-Orthodox are Strongest Opponents of Banning Minaret Construction

(Jerusalem) – A survey conducted in recent days by The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) through KEEVOON Research found that 43% of Israelis would oppose legislation banning the construction of minarets on Mosques built in Israel while 28% would support a ban, with 29% undecided. In November 2009, 57.5% of voters in Switzerland approved a referendum banning the construction of minarets on Mosques in their country.

The strongest opposition to banning minarets came from National Religious Israelis. 72% of them opposed possible legislation in Israel of whom 55% defined themselves as “strongly” opposed. Among Ultra-Orthodox (Hareidi) opposition was 53%, compared to 42% of secular Israelis, and 36% of traditional Israelis. Only 16% of the National Religious would support banning minarets compared to 21% of Ultra-Orthodox, 31% of traditional Jews and 29% of secular Jews.

“When it comes to freedom of religion Israelis are apparently much more tolerant that their Swiss counterparts,” said Rabbi Marc Schneier, President of the US-based FFEU, “There is a definite correlation between religious observance and tolerance towards Islam. Israelis seem to put politics aside as opposition to banning minarets actually increases as we move further to the right on the political spectrum. The fact that less than one-third of all Israelis support banning minarets indicates that from the Israeli point of view, there is room for respectful coexistence between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs when it is based on religion and not politics.”

Politically the results were very interesting and corroborated the other demographic information. 92% of National Union (Ichud Leumi) voters oppose banning minaret construction of which 65% defined themselves as “strongly” opposed. Following them were voters from United Torah Judaism (Yahadut HaTorah/Agudah Israel) with 68% opposing legislation, 66% of Meretz voters, 64% of Yisrael Beiteinu voters, 55% of Shas voters, and 54% of Jewish Home (NRP) voters. Voters from the 3 main parties, Labour, Kadima and Likud opposed the measure by 43%, 42%, and 41% respectively, according to KEEVOON director Mitchell Barak.

When looking at support for legislation to ban minarets, voters from the Likud expressed the strongest support with 41% followed by Yisrael Beitenu voters with 36%, Kadima voters with 31%, Labour voters with 27%, UTJ voters with 22%, Jewish Home and Shas voters with 20%, and National Union voters with only 8%.

Gender- and age-based trends were also found. Men expressed support by a margin of 34% versus 22% of women. 38% of people aged 45-54, and 34% of 18-24 year olds, 33% of people aged 55-64 support banning minaret construction compared with only 18% of 35-44 year olds, 21% of 25-34 year olds, and 26% of people 65 and over. The opposition to legislation based on gender and age was very close to the total of 43%.

Respondents were also asked if the Swiss legislation changed their opinion of Switzerland. 37% responded that it didn’t change their view, while 25% said they had a more positive view as a result, and 19% had a more negative view.

The telephone survey was conducted by KEEVOON Research in conjunction with Mutagim. 500 Jewish Israelis were interviewed December 30-31, 2009 and on January 3, 2010. The margin of error is + / – 4.5% .

The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, under the leadership of Rabbi Marc Schneier, President, and Russell Simmons, Chairman, is a national US non-profit organization dedicated to promoting racial harmony and strengthening inter-group relations. The Foundation, established in 1989, is based in New York City.

Visit Lobelog.com for the latest news analysis and commentary from Inter Press News Service.

Author: Ali Gharib

Visit Lobelog.com for the latest news analysis and commentary from Ali Gharib and Inter Press News Service's Washington bureau chief Jim Lobe.

22 thoughts on “Low Expectations for Hard Bigotry in Israel”

  1. Indeed. Given the powder keg much of the rest of Europe is sitting on with millions of unassimilated (and unassimilable?) Muslims at hand, it seems more prudent than racist for the Swiss to discourage whom they wish.

    What’s more, a people has the right to decide which direction they want their country and culture to go. Quite frankly, I’d rather live in Switzerland than Libya anytime.

  2. When the Swiss start dumping cluster bombs and white phosphorus on their neighbors, when the Swiss start stealing land and water from their neighbors whom they are also occupying, when the Swiss start herding a million and a half unarmed citizens into huge concentration camps like Gaza where they are purposefully starved, then I will consider the proposal that they are as “intolerant” as the Israelis.

  3. Perhaps a truer headline would be "Swiss more tolerant than Saudis" since Christian churches and synagogs are banned in Saudi Arabia, along with home bible study. Since the Swiss have not banned Mosques or home study of the Quran, they clearly are more tolerant than the Saudi regime.

    1. I don't understand why the Swiss are being burned at the stake over this.

      According to the "Economist" :
      "There is virtually no Muslim land where Christians and Muslim dissidents enjoy unimpeded civil rights like the right to build places of worship without big bureaucratic hurdles "

      So it seems the Swiss are simply applying the rule of reciprocity in religious freedoms -as commonly used in diplomatic circles for negotiating visa free travel, trade tariff negotiation.

      Libertarians could argue the value of this law- agreed, but the media uproar has just been a little too shrill.

  4. This is the dumbest topic I have read on antiwar.com. How is this clown a CIA operative. LMAO. Tolerance defines as what? Whether or not the Swiss are going to allow foreign immigrants to build churches on their lands? The "intolerant" Swiss aren't dropping bombs and commiting wanton murder of the Muslims of the world. The "intolerant" Swiss have never imposed sanctions and blockades to starve, sicken, and pollute millions of people resulting in mass cassualties. They are light years more "tolerant" than Europe and the US. They are light years more civilized than the West. WOW…unreal.

  5. There are minarets in Israel. The people are used to them. The portion of the population that is Muslim is nearly 20 % which is much higher than the Swiss have. The purpose of the survey is pure mendacity. Are we supposed to believe that the Jews of Israel, after stealing land from Arabs, often slaughtering them, restricting their economic development and decent homes by refusing to issue building permits, denying them sanitary services, limiting water usage to below minimum usage, blocking education opportunities such as Fulbright scholarships, halting career advancement by restrictive hiring, etc., etc. etc., are tolerant because they cough up politically correct answers on a no consequences poll? If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then Israel’s Jews have an undying love affair with Joseph Goebbels and his Big Lie technique.as this pathetic exercise demonstrates.,

  6. Gene Berkman wants to change the subject from Israeli “intolerance” to Saudi “intolerance”. Please.
    Saudi Arabia is so socially backwards that it is a monarchy; it was hammered out of a primitive, tribal society just in the Twentieth Century. No-one expects Saudi Arabia to be as evolved as Switzerland. And I doubt they would even claim to be.
    The problem is Israel. It is privileged, gifted with massive American aid, and formed by Westernized people who have experienced deprivation and intolerance (on the receiving end).. So why are they so proud of acting like bloodthirsty racial tribalists; stealing land, water and resources from essentially helpless natives? And then to award themselves some claim to “tolerance” is just unmitigated gall or insanity.

  7. Felipeb, I sure agree with everything said abt. BLOODYISRAEL. Here, our occupiers, BLOODYISRAEL has their very own 'Hate Crimes' law, now, so, we are not allowed to speak abt. our occupiers. Here in the US, the high-crimes of BLOODYISRAEL are not even reported in the propaganda media! The blogs do not dare either, for the most part. I loath BLOODYISRAEL, not my jewish friend, many of whom feel the same way abt. BLOODYISRAEL. They hate that BLOODYISRAEL puts them in danger, just like what the greedy reichwing Jews did in Germany. Yes, all of BLOODYISRAEL worships Goebels.

  8. The gall of the West has always been ridiculous. I hear Ghandi when asked what he thought about Western civilization replied… "I think it would be a good idea". He was spot on with that one.

  9. indeed peter!!!
    does any one here realize that "the west" and that "islam" are both ideas and not geographic boundaries?!?!

    the myth of the homogeneous nation state is the first and most dangerous statist myth, and one that anyone who subscribes to it is suspect in my book.

    as to for the article it comes to erroneous conclusions
    first unlike in america this is not viewed as a religious conflict in israel any one with slightest intrest in the conflict is well aware it is a territorial conflict and the arabs happen to be on the other side and some just happen to believe in islam.
    religious tolerance has nothing to do with a territorial conflict, all of the palestinians could convert to Judaism tomorrow and if they still wanted their own state there would still be a conflict.

    "Muslims wombs are a much greater threat to the West than the bombs of Western butchers, and no one butchers like the West, that's for sure."!!!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
    …………….thermonuclear weapons vs kids with birth-defects…….. HA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. >does any one here realize that "the west" and
      >that "islam" are both ideas and not geographic

      You're obviously ill-educated.

      The "West" is both ideas and geography, namely a civilization (a bloody one at that) generally populated by whites in a historically Christian / Greco-Roman culture.

      >the myth of the homogeneous nation state is the first
      >and most dangerous statist myth, and one that anyone
      >who subscribes to it is suspect in my book.

      You can flush your book in the toilet.

      And if you're not a westerner your opinions are irrelevant.

      Nation states protect a people group's common identity, history and values. That's why there are passports; you don't just let anybody in to your country (geographic embodiment of the nation state) without certain qualifications.

      In Europe, bloody history notwithstanding, there are people groups united by what would be called western values. The Germans and French are historical enemies but there is no border between them; they have more in common with each other than they do with Turkey, a historically antagonistic culture outside the Christian/Greco-Roman world and world view.

      Western values and Islamic values are different and boundaries keep them apart.

      However, westerners are not reproducing but the millions of Muslims in their midst are reproducing, and eventually will take over western countries by sheer number.

      Already in London and other European cities the top baby names come from Muslim cultures:


      Supposedly the most popular baby name list was not updated for a while because the most popular name for boys in London was Muhammed and they apparently were afraid of peoples' reactions =)))

      Anyway, this is about the survival of the fittest, and the fittest are (somewhat tautologically) defined as those who survive, and European birth rates are below replacement.

      >as to for the article it comes to erroneous conclusions
      >first unlike in america this is not viewed as a religious conflict in israel
      >any one with slightest intrest in the conflict is well aware it is a
      >territorial conflict and the arabs happen to be on the other side and
      >some just happen to believe in islam.

      There's definitely religion involved in that religious Jews (and Christian zionists) believe that they can come back after 2,000 years and kick out the current Arab inhabitants.

      >religious tolerance has nothing to do with a territorial conflict,
      >all of the palestinians could convert to Judaism tomorrow and if
      >they still wanted their own state there would still be a conflict.


      >"Muslims wombs are a much greater threat to the West than
      >the bombs of Western butchers, and no one butchers like the
      >West, that's for sure."!!!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
      >HA! ha!.
      >…….thermonuclear weapons vs kids with birth-defects(du)……..

      You're obviously mentally challenged.

      Again, this is about survival of the fittest, and the fittest are those who survive, THOSE WHO ***R.E.P.R.O.D.U.C.E.***, which is what Muslims are doing in Europe but Europeans are not, because Europeans are busy aborting their future or avoiding children in their selfish hedonism.

  10. All of this talk about protecting “Western Culture” baffles me. When “Western Culture” was ascendent in the 19th and 20th Centuries, Europeans invaded and colonized the whole world and thought they were doing everyone the greatest favor. They imposed their religion, their government and their economic system. They established artificial boundaries and even changed countries names. And now, you tell me that all of this is gone and these “aliens” threaten “Western Culture” by their very presence. Two or three centuries of dominance and nothing stuck? I, personally , believe that after WWI and WWII, the real cause of Western decline has been “Western Culture”, a culture of death, exploitive capitalism, and environmental ruin. I am kind of hoping that the Third World might help us save ourselves from ourselves.

    1. An elegant answer. Well said. Without immigrants, who would pay us old geezers our pensions, who would wipe our backsides in nursing homes? We're a dying breed, and we've done it to ourselves.

  11. Switzerland is a land that has never had a Moslem population or heritage…the minarets would clash with the prevailing architecture…perhaps a compromise could be reached…could the muezzin perhaps 'yodel" the call to prayers and thereby maintain the Alpine ambience from a bell-less tower built after the manner of Swiss church towers?

  12. I agree with Gandhi when asked what he thought of western culture, 'It would be a great idea' to someday actually SEE some 'culture' other than war, war, war, all the time war to keep the 1%ers rich, FAT, and happy.

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