Attitudes Of The Israeli Public Towards Asylum Seekers: Humanitarianism and Its Consequences For Exclusionist Attitudes

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Oshrat HOCHMAN , Social and community studies, Ruppin Academic Center, Israel
Adi HERCOWITZ-AMIR , University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
This study focuses on the role of humanitarian convictions in shaping exclusionist attitudes towards asylum seekers in Israel. It provides first empirical evidence regarding public views on asylum seekers, the most recent non-Jewish migrant group to this country. Data for this study is based on a survey conducted during the spring of 2013 among a representative sample (N=500) of the adult Jewish population in Israel.

Our interest in public views towards asylum seekers does not derive merely from the innovative empirical potential they hold, but rather from the theoretical questions such views bring to the fore. Previous studies indicate that the Israeli public consistently opposes the granting of social, civil, and economic rights to non-Jewish migrants. These exclusionist attitudes are mostly guided by a sense of national as well as socio-economic threat associated with the need to maintain both personal and group well-being. Although asylum seekers may invoke similar threats, we expect attitudes towards them to be based in addition on other psycho-social mechanisms associated primarily with notions of universal liberal values and human rights.

The association of asylum seekers in Israel with a human rights discourse is not intuitive. In fact, policy makers have initiated a public campaign delegitimizing their refuge claims and questioning this association, presenting asylum seekers as "infiltrators", illegal labor migrants, and even terrorists. This study tests whether the link between humanitarian convictions and attitudes towards asylum seekers in Israel is maintained also in the presence of this politicized public campaign as well as other contextual factors, like the ethno-national emphasis in Israel's membership conceptualization. The findings confirm that humanitarian values play a role in the formation of exclusionist attitudes. Specifically, while perceived threat decreases respondents' willingness to grant rights to asylum seekers, humanitarian values partially mediate this relationship.