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Sunday, June 18, 2006

A note about Palestinian Arab polls

I saw once again today that Westerners are saying that Palestinian Arabs consistently show a preference for a two-state solution in their polls - one a quote from a Georgia congressman, and one from an editorial in the Hartford Courant. Since I researched a recent poll from Bir Zeit University that showed the opposite:
19. As to funding the Palestinian National Authority, which one of these two directions do you support?
1) Hamas continues to reject recognizing Israel, while reaching out to countries like Iran and the Arab world to get funding
60.8%
2) Hamas recognizes Israel and continue to receive funding from the international community
31.0%
I decided to look at other polls and see what they said.

Besides Bir Zeit, the major pollster in the territories is JMCC. Their most recent poll from February 2006 had an interesting, relevant item:
Q17. Some believe that a two-state formula is the favored solution for the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, while others believe that historic Palestine cannot be divided and thus the favored solution is a bi-national state on all of Palestine where Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal representation and rights. Which of these solutions do you prefer?

Two-state solution: an Israeli and a Palestinian 57.9
Bi-national state on all of historic Palestine 22.3
One Palestinian state * 10.5
Islamic state * 2.7
No solution 3.9
Don't know 1.6
No answer 1.1
*These answers were not included as part of the options read to the interviewee

So while the Western media will jump on the "fact" that most Palestinian Arabs appear to support a two-state solution, the poll didn't even ask about whether they would prefer a single Arab or Islamic-only state! And 13% of those polled felt strongly enough about that being the solution that they expressed their opinion without it being one of the choices!

In other words - Palestinian Arab opinion polls don't even ask the right question. Given a choice of an Arab-only state side-by-side with Israel or a state where they have to live with Jews as equals, they would rather be separated from the Jews. But how many would choose that option rather than having a single Palestinian Arab state that replaces Israel?

Given the indoctrination that Palestinian Arabs have received since birth, of a map of "Palestine" that stretches from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, it seems that the polls that Westerners like to quote are seriously flawed at best.

The other relevant question is - why didin't the JMCC include these other options in their polls? This is not the first time that they asked that question. Their May, 2005 poll also showed that some 11% of Palestinian Arabs answered that identical question saying that they preferred an Arab or Islamic-only state without it being one of the choices given. It could be that they want to keep the poll questions consistent so they could do accurate trending, or it could be that they don't want the world to know the real answer.

Also relevant is how the Palestinian Arab public looks at negotiation with Israel. Consistently they will say that they favor negotiations. This appears superficially to be a good thing. But look again at how questions can be phrased:
Q15. Some believe that the negotiations are the best path to achieve our national goals, whereas others believe that the armed struggle is the best way to do so. Which option is the closest to your opinion?
Through Negotiations 38.8
Through armed struggle 17.9
Through negotiations and armed struggle 40.3

So how do Palestinian Arabs view negotiations? Not surprisingly, they regard negotiations as a tactic to get their state, not as a means to give any concessions. A plurality view negotiations as a parallel track to terror, not a replacement for it. And why not? Historically, negotiations have netted them much from Israel without them having to give up anything concrete.

But you will be hard pressed to find a Western commenter look at these numbers and conclude that a majority of Palestinian Arabs want to continue terror to acheive their "national goals" (a number that, when the question was stated a different way, showed 96% want to continue terror attacks.)

Either way, to say that Palestinian Arabs consistently want a peaceful solution to their conflict with Israel and a two-state solution living in peace is not at all borne out by any poll I have yet seen, when one actually looks at the real numbers and not at the press release that accompanies the poll results.