The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, a research organization and think tank based in Ramallah that has proven to be the most reliable source on population trends and changes in the Palestinian Authority, this week released a disturbing and/or exciting survey, depending on one’s point of view, titled, “Settler Terrorism is the Biggest Threat to West Bank Residents.”
Now, the term “settler violence” has been used in recent months by the leftist media and President Joe Biden to malign a population of half a million Jews for the crime of defending itself against relentless terrorist attacks on the roads and occasionally inside their homes. However, the purpose of this survey was not to establish whether such as thing as “settler violence” existed, but rather the impact of this idea on the Arabs living under the Palestinian Authority.
The reason I chose to report on this survey is simple: as part of the changing attitudes on the Israeli side following the massacre of October 7, many in Israel, possibly wall-to-wall from right to left, have decided once and for all that it is much better to be feared than loved in the tumultuous region where our biblical ancestors were instructed by God to pitch their tents. It is heartwarming to see in real numbers how clearly our enemies have internalized this message. The Arabs of Gaza and Lebanon now know that attacking Israeli Jews leads to their certain death. Now, the Arabs of Judea and Samaria also get it.
Conducted between September 28 and October 12, 2023, the survey polled a representative sample of 795 PA adults interviewed face to face before the eruption of the Gaza Strip war, except for 13 interviews conducted after; and an additional sample of 580 adults, all but 20 of whom were interviewed face to face between October 7 and 12, during the first six days of the war.
These interviews were conducted in the areas “most vulnerable to settlers’ attacks,” particularly those outside the jurisdiction of the PA police, and the survey’s authors note, “Therefore, we expect the attitudes of the respondents in these areas to be influenced by the unfolding conditions after the war.”
A SUMMARY OF THE SURVEY’S MAIN RESULTS
The sense of danger extends to all the areas where PA Arabs live, Areas C and B, and also Area A. There are some areas where this sense of danger is overwhelming and is felt by most of the citizens. The concerns of the PA Arab population include fear of attacks on their homes and property, as well as the fear of displacement or forced relocation to safer areas.
The findings show that the PA Arab public has little trust in the protection of the Israeli army, nor does it trust the protection of the PA police. Instead, it sees the formation of armed groups, in areas experiencing these threats, as the most effective and realistic response to protect these communities from “settler terrorism.” The findings also indicate that the PA Arab public does not show confidence in the feasibility of relying on the formation of unarmed groups, as this response is the least supported by the public.
The refusal to rely on the Israeli army is due to a widespread conviction that the army itself poses an additional threat to the citizens. The majority of residents who claim to be experiencing “settler attacks” say that the army supports the settlers in waging these attacks, while two-thirds of all PA Arabs say that the IDF stands by and allows these attacks to unfold. Only less than a tenth of the population believes the IDF seeks to stop or prevent such attacks.
The findings show several reasons why the PA Arab public is reluctant to ask for protection from the PA police, foremost among them is the belief that the PA police does not see its duty as protecting the PA Arab citizens from those “settler attacks,” and that, as a result, it does not provide such protection even in the areas under its jurisdiction. Half the public believes that the performance of the PA police in their area of residence has worsened compared to the situation a year or two ago. A very small percentage says that security conditions today are better than they were in the past four years, and a majority say they have worsened. In fact, a little more than half say that the PA police do not protect them even from attacks by other PA Arabs.
Finally, the findings in the special areas, where additional samples were utilized and interviews conducted after the eruption of the current Israel-Hamas war, show significantly higher threat perception than in similar interviews conducted before the war. The rising fear reflects a growing concern that the settlers are taking advantage of two war-related developments: the shifting of attention to the Gaza Strip, and the blockade and restrictions imposed by the Israeli army on the movement of the area residents. The residents fear that these developments create an environment in which the settlers can carry out “terrorist attacks” against the residents of the vulnerable areas with full impunity and, many believe, with the complicity of the Israeli army.
A vast majority of 69% of all PA Arabs say they fear future “settler attacks.” This percentage rises to 80% in Area C and similar areas, drops to 73% in Area B, and drops to 61% in Area A. When looking at specific areas, the survey found that the fear of “settler terrorism” escalates to 96% in those areas that claim to have witnessed or are still claiming that such “attacks” take place, whether they are in Areas B and C. It stands at 93% in the H2 area in Hebron, 75% in the entire expanded Area C, and drops to 55% among residents of eastern Jerusalem.
Finally, the authors asked the public about the most effective means of responding to “settler terrorism.”
Nearly half of the public said that forming armed groups is the most effective option and this is the strongest option among residents of the H2 area (64%), then residents of areas that have claimed being displaced or attacked by settlers (58%), eastern Jerusalem (54%), residents of Area A (46%), B (44%) and the entire expanded Area C (39%).
The option of deploying PA police forces in those areas came in second place, receiving the support of one-fifth of the population. The total population of the expanded Area C chose this option more than the rest of the areas (31%) while the lowest percentage of H2 residents (13%) chose it.
The Israeli army option also came in second, with one-fifth of the population opting for it. The largest percentage favoring this option came from residents of Areas B and A (29% and 20% respectively), and the lowest percentage (4%) came from H2, and Area C (7%).
The option of forming unarmed groups came in last place, with only one-tenth of the population choosing it. The largest percentage in favor of this option (20%) came from the residents of the H2 area, and the lowest percentage (3%) came from residents of isolated Jerusalem areas. It is clear that the majority of the Palestinian public does not see this option as an effective or realistic solution in the face of “settler threats and violence.”