Thursday, November 27, 2014

27-Nov-14: When things are said about terror from both sides of one mouth, it pays to listen carefully

Even in an Internet-rich age, television continues to strongly influence what we know and think. And in places where access to a range of varying ideas and opinions is greatly limited, its role is even larger. The villages, towns and cities of the Palestinian Authority are a good example.

Here's a video clip (translated to English by the invaluable Palestinian Media Watch team) from their version of Good Morning, America (and Good Morning Australia, and Good Morning Tanganyika etc), the typical sort of light-hearted fare that people watch while grabbing some breakfast and heading out to face the day and its challenges. 

Only it's light-hearted in a very specific way that prevails in places where the values of terror and its attractions have become central to the way ordinary lives are lived.

The presenter in this show is Mai Abu Asab. Her program goes to air every Friday (weekend) morning under the name Good Morning Jerusalem. If we were fed a daily diet of this sort of messaging, we might not have the views about hatred, racism and terror that we do; many other rational and emotionally healthy people might react like us.

The channel is the one owned, operated and marketed by the government that runs the Palestinian Authority. The PA is the terror-friendly regime headed by Mahmoud Abbas, currently in the tenth year of his four-year presidential term. Abbas has our attention this week because of his gymnastic approach to juggling his public views on terror: unreservedly against it in English and strongly for it in Arabic.

Quoted (in Arabic) by Al-Hayat Al-Jadida. the PA's mouthpiece newspaper, on November 3, 2014, Mahmoud Abbas said
that Martyr Mutaz [who fired four bullets straight into the chest of Rabbi Yehuda Glick on a Jerusalem street in late October] from at point rose to Heaven while defending our people’s rights and holy places. In addition, he condemned this barbaric act, which is added to the occupation’s crimes against our people since the Nakba ("catastrophe", the preferred Palestinian Arabic term for the establishment of the State of Israel), as well as the continuation of the historic injustice being committed against it wherever it is present.” [source]
Quoted (in Arabic) again by Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on November 24, 2014,
It is a moral, national and religious right to defend Al-Aqsa and the places holy to Islam and Christianity. Our people oppose the thieving attackers who are supported by the government of Israel – the same [government] that has sabotaged the efforts to attain peace and is leading the wild campaign in Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, seeking to strike any chance of obtaining security and peace between the two peoples on the basis of the two-state [solution]. I congratulate our people for their steadfastness in defending Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa. We are all ready to sacrifice ourselves for Al-Aqsa and for Jerusalem. [source]
Quoted in English by Haaretz on November 18, 2014, there's what appears to be a whole different approach:
Abbas' office said in a statement that "The presidency condemns the attack on Jewish worshippers in their place of prayer and condemns the killing of civilians no matter who is doing it" [but] "While we condemn this incident, we also condemn the aggression toward Al-Aqsa Mosque and other holy places and torching of mosques and churches," Abbas said at the start of a meeting of the Palestinian security services in Ramallah. Such attacks, according to Abbas, "violate all religious principles and do not serve the common interest we are trying to promote – establishing a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel." [source]
It's worth noting, as Khaled Abu Toameh did the same day, the background:
Abbas was forced to condemn the Har Nof synagogue attack after facing pressure from US Secretary of State John Kerry, who had phoned the PA president twice over the past few days to demand that the Palestinians stop anti-Israel incitement. On Tuesday, Kerry issued a call to the PA leadership to condemn the Har Nof attack. Kerry’s pressure prompted Abbas to issue two condemnations of the incident. The first came in the form of a terse statement published by official PA news agency Wafa, in which the Palestinian leadership condemned the “killing of worshipers in a synagogue and all acts of violence regardless of their source.” The statement also called for an end to “incursions and provocations by settlers against the Aksa Mosque...” In both statements, the PA leader sought to establish a direct link between the recent spate of terrorist attacks and visits by Jewish groups to the Temple Mount. [source
The latest phase in this peekaboo now-you-see-it-now-you-don't performance by Abbas' government comes with a PA TV program on Tuesday that declares the axe men of the Har Nof synagogue killings as heroes for the cause, referring to "the death of 2 Palestinians as martyrs from occupation police fire", conveniently and despicably ignoring the knives, axes and guns in the hands of the two Abu Jamals as they launched a ferocious attack on unarmed men at prayer.

To their great credit, many ordinary people in today's Palestinian Arab society continue - against all the pressures from their religious and secular leaders - to hold somewhat-independent views and to remain rooted in values that give hope... to them and us.

Here are some of those, based on a little-noticed (outside Israel) public opinion poll carried out for Israel's Channel 10 television station by Statnet (motto: "Discovering things you never expected"), an Israel-based research center headed by Yousef Makladeh (there's a self-promoting business video here for Arabic and Hebrew speakers).

Statnet focuses its attention on Arabs in the PA and Israel and unfortunately seems to publish almost nothing in the English language which, given the insights they have, is a pity.

The Jerusalem Post and a small handful of other Israel-based sources reported in the last few days on the poll's findings. Selected highlights appear in a number of other Israel-focused publications but take the results way out of their context, in our view. The survey, conducted in Arabic by phone a week ago, polled 405 Israeli Arabs from all parts of Israel but not east Jerusalem. 39% of respondents are men; 61% are women:
  • 68% of Israeli Arabs opposes the ongoing "recent wave of terrorist attacks". The language of the Jerusalem Post report on the following breakdown is not clear (and we have not seen the original findings), but we think they go on to say that 88% of Druse oppose the terror; 80% of Christian Arabs, and 64% of Muslim Arabs.
  • 77% of Israeli Arabs when asked to choose between two options said they prefer to live under Israeli rule rather than Palestinian Arab. Again, the Jerusalem Port report's language is not well expressed, but it seems to be saying that support among Israeli Arabs for living in an Israeli state is at the 70% level among Druse, 57% among Christian Arabs, and 49% among Muslim Arabs. But if that's right, then we have a problem understanding how the overall percentage gets to 77%.
  • (This finding meshes with another by Prof. Sammy Smooha Haifa University whose annual survey, the Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel showed in 2013 63.5% of Arabs said Israel is a good place to live, while 20.9% were "willing to move" to "a Palestinian state".)
  • As for preferring to live under the Palestinian Authority: 2% of Druse held that view; 5% of Israeli Christian Arabs, and 18% of Israeli Muslim Arabs.
  • 84% of Israeli Arabs "support Knesset members who condemned the attacks in Jerusalem" and "16% opposed the condemnation of the attacks by Arab MKs"
  • 81% of them believe Israel "is trying to harm the status quo on the Temple Mount".
  • Again the language of the report is problematic, but it seems to say something emphatic about the sense Israeli Arabs have of living in a racist society: 42% say they suffer from "strong racism"; 44% from "moderate racism"; 14% from "light racism". Since those numbers add up to exactly 100%, it means there is not a single Arab living in Israel, including the majority who says he/she prefers living in Israel compared with the PA alternative, feels there is no racism. That might be, but it sounds suspect to us, especially when we take into account their attitude to how the State (not clear exactly what that means beyond the obvious) treats them: 9% say it "treats them equally"; 52% "semi-equally"; 39% "not equally at all". That also comes to a neat 100%. So if 9% feel they are being treated equally, are they also among the 100% who suffer from racism? Perhaps yes, but on this, the JPost report's language and formulation bothers us.
  • 65% of Israeli Arabs blamed the conflict on "the Jews"
  • And finally, a clear sign of the positive effect living in Israel has on its citizens: 63% of Israeli Arabs "do not trust Arab leaders in Israel". Unfortunately the survey report does not say whether the respondents were asked if they don't trust Israel's Jewish leaders. Or non-Israel-based Arab leaders.
Image: "Real Jerusalem Streets"
Readers wanting to do their own polling might consider standing in the center of Jerusalem, say at the busy intersection of King George Avenue and Jaffa Road (we know the corner only too well). 

As Jerusalemites know, since the Jerusalem Light Rail began running from Jerusalem's eastern neighbourhoods into the center and out to Mt Herzl, the number of Arab shoppers and pedestrians walking around, enjoying the cafes and the pedestrian malls, has risen substantially to levels that might surprise people from far away.

The image at right (young Arab females wandering around in the center of town) from the excellent Real Jerusalem Streets photo blog [here] illustrates the story.

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