Anecdote on how Israeli paranoia is cultivated

by Yaniv Reich on October 21, 2010

Without exaggeration, one of the single most important factors in the Israel/Palestinian conflict is the way that Jews fear Arabs and Persians in general, and Palestinians in particular. This fear is reflected in a constant distrust of such penetrating depth that it is routine to hear that we can’t actually believe, say, the comprehensive Arab Peace Initiative (2002) because the Arabs will just turn around and “stab us in the back.”  A similar argument is used to suggest we can’t possibly give the Palestinians an independent state because even if they say they want peace, they really just intend to build up their military and eventually attack us.  Rampant fear and total paranoia are the name of the game in Israeli psychology.

This psychosocial context is not an accident.  It is something carefully manipulated by Israel’s political and military leadership and loyally regurgitated by the media.  A perfect example arose today in the Israeli press, which reported on a new poll jointly conducted by Hebrew University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

The worst portrayal of these survey findings comes, as usual, from the English-language daily The Jerusalem Post. Their headline blares: “41% of Palestinians support resuming the intifada”.  Wow, 41%!  That’s a ton of violent Palestinians!  But what about the complementary set?  What do the other 59% of Palestinians believe?

To find an answer to that question, you are forced to read down to the fourth (of six) paragraphs in the piece.  There you will learn that 51%, a majority, support nonviolent resistance against Israel’s 43-year brutal military occupation and colonization exercise.

Yediot Ahronot was a bit better.  Their headline read: “49% of Palestinians would recognize Jewish state”.  This is a more subtle formulation, to be sure, but also problematic.  Palestinians would recognize the “Jewish” state?  Under what conditions?  The conditional verb tense again makes Palestinians sound reticent, and on an issue that is a political hot-button.  Even the current right-wing Israeli cabinet cannot muster enough votes to pass a bill forcing all Israeli citizens to pledge their loyalty to such a Jewish state.  And Yediot is deliberate in discussing this result as part of a negative trend.

This reporting serves to reinforce Israeli stereotypes of Palestinians as violent, unwilling and unaccepting partners in peace.  By so doing, it does serious harm to Israeli attitudes toward peacemaking.

One wonders what would be the response by Israelis to the following question: “Should Palestinian aggression be countered only with nonviolence and recourse to international law?”

Some additional findings from the poll:

  • 69% of Palestinians support turning to the UN Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state.
  • 71% of Israelis support continued settlement building in the West Bank.
  • 78% of Israelis supported the current round of negotiations, but only 30% of Palestinians did, while only 5% and 6%, respectively, thought they might succeed.
  • 54% of Israelis feared being injured by Arab violence at some point in their lives.
  • 76% of Palestinians feared injury by Israeli violence.

Despite this context, a majority of Palestinians still favor nonviolent resistance to the continued violent colonization of their land that is supported by the large majority of Israelis.

Now that is newsworthy.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Clif Brown October 27, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Per your final comment – it’s the most amazing thing to me that the Palestinians have been able to remain sane, with so little terrorism as has been used for the past four decades. In addition, though I have not been to the OT, all of the information I hear from those who have indicates the civility of the Palestinians. Talk about long-suffering, there should be a picture of a Palestinian in the dictionary next to that term.

2 Yaniv Reich October 27, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Thanks for the comment, Clif. I think you are exactly right. The most striking thing about Palestinian society is precisely the opposite of what Israel, the US, and the US mainstream media would have us believe. Since 2006—and *excluding* Operation Cast Lead—one Palestinian has been murdered on average by Israelis every other day. Since that time thousands of dunams of land have been stolen while the the US congress and Israeli society politely applaud the ethnic cleansing. And yet a majority of Palestinians *still* favor nonviolence. This is a truly impressive statement about Palestinian society.

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