Monday, July 16, 2018

16-Jul-18: What do the Palestinian Arabs want? What do they believe? What do they think?

The last time we addressed the important matter of Palestinian Arab opinion polls ["04-Apr-18: Here's (one view of) what the Palestinian Arabs want"] we started this way:
Palestinian Arab polls of Palestinian Arab opinion can be valuable tools for understanding what they think at any given time. And no less importantly, how accurate the assessments of what they want for the future are. And to be blunt about this, they're invariably more valuable by far than media guesses about what the Palestinian Arabs think and want. Claims are made freely and often about Palestinian Arab aspirations. Very often, though, the data tell a story that's at total variance from what's being claimed about them. That's why we have chosen from time to time to publicize here the results of opinion polls conducted by relatively respected organizations within Palestinian Arab society.
We stand by every word of that.

The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) has just posted the findings of its latest opinion poll conducted in "the West Bank and the Gaza Strip between 25 June and 1 July 2018". PSR is headed by a respected professional, Dr. Khalil Shikaki. We know him only by his work and reputation; we have no personal connection. We have reported on his organization's past findings at intervals over the past four years - here are some of the posts we wrote:

The latest PSR Public Opinion Poll is Number 68 and was released yesterday. It's based on a survey sample of 2,150 adults interviewed face to face in 127 randomly selected locations. Margin of error is 2.5%. Some of the findings that caught our attention:

How rotten are their lives? Palestinian Arab society is highly dysfunctional on multiple plains, and strongly marked by very wide citizen fear of its own institutions. How strongly? 60% of them (maybe read that again - sixty percent!) say people cannot criticize the PA "without fear". This may be connected to the next finding - that "perception of corruption" is 80%. We interpret this to mean that eight out ten of them believe the people with whom they are forced to deal in the PA and Hamas regime offices are on the take or applying wrong and subjective criteria and will put personal benefit or other irrelevant interests ahead of doing an honest job. That's a nightmare world.

The downward spiraling of Gaza: The pollsters asked what they call an open-ended question: which party or which side is causing the worsening of conditions in the Gaza Strip? 34% say it's Israel - no great surprise given the full-blast hate messaging emanating from Hamas. But what of the other two thirds? So 26% blame Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority; and despite the thuggish grip they and their Islamist insiders have over Gaza, no fewer than 20% believe it's Hamas' fault. Conclusion: most of the anger about Gaza that Palestinian Arabs are willing to express is directed at two of the Palestinian Arab regimes. (They were not given the option of blaming the third Palestinian Arab entity, Jordan.)

Leadership: If Palestinian Arab elections were held now, and they took the form of a two-horse race, Fatah/PA/PLO president-for-life Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas terrorist-in-chief Ismail Haniyeh would produce a near-dead-heat: 47% versus 46%. If the convicted, imprisoned and unrepentant ex-leader of the Fatah/Tanzim terrorist gunmen Marwan Barghouti were to run against the Hamas guy, Barghouti would walk it in: 58% versus 37%. This is not the only indication that Palestinian Arab public opinion respects men who know how to kill (meaning they know how to tell their underlings how to kill).

Abbas go home: From his standpoint, it's good that president-for-life Mahmoud Abbas doesn't have to actually face up to elections, but there is a tiny silver lining to the cloud of rejection that his leadership evokes among ordinary Palestinian Arabs. The latest measure of "satisfaction" with Abbas' leadership is a pathetic 37%; active dissatisfaction stands at 59%. Sounds bad, right? (According to the Gallup Polls website, satisfaction with how President Trump is doing his job is just a bit higher: 41% as of a week ago.) The silver part of this for Abbas is he was doing worse three months ago. Back then, PSR found a dismal 33% were satisfied with his leadership and 68% wanted him out of office immediately. Today 61% of all Palestinian Arabs want to see him leave office immediately. Which isn't entirely bad since 90 days ago it was 62%. (He's doing great by his own standards.)

Jerusalem: The recent relocation of part of the US embassy's functions from its beachside Tel Aviv location to the long-established US consulate in Jerusalem is seen as weakening the Palestinian Arab "position" (we're frankly not certain what that word means in this context - probably the "position" that Jerusalem which has never been the capital city of any Arab entity in history should become "Palestine"'s capital) by most Palestinian Arabs: 55% of them. We're frankly puzzled at the strength of this concern which, in practical terms, has not changed anything on the ground. But being a Palestinian Arab is nothing if not a matter of perceptions and watching over your own shoulder.

Israeli municipal elections: When eligible voters vote on October 30, 2018, most East Jerusalem Arab residents who can vote (holders of so-called Blue Israeli IDs - the vast bulk of the Arabs we see everyday commuting into downtown Jerusalem by car, bus or light rail) say they won't. A mere 22% say they will. We guess going to the election centers comes at a certain price in a community where most people see most officials as dishonest and dangerous. A pity for all of us. But especially for them - especially since other data show they demonstrate a solid, practical and growing connection to living under Israeli sovereignty compared with the past ["Jerusalem Palestinians still seek Israeli citizenship despite Trump declaration", USAtoday, December 18, 2017]

The "peace" process: Here's where it gets especially painful - if you believe the widespread and irresponsible media narrative of a desperate Palestinian Arab search for more and better peace with their Israeli neighbors. The most effective means of establishing a Palestinian state next to the state of Israel is, according to respondents to the poll:
Negotiation: 39% (West Bankers 41%; Gazans 35%)
Armed "resistance": 34%
"Non-violent resistance": 22%. We could write an essay about the gulf that separates that simple-seeming term and what the highly immoderate "moderate" Abbas and his cohort mean when they use it. In fact, we have written several - click for some. We especially recommend "18-Aug-17: On vehicle rammings, Mahmoud Abbas, moderate advocate for terror, is open-minded, sees both sides".
What do the Israelis want? A large majority of Palestinian Arabs, 58% of them, say Israel’s "long-term aspiration" (undefined) is to expand Israel to stretch from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea and to expel the Palestinian Arabs. A more moderate view, held by 21% of Palestinian Arabs, is that Israel plans to annexe "the occupied territories" (undefined) and then "deny the Palestinian citizens their rights" (undefined). Fewer than one in five Palestinian Arabs think Israel’s intention is to withdraw from all or parts of those occupied territories after ensuring its security.
AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed
If there's a single take-away that we wish the Western media would absorb from this and all the previous poll results we have posted here, it's that among Palestinian Arabs there's far less belief in their own leaders than a difficult process like making peace needs. This trumps all the better-publicized problems like the endless rivalry between the Fatah people and the overtly-Islamist people, and the sense among the Arabs that the Israelis want to kill them all, expel them all or absorb them all while stealing their rights. 
There is literally no possibility of a deeply split society (which is what the Palestinian Arabs surely have) even starting the process of adjusting their expectations towards the compromise that peace necessarily demands. That will remain true so long as the leadership is steeped in personal and institutional corruption, a total unwilling to surrender power or even submit to elections and obsessively focused on the need for outsiders - the UN agencies in general and UNRWA in particular - to solve Palestinian Arabs' economic and development problems.

Though they never seem to be asked about this by pollsters, what will it take for ordinary Palestinian Arabs to see that their collective destiny depends on them and their own initiatives?

This post, like a number of others before it, has been translated to Polish ("Czego chcą Arabowie? W co wierzą? Co myślą?") by courtesy of Malgorzata Koraszewska over on the Listy z naszego sadu website. Our sincere thanks to her, and great appreciation to readers of this blog in Poland.

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