Poll findings of Palestinian rejectionism unreported

This is a cross-post from Just Journalism.

On Friday, Just Journalism covered a major new poll on Palestinian attitudes in the West Bank and Gaza. The poll, conducted by face-to-face interviews in Arabic with over a thousand participants, produced several worrying results. As The Jerusalem Post reported, this included a significant majority who reject Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state, and agree that the creation of a Palestinian state should be the first step to absorbing the Israeli one:

‘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.’

The only coverage that the poll received in the British media omitted any of the contentious findings. Harriet Sherwood’s ‘Palestine: the flags are already waving but will a declaration of statehood help?’, published in The Observer, concentrates on the build-up to the Palestinian bid for UN recognition of statehood in September. Discussing the possibility of a widespread outbreak of violence if the Palestinian bid is thwarted, Sherwood cites the poll as proof that Palestinians are uninterested in threatening Israel:

‘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.’

Given that the entire article focuses on the Palestinian campaign for statehood, it seems noteworthy that there is no mention of the poll’s findings that the majority of Palestinians see a state as the first stage to removing Israel, which they view as illegitimate.

Sherwood’s characterisation of the poll as evidence of Palestinian disinterest in violence is also only partially accurate, given that it found that 73 per cent agreed with a quote from the Hamas charter that calls for the killing of Jews. The relevant section of the charter states:

‘The Prophet, Allah’s prayer and peace be upon him, says: “The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,’ except for the Gharqad tree, for it is the tree of the Jews.”’

In addition to the selective reporting in The Guardian, The Independent’s Catrina Stewart chose instead to report on Israeli extremism and rejectionism. In ‘Jewish settlers are terrorising Palestinians, says Israeli general’, published 18 July, Stewart describes how a senior Israeli army commander has denounced ‘Jewish terror’ emanating from a specific settlement in the West Bank.

Focusing on the issue of violence perpetrated by settlers, Stewart also mentions that many settlers reject a Palestinian state on religious grounds:

‘Human rights groups suggest that the more radical settlers, many of whom oppose a two-state solution on the premise that the whole of Israel is bequeathed to them by God, are agitating against Palestinian moves to seek statehood recognition at the United Nations in September.’

Despite devoting an article to Israelis who reject two states for two people on religious grounds, Stewart did not cover the poll findings that suggest similarly rejectionist views are far more widespread on the Palestinian side.