Australia/Israel Review


Scribblings: Palestinian fantasy land

Mar 27, 2024 | Tzvi Fleischer

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

[Ed Note: The column below was written based on polling done by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) in December. The PCPSR has just released new data based on polling of Palestinians done between March 5 and 10, 2024. This shows almost no change in Palestinian views of October 7 since December. 71% of Palestinians surveyed continue to say the decision to launch the attack was “correct.” 91% of Palestinians surveyed said Hamas did not commit any war crimes or atrocities against Israelis on October 7.]

 

Readers may have seen the shocking polls that show Palestinians overwhelmingly support what Hamas did on October 7. A poll back in December by the reputable Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) showed 72% of Palestinians thought Hamas’ launching of mass attacks on Israel on that date was a “correct decision”. Interestingly, 85% of West Bank residents said it was “correct” compared to only 57% of Gazans – who have had to live with the consequences to a much greater extent. 

Yet there was something even more shocking in the survey. Fully 90% of the Palestinians surveyed denied that Hamas had committed any attacks on Israeli civilians, or other war crimes, such as mass sexual assaults, on October 7. 

This is despite the fact that Hamas itself captured many of the atrocities its forces committed on video and published them on social media, where they were then broadcast around the world. The survey actually asked about the videos and found that 85% of Palestinians surveyed said they had never seen any such videos.

These surveys strongly suggest that most Palestinians live in a fantasy land in which they can deny any facts that do not fit with a narrative of blameless Palestinian victimhood and total Israeli evil. 

In the survey, a large majority of Palestinians (78%) agreed that it is illegal and unacceptable to kill civilians and a smaller majority, 52%, said it was illegal and unacceptable to capture civilians as prisoners. But most Palestinians simply do not believe Hamas did these things on October 7. Given the overwhelming evidence sourced from the perpetrators themselves in this instance, it seems impossible to even imagine any kind of evidence that could overcome such denial.

This denial has been facilitated primarily via the media outlets Palestinians consume – especially the Arabic version of Qatar’s Al Jazeera. While there is no firm data, Khalil Shikaki, the head of PCPSR, has estimated that Al Jazeera today is the major news source for some 50% of Palestinians. And Al Jazeera in Arabic (unlike in English) has reportedly never admitted or reported there were any atrocities against civilians on October 7. As Shikaki told the Times of Israel, “Al Jazeera [Arabic] was more focused on the glorification of what happened, relying on the official statements by Hamas and repeating those quite often.” (For more on the glorification of Hamas and its public promotion in Middle East media, see here). 

Most other news outlets Palestinians watch or follow on social media are no better, including official Palestinian Authority media. 

October 7 denial is actually part of a longer-term pattern. I have seen example after example in the past where a Palestinian attempted to carry out a terror attack on Israelis and was killed in the process, and PA media or Al Jazeera presented the story as one of Israelis suddenly murdering an innocent Palestinian for no reason – despite clear video evidence that he or she tried to attack Israelis. 

No wonder Palestinians – and their most rabid supporters – have been insisting Israel is committing “genocide” on them since long before October 7. They are constantly falsely told in the media of Palestinians being murdered by Israeli soldiers or civilians just because they were Palestinian.

And no wonder a negotiated two-state peace has proven so impossible, despite numerous serious Israeli offers. No one could or would make peace with the demonically evil and murderous Israelis – who constantly attack and murder innocent people, and then launched a bloody war in Gaza for no good reason. And this is what Palestinians see in the fantasy land they get through Arabic media as well as pro-Palestinian social media. 

 

The Truth about Palestinian Nationalism

In the February edition of the AIR, leading American academic and historian Michael Mandelbaum made the point that “Palestinian nationalism [is] the only one of the many nationalist movements that have appeared since the nineteenth century that has as its aim not the creation of its own nation-state but rather the destruction of the state of another people.” He argued this is the key reason Israeli-Palestinian peace has been so elusive. 

Some might discount this claim because while Mandelbaum is a leading intellectual, he is also, of course, Jewish. 

But they should then listen to British Palestinian writer John Aziz – who wrote some remarkably similar things in Foreign Policy on March 15. 

Aziz said “The Palestinian case for self-determination – like any stateless people – is bulletproof,” but then went on to say, “The trouble is that Hamas’ demands go far beyond demanding self-governance. What they and Palestinian anti-Zionists demand is the right to extinguish their neighbour’s self-governance, and conquer their neighbour’s territory.”

He admits this Palestinian view is far from limited to Hamas: “This overarching narrative of Palestinian resistance against the existence of any kind of Israel or Zionism has been deeply embedded into the cause since the start of the conflict—and has produced little but tragedy for Palestinians.”

Aziz went on to say that “in the 1990s…the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) renounced the strategy of violence, recognised Israel, and switched toward a strategy of diplomacy and negotiation. But this did not last very long,” noting Yasser Arafat soon “gave his blessing to armed groups including Hamas to initiate a Second Intifada.”

Palestinians like Aziz who escape the fantasy land emanating from their leaders, media and Al Jazeera, as discussed above, can advocate for Palestinian rights while also recognising that the maximalism and rejectionism that have dominated Palestinian nationalism for a century are a recipe for endless frustration and never-ending violence. A two-state peace would then be eminently possible. But we seem to be a long way off from the development of Palestinian leadership capable of adopting such realism.

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