If you pay any attention to advocates for the Palestinians outside the Middle East, you would think that the people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are mostly interested in settlements, boycotts, “occupation,” savaging Israel, and achieving a two-state solution. You have to wonder if these activists ever speak to Palestinians in the territories because when pollsters ask their opinion you discover their interests are quite different.
The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) conduced its latest poll this month and found that “an overwhelming majority of the Palestinian public is worried about the future of liberties in Palestine.” Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank, and Hamas in Gaza, both deny Palestinians their basic civil rights – freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly. Women’s rights are virtually non-existent and there is zero tolerance of LGBTQ Palestinians.
As I’ve written before, advocates who claim to care deeply about the welfare of the Palestinians never stand up for their rights in the Palestinian Authority or criticize the authoritarian rule of Abbas. When was the last time the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Arab-American Institute, Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, CAIR or any other pro-Palestinian group spoke out against the abuses? They only find their voices if they can find some way to blame the Jews because they prefer anti-Israel propaganda to aiding Palestinians.
Palestinians oppressed by their leaders know better. While advocates abroad are free to speak out, but do not, journalists and activists in the territories are routinely arrested. More than 80% of respondents said the PA does not have the right to detain activists such as Issa Amro, who was arrested and reportedly beaten for criticizing the PA’s detention of Palestinian journalist Ayman al-Qawasmi. Most Palestinians admit, however, they are afraid to criticize the Palestinian Authority.
When asked what they consider the most serious problem confronting Palestinian society, the public ranks poverty and unemployment, and the spread of corruption in public institutions as their top two concerns. Only 23% say it is the continuation of occupation and settlement activities. When was the last time you heard a Palestinian activist talk about poverty and corruption?
While Abbas periodically threatens to disband the PA in response to Israeli actions, as if this would somehow punish the Israelis, 50% of Palestinians wish he would because they consider the PA “a burden on the Palestinian people.” A whopping 67% of the public want Abbas to resign (80% of Gazans) and 65% are dissatisfied with his performance as president.
We hear a lot from Israel’s detractors about the blockade of Gaza, which was precipitated by Hamas terror attacks, but Gazans are increasingly angry with Abbas. According to the survey, “Gazans are moving away from Fatah and the Palestinian leadership in an unprecedented way” because of sanctions he imposed on the Gaza Strip to try to pressure people there to turn on Hamas.
Given the conditions in the PA, it is not surprising that 43% of Gazans and 22% of West Bank Palestinians say they want to immigrate to other countries. Note too how you never hear Palestinians or their supporters calling for people to move to the PA to build the state or fight for independence, one of many contrasts with the Jewish commitment to their homeland.
Advocates for the Palestinians who tend to be hostile toward peace talks and a two-state solution are more in tune with the people in the territories. Nearly three-fourths of the public don’t think the Trump administration is serious about reaching a peace agreement and 55% are opposed to accepting an invitation from the administration to resume negotiations with Israel. A slim majority – 52%-47% – support the two-state solution; 31% favor a one-state solution.
One positive development in the survey was an increase in support for non-violent resistance (still only 26%), which the pollsters attribute to the success in forcing Israel to remove metal detectors from the entrance to the Temple Mount. The survey also found, however, that support for violence increased and 35% of the public believes it is the most effective means of achieving independence. More ominously, 45% support a return to an armed intifada in the absence of peace negotiations.
One interesting finding is that the Palestinians seem to have developed a more realistic view of the importance of their cause to the Arab world. While some advocates (and Arabists) perpetuate the myth that the Palestinian issue is central to the stability of the Middle East, 77% of Palestinians believe “the Arab world is too preoccupied with its own concerns, internal conflicts, and the conflict with Iran, and that Palestine is no longer the Arab’s principal or primary issue or cause.”
Advocates for Israel are sometimes accused of blindly supporting the Israeli government when in fact there are no shortage of critics of Israel’s leaders and policies. The same cannot be said of the Palestinians’ friends.
The selective outrage and morality of advocates for the Palestinians is apparent from their silence when it comes to the mistreatment of Palestinians by their leaders. Their hypocritical obsession with Israel’s real and imagined sins highlights their insincerity and reveals that most care less about the welfare of the Palestinians than the demonization, if not destruction, of Israel.
Dr. Mitchell Bard is the author/editor of 24 books including the 2017 edition of Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict, The Arab Lobby, and the novel After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.