‘Apartheid’ pollsters reject Bicom criticism

By Anna Sheinman, November 1, 2012
Dermot Kehoe

Dermot Kehoe

A row has broken out between Bicom (British Israel Communications and Research Centre) and Hebrew University professor Amiram Goldblum over a poll which said Israeli Jews would “support apartheid”.

The controversial survey, which was reported by Ha’aretz last week, was commissioned by the Yisraela Goldblum Fund, a family foundation named after Professor Goldblum’s late wife, the former senior news editor of Kol Israel, who died in 2006.

The poll results, which focused on the attitudes of Israeli Jews towards Arabs if the West Bank were annnexed, were introduced with the words: “In case of annexation, most Jews will support apartheid.”

The poll concluded that 69 per cent of Israeli Jews objected to allowing Palestinians to vote in the event of annexation. It also found that “74 per cent support separation of Israelis and Palestinians on roads”, “47 per cent want to transfer part of the Israeli Arab population to the Palestinian Authority” and “59 per cent are for official preference to be given to Jews for government positions”.

Bicom chief executive, Dermot Kehoe, was highly critical of the poll and in last week’s JC called it “poor social science”, “deeply unhelpful” and its results “bogus”. He called the questions “poorly worded” and attacked the use of the hypothetical situation of annexation, saying that given that most Israelis support a two-state solution, the question was “pretty meaningless”.

But Professor Goldblum said: “The poll was discussed, decided upon and performed by the prime pollsters of Israel. Had he [Mr Kehoe] read the poll carefully, he would find that the most pressing issues are the internal racist attitudes of Jews in Israel.” He agreed that most Israelis wanted a two-state solution, but asserted: “it is well known that the Palestinian Authority is close to a decision to ‘return the keys’ to Netanyahu.”

Professor Goldblum requested an apology and a retraction from Bicom. Instead, Bicom issued a six-page report by its senior associate analyst, Shany Mor, entitled The Apartheid Smear, attacking many technical aspects of the survey as well as its reporting in Ha’aretz. Mr Mor said that “claiming ‘most Israeli Jews would support [an] apartheid regime in Israel’, grossly distorts the polling data”.

Mr Mor highlighted examples of how the questions were “deeply flawed”. For example, the question “Would you like Israel to annex the territories on which there are settlements?” could refer to annexing just the settlements or the whole of the West Bank.

Mr Kehoe said: “I’m not saying there aren’t reasons to be concerned about racism in Israeli society but I would be surprised if there is any poll that would say Israel Jews support apartheid.”

Ha’aretz has since issued a clarification of its report, and its author Gideon Levy has issued an apology acknowledging his article contained “a few mistakes”. But he maintained that the poll unearthed “serious and disturbing findings” and said criticism of the poll was “deviation from the important issue”.

Last updated: 5:45pm, November 1 2012