What do people actually think?
Until better mind-reading technology is developed, the one way to gauge the opinions people hold is to ask themand to use proven survey methods to measure and understand the answers. Perfect? No, but it’s hard to deny that professionally conducted surveys give us some insight.
The Palestinian Arabs have several active survey organizations that periodically test viewpoints and trends. One of the more prominent is the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), headed by Dr. Khalil Shikaki. His office put out a release on Sunday [online here] analyzing what it calls “Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No. 46”. It contains a wealth of insights which have gotten very little coverage in the news media. This is a shame because, being a Palestinian Arab analysis of Palestinian Arab opinion, it would appear to be saying something worth hearing.
The analysis, carried out with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Ramallah, covers a swathe of issues, and is certainly worth a few minutes of reading time. The old saying goes that there are lies, damned lies and statistics. Even so, these findings, based on surveys done in December 2012 after the UN decision to make the Palestinians a non-member state, and following the ceasefire in Gaza, are real and well documented even if (as with all surveys) the analysis behind them is open to discussion.
We’ll jump to the terrorism question. Asked (via Question 61) whether they support armed attacks against Israelicivilians inside Israel (code terms to mean “we are not asking you about Israeli soldiers” and “we are not asking you about attacks in the so-called occupied territories, but inside the pre-1967 borders“) , responses fell into three groups reflecting each of the two Palestinian Arab regimes as well as both taken together.
* Certainly support armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel – and live in Gaza: 23.7%
* Certainly support armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel – and live in West Bank: 10.5%
* Certainly support armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel – both groups taken together: 15.5%
Let’s call them the hard core. And the masses?
* Support armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel – and live in Gaza: 42.9
* Support armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel – and live in West Bank: 30.8%
* Support armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel – both groups taken together: 35.3%
Add these together, and you get 66% of Gazan Palestinian Arabs, and 41.3% of West Bank Palestinian Arabs whosupport, or certainly support, armed attacks on civilians if they are Israelis and even if, presumably, they don’t live in the “occupied territories” and even if (it follows) those Israelis are opposed to Israel being in the “occupied territories”.
The report goes on to analyze Palestinian Arab support for terrorism – which is the plain meaning of deliberate, targeted armed attacks on innocent civilians – by various sub-groups. Palestinian Arab terrorism is
* more popular in the Gaza Strip (46%) than in the West Bank (39%)
preferred by more men (47%) than women (35%)
* the choice of those whose use the Internet daily (46%) compared with those who use it once a month (24%)
* overwhelmingly the preferred option of Hamas supporters (63%) compared with supporters of Fatah (25%).
And here’s a show stopper for those who have still not absorbed one of the central lessons to be learned about terrorism and its proponents:
* Educated people, as measured by those who have a first degree from a university, give terrorism 47% support. Palestinian Arab illiterates give terrorism slightly less support: 39%
* Students support terrorism to exactly the same extent as bachelor degree holders do: 47%. But so-called simple folk – in this case, farmers, housewives, laborers, and retirees – give it less support: 30%, 34%, 35%, and 37% respectively.
That Israelis overwhelmingly prefer peace to fighting ought to be beyond doubt. Sadly it’s not, thanks to tendentious reporting and frequent distortions propagated in the media.
Sometimes these come from those who occupy the bedrock levels of terrorism’s support structure: the Iranians for instance. Their PressTV newsagency published a report on Sunday headlined “Peace and Israel will never coexist“. And sometimes, far more thoughtful but often no less damaging or even more so, you have published viewpoints like that of one of Israel’s great contemporary cultural figures Amos Oz.
Two years ago, Oz famously wrote that “peace will come, because a majority of both peoples want it” though he almost certainly knew this was only half right. Now he’s quoted in The Guardian warning of Israel’s slide towards apartheid. It’s an analysis that makes a small amount of sense (not what he said but why he said it) when you see him as an activist for the beleagured, extreme-left Meretz Party and an advocate on their behalf in the current Knesset elections campaign. But in its content it’s a shamefully mischievous and wrong statement that, along with many others like it, serves as a fig-leaf for the deep and significant admiration of terrorism as a strategy we find consistently expressed in surveys of Palestinian Arab opinion.
Getting to peace would go smoother and faster if the deep, generations-long addiction of Arab society to terrorism were to be addressed honestly and directly instead of papered-over and denied.
(About the Palestinian Arab Terrorism Index we mentioned in the title: it doesn’t actually exist but perhaps it should.)
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Frimet and Arnold Roth