Media Palispins a Poll

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An important press conference took place in Jerusalem last week, with the release of a poll of Palestinian attitudes commissioned by The Israel Project. The findings presented a very mixed bag, some positive and others extremely disturbing.

There were some positives to be taken from the poll such as a majority of Palestinians favoring direct negotiations over violence and a drop in support for Hamas.

However, the poll results also point to a clear problem in how Palestinians perceive the concept of peace with Israel and back up concerns that continuing Palestinian incitement and the failure to recognize Israel’s legitimacy are major obstacles to peace and potentially at the heart of the conflict.

As the Jerusalem Post reports:

Only one in three Palestinians (34 percent) accepts two states for two peoples as the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to an intensive, face-to-face survey in Arabic of 1,010 Palestinian adults in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip completed this week by American pollster Stanley Greenberg. …

  • Respondents were asked about US President Barack Obama’s statement that “there should be two states: Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people and Israel as the homeland for the Jewish people.” Just 34% said they accepted that concept, while 61% rejected it.
  • Sixty-six percent said the Palestinians’ real goal should be to start with a two-state solution but then move to it all being one Palestinian state.
  • Asked about the fate of Jerusalem, 92% said it should be the capital of Palestine, 1% said the capital of Israel, 3% the capital of both, and 4% a neutral international city.
  • Seventy-two percent backed denying the thousands of years of Jewish history in Jerusalem, 62% supported kidnapping IDF soldiers and holding them hostage, and 53% were in favor or teaching songs about hating Jews in Palestinian schools.
  • When given a quote from the Hamas Charter about the need for battalions from the Arab and Islamic world to defeat the Jews, 80% agreed. Seventy-three percent agreed with a quote from the charter (and a hadith, or tradition ascribed to the prophet Muhammad) about the need to kill Jews hiding behind stones and trees.

But how did some of the media cover (or not cover) the poll?

Worst offender was Karl Vick from Time Magazine. Let’s remember that Vick won the 2010 Dishonest Reporter Award for his article “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace“. This was his conclusion based upon anecdotal street interviews with a few unrepresentative Israelis. But what happened when Vick was presented with statistical evidence that it may be Palestinians and not Israelis who have issues with peace?

According to Vick:

Palestinians are trudging down the same long road as Israelis. Yes, they want peace. No, they don’t think the other side will play ball.  So for now their priority is private life: Getting food on the table and keeping the kids safe.

So let’s try to clear up Vick’s fuzzy logic. When a few random Israelis prioritized private issues over diplomacy, they aren’t interested in peace according to Vick’s previous artice. But in his latest offering, when Palestinians say the same thing, they are presented as pro-peace despite rejecting a two-state solution and expounding Jew hatred.

And is Vick now renouncing his “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace” article by presenting both Israelis and Palestinians as wanting the same things? We invite Vick to publicly repudiate that article if this really is the case.

While Vick at least mentioned some of the negative poll results without drawing the obvious conclusions, AFP failed to cover any of the negatives whatsoever. Could it be that AFP is so one-sidedly pro-Palestinian that anything that disturbs its conceptual framework is conveniently ignored?

Meanwhile, The Guardian, another media outlet that displays a consistent pro-Palestinian bias buried the poll coverage in an article examining the Palestinian drive towards a statehood declaration. The poll warranted a single paragraph that said nothing of the wider findings:

A recent opinion survey carried out in Gaza and the West Bank by the respected US pollster Stanley Greenberg found that at the top of the priority list for Palestinians were jobs, healthcare, water shortages and education. Mass protests against Israel, and even pursuing peace negotiations, came way down. Asked to choose, two-thirds favoured diplomatic engagement with Israel over violence.

One of the major failings of reporting on the Middle East is the tendency to miss out vital context. Inconvenient truths that reveal intractable mindsets or rejectionism on the Palestinian side are swept under the carpet in order to conform to the accepted framework – that Israel and not the Palestinians are the major obstacle to peace.

Commentary Magazine took the same poll results and came to just this sort of conclusion:

Here’s a poll you will not see covered in your daily paper, because it throws the real cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into uncomfortably stark relief. …

All these findings contradict the accepted wisdom that the root of the problem is Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza, so if Israel would just raze the settlements, peace would break out tomorrow. Withdrawing from the West Bank and Gaza won’t help if Palestinians don’t accept the existence of a Jewish state in any borders and see the two-state solution as a mere stepping-stone toward the ultimate goal of Israel’s eradication – exactly as prescribed by the PLO’s famous Phased Plan of 1974, which called  for establishing a “Palestinian national authority” in any territory available and then using it as a base for “completing the liberation of all Palestinian territory.” It seems for most Palestinians, almost 20 years of peace talks haven’t changed this ultimate goal one whit.

 

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