Since the Pew foundation released the results of a major survey of Israeli public opinion, many reporters have made much of the purported datum that roughly one in two Israeli Jews favors driving out the country’s Arabs. But as Nathan Jeffay explains, a double error is at play here: the Pew researchers asked a poorly formulated question that could mean several different things in Hebrew (as also in English), and the media ignored these ambiguities:
At first glance, the question seemed straightforward. People were asked if “Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel.” But this actually left a lot for the respondents to define for themselves. Did they respond in relation to all Arabs, as one would gather from the way results have been presented? Or were they thinking about specific cases, such as Arabs who sympathize with terror or . . . the families of terrorists who carry out attacks? . . . Every respondent will have interpreted the question in his own way. . . .
The definite article is extremely important in Hebrew. If Pew was interested in what Israeli Jews think about the presence of Arabs, it should have asked about “the Arabs” not “Arabs.”. . .
But beyond a general fluffiness with the question, there was a deeper problem with the concepts that it probed. The meaning of “expulsion” was clear, but what was meant by “transfer”? The leading Israeli pollster Camil Fuchs, who was not involved in the Pew research, said he understood the word ha’avarah (“transfer”) to refer to a process by which nobody leaves their homes, . . . [namely] the proposal to redraw borders in order to place some Israeli Arabs under Palestinian jurisdiction. . . . President Barack Obama has advocated [such a policy] as a way to make a peace deal realistic.