Israelis are more tolerant than the Swiss about mosque minarets.
At the end of November Switzerland voted in a referendum to ban mosque minarets. Here in Israel, a large part of the Jewish public feels antagonism towards the Arab minority, as indicated by various attempts in the last year to pass legislation aimed at it such as the Nakba law and the success of Yisrael Beiteinu in last year’s elections after proposing an “allegiance law” that would require all citizens to pledge allegiance to the state. Furthermore, a lot of Jews who live within earshot of the call-to-prayer complain that it is annoying.
But while in the Swiss referendum 57.5% of voters were for banning minarets and just 42.5% against, in a simulated referendum in Israel a firm majority was against. According to a new poll 43% of Israeli Jews would oppose such a ban while 28% would support one. The rest were undecided.
Intriguingly the strongest opposition came from the demographic that is often most antagonistic to the Arab minority — religious-Zionists.
In fact, while you may expect opposition to such a ban to be strongest on the left and weakest on the right the opposite was true. Some 92% of voters for the far-right National Union were opposed. The next strongest opposed were voters for the Haredi party United Torah Judaism, among whom 68% were opposed. Only after these two came voters from the left-wing and non-religious Meretz, among whom 66% were opposed. The explanation would appear to be that religious Israeli Jews are keen to be consistent about religious freedom.
The question raised by the overall figures and the contrast to Switzerland is as follows. With the majority of respondents against a ban despite living with far more friction with Muslins than the Swiss, does the poll prove that Israel is a liberal society, as claimed by The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which commissioned it? Or, given that minarets have been part of the landscape in the part of the world for centuries, does the fact that almost a third of Israeli Jews would favor a ban show the opposite?