Thursday, April 2, 2015

Arab poll results: security, elections, boycott--and Israel?

The Palestinian Authority (PA) news service has published results of a poll taken March 26-28, 2015 (“Majority of Palestinians support end to security cooperation”, April 1, 2015). The poll asked about issues that have appeared in recent official PA statements--a call to end security coordination between the PA and Israel; and a call to boycott all Israeli goods and products. In addition, the poll asked for feedback on possible PA presidential elections.

The last PA presidential election was held November, 2004. At that time, Mahmoud Abbas was elected to serve a four year term. That term expired January 2009. He’s remained the unelected president since then.

In the Palestinian Authority, the ruling Party—Abbas’ Fatah—governs (and monitors) the press through the Palestinian basic law and the 1995 Press and Publication Law (“Freedom of the Press 2014: West Bank and Gaza Strip”, Freedom House, no date). These laws state that there should be ‘no censorship’ in the press (ibid).  But Freedom House, in its most recent annual survey on Freedom of the Press, considers the PA press to be ‘Not Free’ (ibid). The reason for this comes from a provision in these laws that allow for official press suppression if press activity threatens ‘national unity’ and ‘Palestinian values’ (ibid). The law’s vague terminology gives authorities the ability to impede and suppress the press any time it wants (ibid).

Given this reality, polls taken in the PA can be interesting.  Such polls usually reveal support for official policy. But whenever people are suppressed or restricted by ruling authorities, people always seem to find a way to show ‘dissatisfaction’. This poll is no exception.

For example, because PA officials have called to cancel security coordination with Israel, this poll shows 59 per cent of respondents agreeing. This result was no surprise. What might surprise, however, are suggestions of dissatisfaction embedded other responses: first, only 26 percent of respondents believed the PA will actually cancel security coordination with Israel; and, second, 32 per cent reported that they wanted to see the Palestinian Authority dissolved.

Again, in line with an official call—this time, to boycott all Israeli goods and products--74 per cent agreed. But when questioned about personal shopping habits, only 51 per cent said they purchased only Palestinian products. 10 per cent said they buy only Israeli products. 33 per cent chose a more nuanced response: they bought a product based on quality regardless of origin.

Regarding new presidential elections, 77 per cent said they’d participate in a presidential election if it were held. But then, 42 per cent indicated they didn’t believe such an election would be fair.

Apparently, no question appeared to ask if Arabs under PA rule would prefer to be citizens of Israel or citizens of ‘Palestine’.

In a 2011 survey conducted in East Jerusalem by the Pechter Middle East Polls in partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations, this question was put to Arabs (Natasha Mozgovaya, “Would East Jerusalem Arabs rather be citizens of Israel or Palestine?”, Haaretz, January 13, 2011). According to this poll, 30 per cent said they’d choose citizenship in ‘Palestine’ over citizenship in Israel. But then 35 per cent said they’d choose Israel over ‘Palestine’. The remainder had either no response, or chose not to give a response.

When asked what ‘most people in your neighbourhood’ would prefer, 31 per cent thought that most people preferred Palestinian citizenship. But 39 percent said that most in their Arab neighbourhood preferred Israeli citizenship. Once again, the remainder either declined to answer or said they didn’t know.

When asked if they would leave their neighbourhood if it became part of Israel, 27 per cent said they’d leave. But 54 per cent said they wouldn’t.

In 2012, the anti-Israel site +972 reported that a growing number of Arabs living in East Jerusalem have begun—quietly—to make application to become Israeli citizens (“Quietly, East Jerusalem Palestinians acquiring Israeli citizenship”, May 20, 2012).

In 2014, Arabs outside Jerusalem indicated similar tendencies (Leon Hadar, “Israel's Arabs: Not Zionists, But Israelis”, National Interest, January 15, 2014).  It appears that, in at least one respect, Israeli Arabs are the same as Jewish-Israelis: their major sport is complaining about Israel (ibid). But for many of these Arabs in Israel, those complaints don’t change their bottom line: however they complain, they don’t want to leave Israel (ibid).

To those who believe Arab propaganda about ‘brutal Israeli oppression’, such poll results from Israeli Arabs will seem shocking. But to those of us who live here with eyes open, there is no shock. These results ring true.

Those who choose Israeli citizenship do so because of the freedom of movement in Israel, higher income, better job opportunities and Israeli health insurance (Mozgovaya, above, ibid). Put another way, they choose Israel over ‘Palestine’ because they prefer the relative political and economic freedom (and security) they enjoy in a western society like Israel over what they’d get in a ‘Palestine’ (Hadar, ibid).

By contrast, those who chose Palestinian citizenship referred only to nationalism and patriotism (Mozgovaya, ibid).

Perhaps there’s a reason PA Arabs living under PA rule weren’t asked if they’d prefer ‘Palestine’ citizenship over Israeli citizenship. Perhaps too many would prefer the supposed hell of Israel to the supposed benefits of the PA.


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