Thursday, December 15, 2016

15-Dec-16: What do the Palestinian Arabs think now?

As Abbas starts the thirteenth year of his four-year
term as president, nearly two-thirds of all Palestinian Arabs say
it's time for him to go home [Image Source]
We're keenly interested in knowing what the Palestinian Arabs think.

If you rely on newspapers or pay attention to electronic media coverage of their attitudes and expectations, you are likely to be getting someone's wishful projections rather than data-based analysis. The difference between the two is vast and unbridgeable.

So what is reality when we're discussing people's attitudes?

In the case of the Palestinian Arabs, we think it's what they tell serious polling organizations that are themselves Palestinian Arab. That's why we have published several posts here in the past couple of years that are based on the published findings of the pre-eminent Palestinian Arab opinion polling organization, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research or PSR [website] headed by a respected figure, Prof. Khalil Shikaki.

Not for the first time, we say that understanding the feelings, expectations and aspirations of the Palestinian Arabs is fundamental to having a sense of what's ahead. If you agree, you might want to review one or two (or all) of these earlier posts of ours:
Let's now look at the latest PSR poll which was announced via a press release [here] two days ago. The parts that get the greatest prominence concern the political leadership of the Palestinian Authority and the outcome of the Fatah movement's recent Seventh Convention. Both of those matters provide an opportunity for the people polled to express broad and growing unhappiness with the performance of Mahmoud Abbas. In the previous poll three months ago, 61% said they wanted him to resign as president. That urgent Palestinian Arab dissastisfaction has now risen to 64%. This has vast implications for how and with whom and along what lines a living relationship can be negotiated by Israelis with the side he ostensibly leads.

The last time Palestinian Arabs were given the chance to vote for a president was in January 2005 when Abbas won; he has held tenaciously on to power ever since. The only previous presidential election, dominated by Yasser Arafat, was in 1996.

Frankly, we're much less interested in those issues and far more in what's revealed about Palestinian Arab thinking on violence and terrorism. Here's what we see, adopting verbatim (for the most part) the language of the PSR press release:
  • "A majority in favor of armed attacks and a return to armed intifada."
  • "The overwhelming majority of the public sees nothing but incitement against Arabs in Netanyahu’s claim that some of the recent fires in Israel were initiated by Palestinians."
  • "An increase in the percentage of those who favor the abandonment of the Oslo agreement."
  • "Almost a consensus among the public that the decision by the Israeli government to ban the use of loudspeakers in the mosques’ call for prayer is tantamount to declaring war against Islam."
A few more insights into the mindset of the neighbours with whom we are engaged in a generations-long conflict:
  • Asked about "the most effective means of building a Palestinian state next to the state of Israel", 37% vote for "armed action". Three months ago, that had the support of slightly fewer Palestinian Arabs - just 34%.
  • "62% support non-violent popular resistance, 53% support a return to an armed intifada..." [How to reconcile those two points? We won't try.] Three months ago, support for a return to an armed intifada stood at 48%..."
  • What do they not want president-elect Donald Trump to do when he takes office in January? According to 53% of them, he should keep out of the "peace" process.
  • About the PA leadership decision to send fire fighting vehicles and men to combat the recent wildfires in Israel, 50% say it was the wrong thing to do; they should not have been sent. And if their own houses or lands would have been destroyed? That wasn't asked, but we did notice that twice as many Arabs from the West Bank were in favour of Palestinian Arabs joining in the fire-fighting Arab compared with Gazan Arabs. (The fires did not threaten Gaza.)
  • "An overwhelming majority (87%) believes that the Israeli government decision to legislate a law that would ban the use of loudspeakers when calling for prayer at mosques is an indication of a war against Islam waged by the government while only 9% believe that the Israeli government is simply trying to protect the Israeli public." The pollsters evidently failed to check whether the respondents knew anything about similar measures adopted in other places. For instance the use of loudspeakers by mosques is (according to Wikipediabanned outright in Mumbai, India; Lagos, Nigeria; certain cities in Michigan; and in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Limitation on calls of prayers by muezzins exist in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Austria, Norway and Belgium. 
  • Only 32% think the two-state solution to the Palestinian Arab versus Israel conflict is "viable". In our October 2016 blog post on the previous PSR poll, 49% of Palestinian Arabs supported it, while among Israelis - via an unrelated poll we quoted then - 59% supported a two-state solution.
  • 54% of Palestinian Arabs say they believe that "Israel’s long term aspiration is to annex the lands occupied in 1967 and expel their population". 
  • Roughly the same number, 52%, believe Israel intends to destroy al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock and replace them with a Jewish temple (that proportion is essentially unchanged from three months ago). 
There's not much here that's uplifting or forward-looking. But that's how it is with public opinion polls. You can ignore them, you can be angered by them, you can adopt them for the purpose of crafting new strategies. What you can't do is deny their meaning just because you find the conclusions unpalatable.

1 comment:

NancyB said...

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