Since Western leaders regularly ignore everything printed in the Arabic press and sidestep the contradictions presented by Arab opinion polls, researchers for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) decided to go to a source no one today ignores, social media, to find out what the Palestinians are really thinking.
Western media and politicians like to paint a picture of widespread moderation and liberalism in a Palestinian society that is frustrated, but just wants to live in peaceful coexistence with Israel.
But after conducting a lengthy survey of Palestinian participation on websites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, the FDD researchers found that “the Palestinian web landscape…is dominated by radicalism.”
In their study titled “Palestinian Pulse,” which was published in The National Interest, authors Jonathan Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz said the results show a marked and irreversible rise in radical Islamic sentiment and overall rejection of Israel in Palestinian society.
They cautioned that by ignoring these trends and pushing ahead aggressively with a comprehensive peace settlement that does not take Palestinian sentiment toward Israel into account, the Obama Administration is just laying the groundwork for an escalation of the conflict.
“The US cannot afford to discount the potential impact of deepening Palestinian radicalism and rejectionism,” they wrote. “If the online environment is even a relatively accurate indicator of Palestinian public sentiment, the Obama administration should consider the serious risks to Israeli security from an overly aggressive and premature push for a comprehensive peace agreement.”
Western leaders and especially the media have for years done their best to ignore the true feelings, attitude and behavior of the “Palestinian street” as they push for an ill-advised land-for-peace settlement.
Most notably, anything and everything that Palestinian leaders say in Arabic to Middle East news agencies - in other words, what they say for local consumption by their own people - is summarily ignored by the rest of the world, even when it directly contradicts their conciliatory rhetoric in English.
When it comes to public opinion polls of Palestinian Arabs, politicians and reporters like to focus on answers that show a majority of Palestinians are in favor of the diplomatic peace process. But at the same time, they ignore those answers that show an equal number of Palestinians believe that murdering Israeli Jews is a legitimate part of that process. They also brush off the answers that show Palestinians will not see the creation of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria as an end to the conflict.
With the international community so effectively closing its eyes to this readily available evidence that the Palestinians in general do not want true peace, there is little hope anyone in a position of power will pay attention to the new social media study.
But there is hope that it will serve to better educate that part of the population involved in social media regarding the context and underlying causes of the ongoing Middle East conflict.