Contact Theory in a Geographical Context: The Effect of Geographic Proximity on Jewish Attitudes towards the Arab Population
and Chaim Lavie
Contact theory suggests that encounters between opposing groups helps reduce prejudice. At the same time, it appears that geographic proximity, which allows members of different groups to meet, does not necessarily contribute to a reduction in negative attitudes towards the minority group living in the area. The present study examined the effect of geographic proximity of an Arab population on Jewish attitudes towards that population. A survey was conducted among 873 Jewish residents, of whom 524 live within the Green Line and 348 in Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. In addition to examining their attitudes, the responders noted whether they had met with Arabs in the last six months in un-planned contexts such as work or studies. The findings of the study showed that geographic proximity had a negative effect on the attitudes towards the Arab population in all parameters. Respondents living within the Green Line expressed more positive attitudes towards the Arab population, even when we examined the interaction between the place of residence and the encounter. In addition, it was found that the type of encounter had no effect on the attitude of the Jews living in Judea and Samaria. The conclusions raise doubts regarding the effect of geographic proximity and the existence of unplanned encounters on changing attitudes in situations of violent and asymmetrical conflict, such as the Jewish-Arab conflict.