Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews -- For those who like their news and truths frank and sharp

Do Arab Palestinians Want Secular or Religious Law to Lord Over Them? Don’t Believe the Journalists!

Statistics are often like swimwear: They hide the places you’re most interested in – my father, Nathan van Zuiden

My first reason to doubt any numbers in the press is that journalists may be completely honest, and their editors too, but most of these people chose journalism because they were good at languages and like people. For some reason that I don’t completely understand, proficiency in language and social sciences on the one hand and math and natural science on the other frequently seem mutually exclusive. Because I’m mediocre in both, I regularly find mistakes in numbers in journalists’ texts – in the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

The second reason for questionable statistics is that they can be complicated. It’s a specialism in itself. However, a bit of common sense can reveal a lot about the sense or nonsense in stats.

The third reason for mistaken conclusions from data is anything from wishful “thinking” to outright cheating. Yet, when figures are manipulated, often a trace of the truth can still be spotted.

An Example

The item Palestinian Authority: 85% say they want Sharia law reported about a recent opinion poll: “Over 85% (!) said that the Palestinian Personal Status Law must be based on the principles of Islamic Sharia.” This immediately raised my suspicion. So I delved into the details. My intuition was spot-on.

The above quote continued: “Half of these said it must be exclusively Sharia, while the other half said it should be based both on Sharia and civil law. Only 14.7% said it should be based only on civil law.”

That would mean that most of them do not want to live in an open democratic society. Really? Not really! Let’s first not take these figures at face-value.

The “42.5% want only religious law” cannot be what it seems. How were these numbers obtained? Face-to-face interviews at people’s homes. Just imagine: In a police state (the Palestinian Authority) or under a dictatorship (Gaza), where police can lift anyone from their bed, drive them away and torture or kill them, someone comes to your home, says “I’m a journalist and I want to ask you a few questions, totally confidentially.” Would you tell them the truth if that meant that you were critical of the rulers? I wouldn’t. So this 42.5% may mean nothing at all.

How disturbing it would be if most people under Arab Palestinian occupation would in their heart of hearts be for unrestrained Islamic Law. However, if they would believe that Islam is important but should be tempered by Modernity – o, that is a whole different ballgame.

Therefore, the 42.5% that want Religious Law modified by Modernity should be added to the 14.7% who want unbridled Secular Law.

That means:

  • Until 42.5% want only religious law, if any.
  • At least 57.2% (42.5% + 14.7%) want Secular Law, or Secular Law combined with Religious Law.

That means that even under the threat of punishment for their opinion, more than 50% voiced their wish for a Modern System of Law.

That sounds very different from the headline. Same figures, just presented differently, more truthfully.

That is good news and completely the opposite of the heading that seemed to say that these oppressed Arab Palestinians like their political oppression.

And this does not even calculate in, that the journalists and researchers of the poll (working in a police state) may have lied altogether – although lying is such a popular sport in Arab Culture.

For now, I’ll leave the other numbers from the article. I just wanted to show: Never believe numbers before you had a chance to learn some details and had some time to think about them.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, previously a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. He doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and educations contribute to his visions. * This year, he will prioritize getting his unpublished books published rather than just blog posts. Next year, he hopes to focus on activism against human extinction. To find less-recent posts on a subject XXX among his over 1400 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe, here: https://mmvanzuiden.wordpress.com/ or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. However, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people when don't deserve that. (Yet, we all make honest mistakes, which is just fine and does not justify losing support.) He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight reality), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * Chronologically, his most influential teachers are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. This short list doesn't mean to disrespect others who taught him a lot or a little. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. When he can, he loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. Read his blog on how he attempts to bridge any tensions between those ideas or fields. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), born in 1953 to his parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too, and decades more to admit to being a genius. But his humility was his to keep. And so was his honesty. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. He hopes to bring new things and not just preach to the choir. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, powerful therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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