What do Palestinians think this month? A public opinion poll

A friend of mine at Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Jerusalem sent me these findings of a new Palestinian public opinion poll (conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, September 25-27, 2014). Coming a month after the end of the latest Gaza war, and a couple months after pondering what war life was like for Gazans, I thought it might be interesting for all of us to take a look:  

Quick summary – one month after the end of the Gaza War:

  • a drop is found in the level of satisfaction with war achievements, in support for Hamas and Ismail Haniyeh, and in support for an armed intifada;
  • but the public still favors Hamas’ “way” over negotiations,
  • and Hamas and Haniyeh are still more popular than Fatah and Mahmud Abbas

A note for anyone who is already revving to roll their eyes: I took a class in college on polls. A whole semester on polls. Which is basically to say how inaccurate, by their very nature, they mostly are. But that there are whole grains of truth. And we shouldn’t throw out information based on what we think ought to have come out from the survey.

Now on to some of the most interesting numbers:

  • Haniyeh would win a majority of votes if elections were held today; that said, don’t be surprised if it happens tomorrow. A majority of 69% wants elections to take place within few to six months from today.
  • I found this unexpected: 29% of the Palestinian public say people in the West Bank can criticize the authority in the West Bank without fear. By contrast, a larger percentage of 35% say people in the Gaza Strip can criticize the authorities in Gaza without fear.
  • Peace process: 53% support the two-state solution and 46% oppose it. A month ago, 49% supported it and 50% opposed it.

Nothing in the following list is surprising, in the sense that Gazans care more about their own lives than West Bank residents care about Gazans’ lives:

  • Percentage of satisfaction with war achievements compared to the human and material losses sustained by the Gaza Strip drops from 59% a month ago to 49% in this poll. 50% [overall] are currently dissatisfied with the achievements. In the Gaza Strip, 59% are dissatisfied with war achievements.  
  • Despite that, an overwhelming majority of 80% supports the launching of rockets from the Gaza Strip at Israel if the siege and blockade are not ended. Support for launching rockets drops in the Gaza Strip to 72%.
  • A majority of 57% believes that launching rockets from populated areas in the Gaza Strip is justified and 39% say it is unjustified. Among Gazans, belief that it is justified to launch rockets from populated areas drops to 48% while increasing in the West Bank to 62%.
  • And because life is eternally confusing, 57% believe that massive popular demonstrations could contribute to ending the Israeli occupation, while…
  • A larger majority of 81% favors Hamas way of resisting occupation.

And finally: Palestinians – they’re just like us! edition:

  • “Finally, findings show that a majority of the public has not heard about Abbas’ plan to seek a deadline for ending Israeli occupation and establishing a Palestinian state. A majority of those who have heard about it do support it despite the fact that a majority expects the plan to fail.”

There’re more info to check out in the original document. Go for it.

Welcome to the wartime TMI challenge

Is there a word for the despair one feels at no longer knowing who or what to believe?

It gets worse with every conflict: social media. A platform initially designed for sharing college memories and life milestones became a place for arresting my sense of truth.

Over the years, I’ve come to follow more and more people with worldviews and backgrounds that drastically differ from mine. I like it; it keeps me centered. It makes me feel just uncomfortable enough to keep on my toes, just insecure enough that I’m constantly sharpening my own truth.

At the beginning of this latest Gaza conflict I ditched traditional news sources, opting for scanning headlines with an occasional click, and instead followed dozens of new people on social media: Gazans, Arabs from around the world, journalists from a spectrum of news sources (mostly based in Gaza), and others. I had already been following extreme right and left wing Israeli voices for years.

Problem #1: It turns out, when you’re reading everything with a grain of salt, you end up absorbing some pretty bad-tasting discomfort.

The discomfort has turned into pain over the last weeks. And its sting gets sharper as I’ve watched a sudden rise in non-political friends fill my Facebook newsfeed with urgent, sensationalist, pleading headline after headline after headline (which I made a policy a couple weeks back to never ever click).

Problem #2: Everyone is sharing the same thing, regurgitating it to the same audience.

And people get fed their own homegrown-grade of bombastic propaganda. There seems to be no place to go to seek facts if you are following remotely. We can’t trust anyone else, so we can only continue to share our own hearsay.

Problem #3: Everything… but everything… sounds like propaganda now.

Every time I open Twitter – which is less often these days – I’m greeted with DEAD CHILDREN and antisemitic cartoons and RIGHT TO DEFEND ITSELF and NOWHERE TO GO and digit-heavy infographics and HUMAN SHIELDS and so on.

And no matter how much of a basis in truth and experience and fact each piece of content contains, whether you’d tag it ‘pro-Israel’ or ‘pro-Gazan’ or ‘pro-human’, the wrapping and the sharing and the repeating ends up downgrading its meaning.

A lot of talking, less listening.

I can only imagine how all this leads to misunderstandings of other realities for people not actively seeking truths outside their own.

Clearly, I asked for it. Maybe I’m listening too hard. And clearly, I live one of many many angles of truth here. So when seeking understanding of other truths, how far do I go? How sick do I make myself in the process? How morally compromised do I become? How depressed do I let it make me? The actions taken to erase my name, the actions taken in my name to save my name, the danger, the sadness, the collateral damage, the short term strategy, the long term goals…

Problem #4: Because each of our experiences is by definition one-of-a-kind, every person reading this will read it differently, to his/her own tune, to his/her own meaning.

Are we ever really hearing each other then?

All I have left to say is… if being a member of a population at war doesn’t enable me to learn anything new, to think harder, I consider myself a failed human.

The facts about Gaza that we’re not saying

For the last few days I’ve had this lump in my throat, blocking me from saying something I feel but haven’t been able to articulate.

Do you know what I feel when the window’s been shut, the door is locked, and I’ve sat down on the floor of our safe room?

I feel incredibly lucky.

Lucky to have a roof over my head, lucky to have a government watching over my safety, as much as the means churn my guts. Lucky there are laws that buildings must be built with safe rooms now. Lucky that I can get to mine within single-digit seconds, let alone that I actually have 90 of them. Lucky that I know once the door is closed, chances are pretty much 100% – based on my location and building structure – that we will be totally fine.

It’s horrible that there are thousands of eighth and ninth graders in the south of Israel who have never known a different life than constant trauma. There are no words to adequately sum up that situation. It’s horrible they haven’t always been given proper support from our government – that they’ve had to push for it throughout the years. It’s horrible that things only get really serious when the rockets creep out towards the center.

Here’s the part I’m having the specific trouble with.

Israel – the entire Jewish world, in fact – is still pushing through a very low time. A roller coaster that ended up crashing after the highs and lows – when we found the bodies of the three kidnapped teens. We supposedly felt unified, we felt as one, we felt each other’s pain, and for just a few minutes, forgot the clothes we were wearing, the type of headgear we may or may not don, we let it go in order to cry together.

Then it got worse.

Our national pride – our infinite price on life – was stabbed right through its core, when at least three young individuals took an innocent Jerusalem Arab boy’s life in their hands, in a way unfathomable. We wrung our hands, we cried out in pain, we condemned and we distanced.

And now… now we’re combating Hamas in Gaza. Again. For the third time in six years. It’s complicated. Of course it’s complicated. In so many directions, it’s complicated. The rockets that are targeted over here, the rockets that are targeted over there. The history, the context, the instability.

The fact that to protect ourselves, we cause A LOT of collateral damage.

While I do believe the IDF embraces a military culture that tries harder than others to preserve life… to use intelligent targeting, to warn civilians – and I do believe Hamas puts its own people on the line to make its grisly point…

We’re just not acknowledging it enough. We are not ok with this. We are not ok with trying our best and it still causing loss of life. We must not be complacent about it. If “murder is murder is murder”, so too, life is life is life.

And as I watch the rocket reports happen live over social media among my peers – meaning those as lucky as I am, scattered across Israel, absorbing the terror and the sadness and the frustration in each individual’s own way – all I can think is, everything about this discussion is us, us, us.

Rockets explode over our homes. Debris is caught on Tel Aviv streets. Posting what we were doing when the siren sounded (again). Posting what our kids thought. Posting what other people should think. Posting with humor, a nationalistic characteristic to get through the pain. Posting repeated hasbara – what some might call, without irony, ‘truthful propaganda.’

Stats. Infographics. Diagrams of missiles. What the IDF is doing next. How much we all appreciate the Iron Dome technology. What we should be doing next. What we shouldn’t. What we feel. What we don’t feel.

I don’t think we have to take away from all of that – especially the stress and pain at watching our friends and family get called down to the front line – in order to recognize this next point.

Gazans… ordinary Gazans – who do exist – Gazans… have none of it.

No Iron Dome.

No government that actually cares truly to make their nation function.

No safe rooms.

No privacy.

The fact is… no matter what propaganda, theories, or the truth we don’t know yet dictates –

Innocents are dying.

But Hamas takes its own citizens hostage!

Children are dying.

But Hamas uses them as human shields!

But an entire people – yes, a group that lives together and dies together deserves to be called, and very much is, a people – an entire people is being tortured by multiple forces, pulling at them this way and that.

And I’m not saying we have to spend hours arguing over whose fault that is. I’m not saying it’s one way or another. I’m not trying to get into a political shit swamp because if I cared for that, I might post hasbara after hasbara after hasbara… on Twitter.

I’m saying in the name of our collective value for life, in the name of our fortunate circumstances that our leaders do care for our safety, in the name of existing as beings on this Earth,

that surely – surely – among the infographics, the op/eds, the ‘fuck you Hamas’, the hashtags, the rocket outcry – we ought to take a moment or two or million and grieve over what’s become of our, of their, humanity.

The 4th kidnapped boy: that’s called disgust – go ahead and feel it.

Four kidnapped boys

Disgust. There are a lot of things to be utterly disgusted with around here. I feel disgust constantly. It’s usually aimed at opinions that differ from mine; minute triggers related to lifestyles that differ from mine; ways of communicating I don’t agree with.

Shame. That is something I feel less often, but it does come up. There’s plenty of shame where you seek it. Things are not perfect. Things are not even great. But on the whole, they tend not to veer toward inhuman.

Silence. That’s something I cannot tolerate, especially among people so quick to accuse, to blast, to take down. You can’t cry foul and then turn away when it’s one of your own who has brought shame to each and every one of us – across the entire world.

Jews don’t murder? Jews aren’t terrorists?

And how about those times I’ve heard some of my peers joke, or actually call, for revenge, for showing who’s boss, for exerting our right, for taking it into our own hands?

Words actually do kill, when spoken enough, when combined to form an attitude, when condensed into a plan, when sparked into action.

These Jews who kidnapped and murdered – burned alive – 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir are a stain on all of our souls, no matter what we believe, express, do or not do.

People we considered brothers – whether we agreed with them or not, dressed like them or not – took up revenge against the kidnapping and brutal killing of innocents with the kidnapping and brutal killing of another innocent.

We need to face these horrific facts. There are now four grieving families across our land, in addition to countless others who have grieved, are grieving, and will, inevitably, grieve.

To those who are keeping silent in this case – it’s warranted to weed out the cold blooded among us. To separate them. It’s our responsibility to stare down shame in the face and pluck it from among us.

It’s absolutely natural and necessary to feel washed over in sickness at this news.

Anything that happened before this doesn’t matter. This is not who we are.

If we want to truly continue the much-lauded legacy of unity our three kidnapped boys granted us in their untimely and cruel deaths, we must stand together in condemning the very same of yet another.

Short film: Strangers.

This short (7 minutes short) Israeli film is six years old, and I saw it for the first time today. Thought I’d share it further in case you’re not one of the 1.2 million people who have already watched it…

Directed, written and produced by Erez Tadmor and Guy Nattiv.

It’s a nice thought. I like reminding myself of what that warm fuzzy feeling is like.

On another note, I’ve always wanted to live in Haifa.

You don’t mess with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Last night I watched 3/4ths of Adam Sandler’s You Don’t Mess With the Zohan.

Really, it was like any other Adam Sandler character acting film; Little Nicky, Waterboy. His extreme characters are not his strongest point for me (I’m more of a Billy Madison/Happy Gilmore fan). I’m always able to enjoy the twisted nature of his characters, yes, but at the same time, I feel lonely in that fact. Hence, only seeing 3/4ths of the movie; everyone around me was either asleep or unhappy.

Then again, it wasn’t like any other Adam Sandler character acting film. It was like a message of peace wrapped in ridiculous. I was pleasantly surprised by the handful of scenes that contained real dialogue and messages between the lines concerning the cyclical nature of Arab-Israeli violence.

I found it interesting that Sandler was banking on his audience to care for a movie with Arab and Israeli characters. A lot of the jokes totally ostracize people who don’t know much about Israel, while at the same time I think there could have been even deeper jokes for those of us who do. Why stop at hummus?

Of course, I can understand why the Israelis portrayed in the film are nothing like the Israelis in real life; similarly – and even more so – the Palestinians portrayed in the film are nothing like the Palestinians in real life. But I was not ready to get angry. It was half-baked satire, and that’s all i was expecting going into it.

I guess what bothered me more – because I was never going to take this movie all that seriously – Is that Adam Sandler is so much more than toilet humor. I don’t understand what goes through his head when he makes these character movies, which tend to blend together and lack finishing touches, as if he’s reaching for something but never quite there.

Leave that to Sacha Baron Cohen…