Wednesday, December 10, 2014

10-Dec-14: What else do Palestinian Arabs want, beyond the 80% who say killing of ordinary Israelis is a good thing?

Fatal attack on a bus by a Palestinian Arab-driven excavator,
Jerusalem, August 2014: Four-fifths of Palestinian Arabs
say they want more killings and attacks like this one.
Yes, four-fifths [Image Source]
With all the wishing and hoping and thinking and praying that's gone on over the years about how there's a secret desire burning in the collective breast of the Palestinian Arabs for peace and good relations, the evidence keeps pointing in the opposite direction, and wishful thinking is not about to change that.

We have mentioned the work of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research here a couple of dozen times over the years. They conduct public opinion polls of the Palestinian Arabs, among other aspects of their research work. And when they issue reports, as unpalatable as their findings often are, they reflect a reality that cannot be ignored.

Yesterday (Tuesday), they issued "Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No. 54" based on face-to-face interviews with a sample of more than a thousand Palestinian Arab adults between December 3 and 6. The headlines are not going to surprise anyone who follows events in this part of the world:
  • Optimism is down.
  • Hamas popularity is up.
  • Violence gets a growing amount of support.
  • And they suffer from "extreme worry" about "Israel’s agenda for al Haram al Sharif", the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Some details, quoting the actual language of the PSR document:
  • Support for a return to an armed intifada remains high. Indeed support for armed struggle has increased compared to our previous findings three months ago... 
  • An overwhelming majority of Palestinians continues to support launching of rockets from the Gaza Strip if the blockade is not lifted.
  • 80% support and 20% oppose attempts by individual Palestinians to stab or run over Israelis in Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank.
  • Hamas can easily win a new presidential election if one is held today. 
  • Hamas can also do better than Fatah in a new parliamentary election. 
  • Most Palestinians continue to believe that Hamas won the war [meaning the latest fighting between Israel and Hamas during July and August 2014]
  • Satisfaction with the performance of the reconciliation government and the performance of President Abbas continues to drop. 
That last point is surely known to analysts and advisers in those governments and media outlet that continue to perceive Mahmoud Abbas as some kind of "moderate". There are two obvious consequences:
  1. As a lifelong politician, the man would have to have rocks in his head to adopt the language of peace and reconciliation, at least in Arabic, given what we know about the opinions held by his voters. And the fact is his public statements, again in Arabic (what he says in English is close to meaningless in every practical sense) express an increasingly peace-averse viewpoint. This from November 29, 2014 illustrates the point: "Palestinians will never recognize Israel as Jewish state, Abbas says".
  2. Palestinian Arab elections are not going to happen anytime soon, at least not on the PA's turf. (And less likely still in Hamas-controlled Gaza.) Two-thirds of Palestinian Arabs support having legislative and presidential elections soon [a different December poll says] but they are almost certain to be disappointed.
Some additional points to absorb:
  • Associated Press, quoting PSR's head, says what these numbers show is "loss of hope" over "the collapse of U.S.-brokered peace talks", over "Israeli statements about the Jerusalem holy site" and over "Israel's recent war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip". Clearly, given the direction of change in Palestinian Arab sentiment, the process of eliminating hope works to the advantage of Hamas which is obvious to anyone paying attention.
  • PSR's head also says "There is an environment in which violence is becoming a dominant issue... This seems to be one of the most important driving forces." That too is a kind of self-fulfilling insight: for people interested in more violence, violence is its own reward. The daily rock-hurling, fire-bombing, running-people-down-with-cars-and-bulldozers and knifing attacks in and around Jerusalem these past two months testify to that.
  • When Shikaki says violence is becoming dominant, his numbers show it's effective in moving public opinion on the Arab side: "80 percent supported individual attacks by Palestinians who have stabbed Israelis or rammed cars into crowded train stations." Massive support on that scale is, in our view, a function of the incomprehensible 'understanding' and (to a non-trivial extent) sympathy that such acts of murder and attempted murder of innocent Israeli civilians get in large swathes of the Western media and among influential outsiders.
  • The constant drum-beat to which Palestinian Arabs are subjected about Israeli "occupation", "settlement", "dispossession" and similar loaded code-words makes it top of the list of the most serious problem confronting their society today. But almost as many say the spread of corruption in their public institutions is the top concern. Only slightly fewer say their poverty and unemployment head the list. When they worry about the failures in their own lives as much as they obsess about destroying ours, that has to be a good thing.  
  • Political support for the imprisoned murderer Marwan Barghouti has fallen significantly.
  • And for those who see Abbas as part of a better future: 55% of those polled say the PA has become a burden on the Palestinian people. They want something else and Abbas will not be part of that. Can we expect him, or anyone from his circle, to make the kind of painful decisions that peace is going to require?
And if anyone out there is thinking that progressive, intelligent segments of the Palestinian Arab world actually, privately, want to see their society abandon violence, hatred, killing and destruction but can't say it openly, you might want to take a look at an article published today by Arnold Roth ["By their role models shall ye know them", December 10, 2014] in Times of Israel. We will be cross-posting it here soon.

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