Earlier I reported on Khalil Shikaki’s most recent Palestinian public opinion survey, noting the increased support for Hamas and the decline in support for Fatah that it quantified. But I neglected to notice another important finding which one of my vociferous opponents has proffered as supposed proof of the undying perfidy of the Palestinians. The International Herald Tribune notes that for the first time ever in his polling, Shikaki finds tremendous support both for the most recent Palestinian terror attack against Merkaz HaRav and for Qassam rocket attacks against Israel.
…An overwhelming majority of Palestinians support the attack this month on a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem that killed eight young men…an indication of the alarming level of Israeli-Palestinian tension in recent weeks.
The survey also shows unprecedented support for the firing of rockets on Israeli towns from the Gaza Strip and for the end of the peace negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders.
The pollster who conducted the survey, Khalil Shikaki, said he was shocked because it showed greater support for violence than any of the surveys he had conducted over the past 15 years in the Palestinian areas. Never before, he said, had a majority favored an end to negotiations or the firing of rockets at Israel.
…According to the poll, conducted last week with 1,270 Palestinians in face-to-face interviews, 84 percent supported the March 6 attack on the Mercaz Harav yeshiva, one of the most prominent centers of religious Zionism in Israel and an ideological wellspring of the settler movement in the West Bank. Shikaki said that this was the single highest support for an act of violence in his 15 years of polling.
On negotiations between Ehud Olmert, prime minister of Israel, and Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, 75 percent said they were without benefit and should be terminated. Regarding the thousands of rockets that have been launched at Israeli towns like Sderot and Ashkelon, 64 percent support the attacks.
I agree with Shikaki that these findings are deeply disturbing. But are they surprising considering the context in which events have unfolded? I’m sorry to say, not really. Or as Shikaki notes:
His explanation for the shift, one widely reflected in the Palestinian media, is that recent actions by Israel, especially a series of attacks on Gaza that killed nearly 130 people, an undercover operation in Bethlehem that killed four militants, and the announced expansion of several West Bank settlements, has led to despair and rage among average Palestinians who want revenge.
“The anger that this poll is registering is about equal to that at the very height of the second intifada,” Shikaki said, referring to the years just after 2000 when suicide attacks on Israel and Israeli strikes on Palestinian forces reached new heights. “I am very worried about what is coming.”
In other words, mounting Israeli attacks against Palestinians, civilians as well as militants, have driven them to desperation. And when an entire people is driven to desperation that is when aberrant behavior rears its ugly head and becomes acceptable.
In commenting on the Merkaz HaRav attack and the anti-Arab pogrom in its aftermath, Gershom Gorenberg spoke most sagely:
The terrorist and the would-be lynch mob exist in a strange symbiosis. Hate feeds on hate and conjures up more hate.
In its own desperation to strangle Hamas and stifle the Qassam attacks, the IDF mounted a devastating series of attacks catalogued by Shikaki above. And in response to them, Palestinians have thrown up their hands and said: “what other choice do we have but to support the feeble means of resistance at our disposal?”
Those who oppose my views will point to the above as justification of Arab terror. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I do not support terror on either side of this conflict. But we must remember that hate doesn’t live in a vacuum and it doesn’t spring from nothing. As Gorenberg wrote, “hate feeds hate.” Those who point to these polling results as evidence that Palestinians are hateful and violent and not partners for peace should remember that Palestinian hate derives from Israeli hate. The solution isn’t to point fingers and claim that one side hates while the other is an innocent victim. Rather, it’s to break out of the blame game and get to “Yes.” That is, negotiations among all parties to the conflict including Hamas.
On a final and more hopeful note:
The poll did show support for a two-state solution over the long term, with 66 percent favoring normalized relations with Israel if it returned all land won in 1967 and a Palestinian state was established.
Either we get to “Yes” or we will reap the whirlwind and witness an even greater expansion of violence and terror.