|The article we discuss is here|
The author has done something so logical and obvious that you have to wonder why, which we think is the case, no one has done it before: to try to understand "the perspective of everyday Palestinians", the role of public opinion, and the things that lead to an atmosphere
in which young people choose whether to wake up in the morning, pull a knife from the family kitchen, and go out in search of martyrdom.Methodologically, he does this by looking at what the Palestinian Arabs themselves say. He
examined over 330 surveys carried out by the four major Palestinian research institutes, each of which has been conducting regular polls for a decade or more: the PSR headed by Shikaki and its predecessor, CPRS; the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center (JMCC); the Birzeit Center for Development Studies (CDS), whose work was later continued under the same director by the Arab World for Research & Development(AWRAD); and the Opinion Polls and Survey Research Unit of An-Najah National University. Each of the four has conducted between 50 and 120 polls... all are independent of any government, party, or other institutional framework that might introduce systematic bias into their work... Moreover, many of their questions are asked repeatedly over time, making it possible to adjust for momentary swings of opinion. And since the questions asked by the four institutes are themselves often similar, it is possible to compare responses, thus testing the degree to which the findings are or are not affected by the specific perspective or methodology of a given institute.
- What Palestinians Think of Israel;
- What Palestinians Think of Israelis and Jews;
- How Palestinians See Violence against Israelis;
- Palestinian Support for Armed Attacks; and
- What Is to Be Done. (That last section is the thinnest, unfortunately.)
- Poll numbers sometimes indicate that a majority of Palestinian Arabs oppose armed attacks on Israelis. The details and the ups and downs are not the issue. He points out how this works inside a society in which a very sizable minority (at least) favors extreme violence, and in particular how "it does not much matter if they are slightly outnumbered by those opposed to such actions. Anyone contemplating an attack can still expect to benefit from a substantial network of backers, and if successful to bring great honor upon himself and his family." Our observations, from our very specific vantage point, lead us to fully agree. The role of honor (and shame, for that matter) is huge, and and hugely under-estimated, in the lives of Pal Arabs in ways that significantly impact on what happens.
- It's also often the case that polls of Palestinian Arabs show they reject terrorism on moral (or other similar sounding) grounds. Polisar introduces a qualification that is actually much more than just that. Referring to one particular result (it doesn't matter which for this purpose) he points to the critical matter of how Palestinian Arabs interpret the word “terrorism”. He brings hard data (Palestinian Arab data, please note) to show what they consider to be not terror: (a) The 2001 assault on the Dolphinarium discotheque on the Tel Aviv seashore was not terror (only 15% said this was terror); (b) the murder by Palestinian Arabs in a Jerusalem hotel of an Israeli government minister, Rehavam Ze’evi was not terror (only 10% thought it was terror); (c) the use of chemical and other weapons of mass destruction - hypothetically speaking - by Palestinians against Israelis is not terror (a mere 25% said that could be called terror); (d) the New York and Washington DC attacks of 9/11 were not terror (a minority - just 41% - thought they were terror); (e) the massive attacks on civilians in Madrid's trains in 2004 and on London's bus and underground transport systems in 2005 were not terror. Yes, minorities of Palestinian Arabs viewed those as terror, but for the record, the rest of the Arab world overwhelmingly took the opposite view and called terror terror.
|Opinion poll of a different - and much less frequent - kind: scene from|
the January 2005 Palestinian elections [Image Source]
There's a harsh reality here that is bound to generate some resistance, or perhaps disbelief.
The data show that Palestinian Arabs have a specific way of looking at terror that simply does not fit with the views of most of the rest of the world, and not even with the other parts of the Arab world.Have any other serious observers focused on this? If they have, we seem to have missed it.
Polls are fine and useful and so on but there's another way of gauging public opinion that most of the world uses regularly. When were the last elections in either of the two Palestinian Arab entities? Why are elections such a low priority for people ruled by autocratic regimes, living with significantly un-free media, and ostensibly desperate to have their voices heard?