We've seen numerous times how easily Palestinian Arab "eyewitnesses" lie to the media to make Israel look as bad as possible. Not nearly as often, we've seen journalists actually go a little beyond the sound bites and find Arabs who will go against the conventional wisdom and tell the truth - but almost invariably, they demand to remain anonymous.
There is a very simple reason that this occurs: fear.
The latest poll from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research asks a very simple question:
In your view, can people in the Gaza Strip/West Bank today criticize the authority without fear?
The percentage of Gazans who answered "no" about their territory was 71.2%. This would not surprise most observers.
But the percentage of West Bank Arabs who answered "no" to the same question about their territory was nearly as high: 68.4% (or 71% of those who answered the question.)
More than two out of every three people who live in the West Bank feel fearful of simply criticizing their government. The same government that Western journalists and pundits are falling over themselves to praise as transparent and progressive has instilled a culture of fear that is nearly as pervasive as the one in Gaza! It might have improved in the past couple of years (as this poll seems to indicate) but it is nowhere near the paradise of progressiveness that the media has been breathlessly reporting.
Another question illustrates the fear that both Gazans and West Baners have of their governments:
To what extent are you worried or not worried that you or a member of your family could be hurt in your daily life by other Palestinians such as those affiliated with Fateh or Hamas?
The answers for West Bank and Gaza were again very similar - 48% of Gazans were worried or very worried about being hurt by other Palestinian Arabs, but 45% of West Bankers have that same fear.
There cannot be true freedom as long as people are afraid to publicly criticize their own leaders. Yet the world supports the establishment of yet another state without basic freedom of expression.
Isn't that a problem?