Sunday, February 03, 2008

Myth: Most Palestinians Accept the Legitimacy of Israel

Westerners, across the political spectrum, often demonstrate an inability to mentally process challenges to the idea that Israel is legitimately a Jewish state that I find somewhat puzzling. By this I don't mean that they disagree with challenges to Israel's legitimacy. I mean further that they seem to create in their own minds a world where there is essentially no disagreement over whether or not there should be a Jewish state between Jordan and Egypt.

When a Westerner encounters the opinion that there should not be a Jewish state, that Westerner, whether liberal or conservative, interprets the opinion as an opinion that Jews should be murdered or some other bizarre fantasy that is entirely unrelated to the original opinion.

I'm completely certain that Westerners reading this blog have reached the conclusion that I hate Jews and want them killed to create a Jew-free Middle East. I don't hold anything like those opinions but Westerners interpret challenges to Israel's legitimacy that way, and there is nothing I could write that would change that.

It is part of reality that in the minds of many Westerners, a non-hateful, non-genocidal belief that Israel should not be a Jewish state does not, and cannot exist.

This inability to perceive, to mentally process, the fact that others believe Israel should not be a Jewish state colors the creation and interpretation of polls I see from time to time of Palestinian opinion with respect to Israel. Here is a typical example:

63% support and 35% oppose mutual recognition of Israel as the state for the Jewish people and Palestine as the state for the Palestinian people after the establishment of a Palestinian state and the resolution of all issues of conflict.

The support shown here is the result of a contrived effort to inflate reported acceptance of a Jewish state. The additions "the establishment of a Palestinian state" and after "the resolution of all issues of conflict" make respondents more likely to give the right answer, but makes their answers less meaningful.

Whenever the question is asked clearly, "should there be a Jewish state" or "is Israel as a Jewish state legitimate" in nearly any Muslim population or any Middle Eastern population outside of Israel there is consensus approaching unanimity that Israel is not legitimate.

From the same study:

43% support and 54% oppose a permanent settlement in which the refugee problem is resolved based on UN resolution 194 but with restrictions on refugee return to Israel which would be subject to an Israeli decision.

This is a step that is skipped by the headline finding that 63% of Palestinians accept Israel. 43% of Palestinians support a permanent settlement where Israel can limit the return of refugees. But even that is overstated because this in many cases does not reflect a belief that Israel morally has some right to deny refugees. Instead it in those cases reflects a belief that though Israel is immoral, fighting is not worth it.

The view that Israel's Jewish identity is immoral and illegitimate but cannot be successfully challenged under the current circumstances is also a prevalent view of US/Israeli "allies" in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. This view is dependent on current circumstances though and can change rapidly with them. That view is ignored, probably non-voluntarily, by most Western observers of the Middle East.

  • Most people in throughout the Middle East do not hate Jews, do not advocate genocide and do not accept Israel's legitimacy as a Jewish state.
  • There are reasonable people who do not accept Israel's legitimacy as a Jewish state.

The above are two sentences that are true and that I believe many, even most Western supporters of Israel, whether Jewish or non-Jewish, whether liberal or conservative, are just not able to process.


Irish Eyes said...

When I hear of these "polls" where large numbers of Palestinians would suposedly be happy to 'live side by side' with Israel, I too wonder where they are getting them from. I have lived in the region for many years, and honestly don't think I've met a single Arab who believes there should be a Jewish state in Palestine. That does not, of course, mean that they are advocating another holocaust, or even that they might not, were sufficient incentives offered, some day accept the state of Israel, however grudgingly.

However, the notion that large numbers of Arabs accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state in Palestine is, I definately believe, quite simply wrong.

Dan said...

Their unwillingness to accept a Jewish state between Jordan and Egypt hasn't had exceptionally positive results. Right or wrong, Israel isn't going anywhere, and the sooner people can accept that as fact, the sooner the region will be able to move on.

Also, the Arab denial of a Jewish state gives credence to the very notion that Israel is always under existential threat. As long as that denial is in place, Israel can justify any actions as a means to ensure its survival and, I believe, have the backing of the west.

Anonymous said...

In addition, most Israelis probably aren't willing to gamble that they will be accepted as a minority in the Middle East. That's been tried already, and the results were not so good. The current status of Jews in, say, Iran, is tolerable only because they make up .03 percent of the population.

I gather from these posts that you would like to make the Jew wandering and stateless once again. I don't think there's anything malicious about these intentions, but they don't coincide with present reality. After centuries of pogroms and discrimination, Jews aren't willing to put themselves in such a vulnerable position, even if rational, intelligent people think it would make the world a better place. Sadly, the Palestinian people are paying the price for crimes committed in Warsaw, Berlin, Baghdad and Cairo.

tonybe said...

Israel's claim to palistine is based on a religious belief. in another example, the Masai herdsmen of east Africa believe that God gave all cattle to Masais. Inthe past they used this belief to justify stealing cattle from non Masai, even killing the owners to do so. Getting back to Israel, it would be impossible to determine the legitimate religion or ethnicity to occupy Palistine. The answer is to make it a secular state with equal rights for all religions. In other words, a democratic state like ours.