|From the survey result’s home page|
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.
Claims are made freely and often about their aspirations. Very often, though, the data tell a very different story.
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.
Our previous posts have mostly been based on the published data of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), whose head is Dr. Khalil Shikaki. They include:
- 10-Dec-14: What else do Palestinian Arabs want, beyond the 80% who say killing of ordinary Israelis is a good thing?“
- 22-Sep-15: What do the Palestinian Arabs think?
- 03-Nov-15: What do they mean when the Palestinian Arabs say they oppose terror?
- 14-Dec-15: What do the Palestinian Arabs think?
- 16-May-16: What do the Palestinian Arabs think?
- 15-Jun-16: What do the Palestinian Arabs think?
- 26-Sep-17: What do the Palestinian Arabs think now?
In the wake of the first in a series of violent clashes on Israel’s Gaza border this past Friday and in the days that followed, now seems a good time to revisit what they think (though we don’t have Shikaki data to base ourselves on) and how closely it approximates what those who claim to speak for them are saying.
To set the stage, here’s one view – a robustly Palestinian Arab view – of what the brazenly-mislabeled “March of Return” is:
Palestinians have geared up to mobilize en masse in what has been dubbed as Great March of Return…. a remarkably fresh approach in resistance to Israel’s seven decades of colonialism… Starting Friday 30th March 2018, thousands upon thousands head towards homes and lands from which they were forcibly expelled. Victims of evictions and ethnic cleansing whose losses have never been admitted by Israel despite being acknowledged by the United Nations, have every right under International Law to reclaim the theft of their land. Though month of March each year since 1976 has been commemorated as Land Day, this year sees it expanded in a very creative way. The popular sentiment shared amongst Palestinians in the diaspora as indeed within the suffocating occupied territories is “Returning to our stolen lands and homes is legal under International Law and UN resolutions”. The Great March of Return is thus an affirmation of this inalienable right guaranteed by a substantial number of international conventions… The Great March of Return has the support of all the Palestinian factions – Hamas, Fatah, the PFLP and Islamic Jihad. Expected to continue until 15 May to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, it’s demands will hopefully resonate across all corners of the world: Right of Return to their pre-1948 homes! [“Great March of Return: A New Defiance Campaign“, Iqbal Jassat in Palestine Chronicle, March 31, 2018]
How much support do the so-called “Palestinian factions” have among Palestinian Arabs? A fresh study from An-Najah National University Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies (Poll No. 56) published on March 27, 2018 gives some indications.
(Some technical background: Based on a sample of 1,361 people aged 18 and up and with the right to vote. 861 live in the West Bank, 500 in the Gaza Strip. The sample was drawn randomly. Margin of error about ±3%.)
And a word about elections:
- Palestinian Arab presidential elections are not frequent occurrences. The first were in 1996; Arafat won and died in 2004. The second presidential elections took place on January 9, 2005. Mahmoud Abbas won and was elected to a four year term that has continued ever since.
- Palestinian Arab parliamentary elections were held a year later, in January 2006. Hamas surprisingly defeated the long-dominant Fatah, ending up with 76 seats out of 132. Chaos ensued, followed, in June 2007, by the eruption of open fighting between the armed forces of Fatah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The winners of the blood-bath were Hamas who remain in control there until today. No parliamentary elections have happened in the past 12 years.
So given the lack of appeal of the major peace concepts that have dominated discussions for many years, how do the Palestinian Arabs now feel about violence as a way forward?
- There was an assassination attempt on the life of the PA prime minister Rami Hamdallah on March 13, 2018 as his motorcade crossed from Israel into the Gaza Strip. He escaped unhurt but the PA made clear it held Hamas responsible. It stopped short of directly accusing the Islamist rivals. The An-Najah poll asked respondents who they believed was behind the attack. 17.2% said it was Hamas. 8.7% said Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas’ party faction. 24.9% thought it was one of the smaller Palestinian Arab factions, but by far the largest vote was (not so surprisingly) that the Israelis did it: 32.2%. Outside the echo chamber of the Palestinian Arab world, there doesn’t seem to be much support for blaming Israel.
- There is massive Palestinian Arab support for the view that the Americans can no longer be trusted as “an impartial peace broker between Israel and the Palestinians” in the wake of Trump‘s stated recognition that Jerusalem, after 70 years of being the modern state of Israel’s capital, is indeed its capital. The rejection rate of the Americans, among Palestinian Arab respondents, is no less than 93.5% – practically a unanimous verdict.
Do these data provide a basis for optimism about anything? Not really. But that’s not really the question. As we noted in our report on one of the previous (December 2016) Shikaki polls:
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.