[News] What do Palestinians really think?

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Aug 28 12:12:35 EDT 2007

What do Palestinians really think?
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, Aug 27, 2007

"Palestinian poll finds support for Fatah government over Hamas." 
That headline from the International Herald Tribune, one of many 
similar ones last week, must have warmed the hearts of supporters of 
the illegal, unelected and Israeli-backed Ramallah "government" of 
Salam Fayyad. Last June Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas 
dismissed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas and the national 
unity government he headed, and appointed Fayyad without the legally 
required endorsement of the Palestinian legislative council. This 
followed Hamas' rout of the US and Israeli-backed militias of Fatah 
warlord Mohammed Dahlan in the Gaza Strip.

Does this poll vindicate the US and Israeli strategy of funding and 
arming Palestinian collaborator leaders in Ramallah, and Abbas' 
strategy of embracing Israel, cracking down on the resistance, 
colluding in a cruel siege on his people in Gaza, and refusing all 
dialogue with Hamas? A closer look at the poll results as well as the 
context suggests the opposite.

The poll's publisher, the Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre 
(JMCC), trumpeted that a "majority" of Palestinians "said the 
performance of Fayyad's government is better" than that of the 
democratically-elected government of Haniyeh who is still the de 
facto prime minister despite Abbas' dismissal order.

In fact the results claim 46.5 percent preferring Fayyad's 
performance (a plurality not a majority) as against 24.4 percent 
preferring Haniyeh's performance since the events in June. (See JMCC 
poll number 62, August 2007 

Still, if true, that would be an impressive achievement for Abbas and 
Fayyad. The poll also states that were new legislative elections 
held, 38 percent would vote for Fatah, while just 24 percent would 
vote for Hamas -- with Fatah retaining a lead in both the West Bank and Gaza.

Yet there are good reasons to believe that this poll, like all 
previous polls taken by JMCC and other organizations, overestimates 
support for Fatah and understates support for Hamas by a wide margin. 
(Recall that all the polls erroneously predicted a comfortable win 
for Fatah in the January 2006 legislative election, and the 2005 
municipal elections).

According to its methodology, this poll included face-to-face 
interviews with 1,199 Palestinians in randomly selected households 
throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Let us suppose that is the case.

Abbas has effectively declared Hamas illegal and his Israeli-backed 
security forces are working alongside Israeli occupation troops to 
carry out mass arrests of its supporters. Israel continues to carry 
out mass kidnappings and extrajudicial executions of Hamas members 
and other Palestinian resistance activists, aided by an extensive 
network of collaborators working inside and outside Palestinian 
official institutions, and some non-governmental organizations. Under 
such circumstances it is not surprising that true support for Hamas 
(as measured by secret ballots in elections) has always been much 
higher than that to which people are willing to admit in face-to-face 
interviews with strangers whose affiliations they cannot easily assess.

Second, when Palestinians are being asked to evaluate "performance" 
it is not clear what they are being asked to assess. Does the 
question take into account the fact that the democratically-elected 
Hamas government was barely able to function from the time it took 
office in March 2006 due to the kidnapping of half its cabinet by 
Israel, the US-EU-Israeli siege which deprived it of its rightful 
revenues even to pay salaries, sabotage by Dahlan's gangs, and since 
June the total blockade of Gaza that has virtually shut down its 
economy? (The latest ploy was the apparent collusion by Israel, the 
European Union and Abbas advisors to cut off Gaza's electricity on 
the basis of accusations, denied by a Gaza electricity company 
official, that Hamas was siphoning off revenues).

At the same time, Abbas and Fayyad are receiving hundreds of millions 
of dollars from their foreign patrons. Not really a fair comparison. 
But given their advantages Abbas and Fayyad are doing remarkably 
poorly even as measured by the poll.

While 44 percent of Gaza residents polled said their own security 
situation has improved since Hamas took over (and 31 percent said it 
had gotten worse), only 17 percent of West Bank residents polled say 
their security situation has improved living under Abbas and Fayyad, 
while 36.5 percent said it had deteriorated.

More than half of those polled were "dissatisfied" with Abbas' 
performance, while just a fifth were "very satisfied."

Overall, 26 percent of Palestinians under occupation said the Fayyad 
government should be "canceled" and the national unity government 
(which had been headed by Haniyeh) restored to office (21 percent in 
the West Bank and 34 percent in Gaza). Only 17 percent thought the 
Haniyeh government should be "canceled" so that Fayyad could rule 
over the West Bank and Gaza (18 percent in the West Bank, 16 percent 
in Gaza). Read another way this suggests that just 17 percent of 
Palestinians under occupation view the Fayyad government as being the 
legitimate authority.

A majority of Palestinians wanted to see a return to dialogue and 
national unity -- a rejection of Abbas' intransigent refusal to talk to Hamas.

Asked which leaders they trust most, Abbas came highest with 18 
percent (17 percent in the West Bank, 20 percent in Gaza). Haniyeh 
came a close second at 16 percent (11 percent in West Bank, 25 
percent in Gaza). Salam Fayyad came in fifth at just 3.5 percent, 
scoring the same in both territories. Almost a third of Palestinians 
said they didn't trust anyone.

Asked who they would vote for in a presidential election, those 
polled gave statistically equal support to both Abbas and Haniyeh (21 
percent and 19 percent), while Fayyad got five percent.

If the poll shows weak support for Abbas and Fayyad (and great 
disaffection with all political factions), it shows outright 
rejection of Abbas' capitulationist approach to peace negotiations 
with Israel. Canceling the right of return, allowing Israeli 
settlements to stay, and giving up most of Jerusalem in exchange for 
a Palestinian statelet on a fraction of the West Bank are reportedly 
at the heart of the "agreement of principles" that Abbas is 
negotiating with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Almost 70 percent of Palestinians under occupation, according to the 
poll, adhere to the right of "return of all refugees to their 
original land." Another 12 percent envisage the return of only some 
refugees to their original lands. Just seven percent of those polled 
agreed with the position that no refugees should return home at all.

Eighty-two percent opposed allowing Israel to retain control of 
"major settlement blocs inside the West Bank in exchange for equal 
Israeli land," and 94 percent rejected "keeping Israel's authority in 
the area of Al-Aqsa mosque" in Jerusalem.

Peace process industry propagandists routinely claim that a two-state 
solution is overwhelmingly supported by the vast majority of 
Palestinians. This has never been true (millions of Palestinian 
refugees and exiles outside the country have never been included in 
elections, and are not regularly polled). This poll indicates that 
among Palestinians under occupation, support for a two-state solution 
is at just 51 percent (49 percent in the West Bank and 54 percent in 
Gaza). At the same time support for "a binational state in all of 
Palestine where Palestinians and Israeli [sic] enjoy equal 
representation and rights" is now supported by 30 percent (roughly 
similar in both territories).

Support for a two-state solution remains remarkably anemic, given the 
massive efforts invested in promoting it, while support for a 
one-state solution is impressively high and continues to creep 
upwards despite the fact that no major political faction or leader 
has openly endorsed it and so much effort is invested in discrediting it.

There are legitimate concerns about the methodology of the JMCC poll, 
the phrasing of questions and the context. At least one blogger cast 
doubt on it because the pollster, Ghassan Khatib, has served numerous 
times as a minister in the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. 

Nevertheless, whatever doubts there are, this poll merely confirms 
that Palestinians under occupation remain united on the fundamentals 
of their cause. Despite the conspiracy they face to starve and 
brutalize them into giving up their rights, the Palestinian people 
are steadfast in defending them.

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of 
<http://electronicintifada.net/bytopic/store/548.shtml>One Country: A 
Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

Freedom Archives
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