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November 11, 2019 3:32 am

The Myth of a Progressive Palestine

avatar by Petra Marquardt-Bigman


The scene of a terror attack near the West Bank settlement of Dolev. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.

Ridding the world of its one Jewish state to create a state of Palestine “from the river to the sea” is a supposedly “progressive” ambition for the anti-Israel crowd.

But the idea that the Palestinians are in any way interested in establishing a progressive paradise is downright preposterous, since extensive opinion surveys document that extremist and fundamentalist views are mainstream in Palestinian society.

It’s only to be expected that fringe sites like the Electronic Intifada or Mondoweiss hide this evidence from the anti-Israel activists they cater to. But unfortunately, the prestigious magazine Foreign Affairs has recently also promoted the myth of a one-state solution as a model of peaceful co-existence and equal rights for all its citizens. By giving a platform to Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, the magazine published a professional propagandist whose job is to demonize Israel while marketing the idea that Palestinian “rights” include the elimination of the Jewish state.

“One-state” proponents like Munayyer can’t really afford to be honest about the kind of state Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza want, because that would endanger the widespread illusion that the Palestinian cause deserves uncritical support from progressives.

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As documented in a Pew survey from 2013 that included almost 40,000 Muslims in 39 countries, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza were often among the Muslim populations with the most extremist views about the role of Islam in society: 89 percent of Palestinians said they wanted Sharia law; 66 percent endorsed the death penalty for Muslims who convert to another religion; 76 percent supported mutilation as a punishment for theft; and a shocking 84 percent wanted adulterers stoned to death.

When asked how much political influence religious leaders should have, 29 percent of Palestinians said religious leaders should have a lot of political influence, and another 43 percent wanted religious leaders to have at least some political influence. These views are reflected in the Palestinian draft constitution, which stipulates that the “principles of the Islamic shari’a are a main source for legislation.”

What political influence of religious leaders means for the peaceful co-existence touted by Munayyer can be glimpsed from statements by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who is the Palestinian Authority’s highest religious leader, and who appears to see it as part of his job to issue an endless stream of incitement. According to the mufti:

Palestine in its entirety is a revolution, since [Caliph] Umar came [to conquer Jerusalem, 637 CE], and continuing today, and until the End of Days. The reliable Hadith [i.e. tradition attributed to Muhammad] … says: “The Hour [of Resurrection] will not come until you fight the Jews. The Jew will hide behind stones or trees. Then the stones or trees will call: ‘Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’”

It is thus hardly surprising that among the Muslim populations surveyed by Pew, Palestinians were also the strongest supporters of suicide bombings targeting civilians “in order to defend Islam from its enemies.” The highest level of support was recorded in 2007, when 70 percent of Palestinians expressed the view that suicide bombings targeting civilians in defense of Islam could be justified.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Pew also monitored Muslim public opinion about Al Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden for several years, and the survey results document that Palestinians were among bin Laden’s most ardent admirers — indeed, bin Laden would have done very well if he had run in Palestinian elections. Participants in the Pew surveys were asked if they had “confidence” in bin Laden “to do the right thing in world affairs,” and in 2003, a shocking 72 percent of Palestinians responded in the affirmative. By 2011, when bin Laden was killed by US special forces, 34 percent of Palestinians still expressed “confidence” in him, and the Islamist terror group Hamas condemned the US for assassinating “an Arab holy warrior.”

In addition to studiously ignoring the well-documented fanaticism of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, anti-Israel activists like Munayyer also like to create the false impression that they speak for Israel’s Arab citizens. But once again, polls show a very different picture than the one presented by “one-state” proponents who want to see Israel gone.

According to a poll published earlier this year, a majority of Arabs in Israel identify as either Arab-Israeli (46 percent) or Palestinian-Israeli (19 percent), whereas a minority prefers to identify only as Arab (22 percent) or Palestinian (14 percent). What’s even worse for Munayyer and his ilk is that another recently published poll shows that “65 percent of Arab Israelis are proud to be Israelis.”

As the Israeli academic Alexander Yakobson has rightly emphasized, similar surveys have shown for years that Israel’s Arab citizens have developed a distinct Israeli identity, and the poll results indicate “not just an appreciation of Israel’s advantages” but also “a fear of the disadvantages of Palestinian rule.” According to Yakobson, it is clear that a “huge majority of Israeli Arabs not only don’t want to live in ‘little Palestine,’” i.e. a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, but “they also don’t want to live in the larger Palestine from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. They want to live in Israel.”

That doesn’t mean that Israel’s Arab citizens don’t have plenty of criticism for Israeli government policies, but contrary to what some self-described “progressives” would have you believe, they have no interest whatsoever in the “one-state-solution” that would replace Israel with yet another Arab-Muslim majority state. However, there is overwhelming support for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza among Israeli Arabs. A poll conducted a year ago shows that 82 percent support a two-state solution, and the pollsters noted that this result was “typical of the high level of support from Israeli Arabs in previous surveys.”

Since Munayyer is surely familiar with these poll results, he is knowingly lying when he pretends to speak in the name of Israeli Arabs.

But lies have long been an easy sell for anti-Israel activists. While Israel is endlessly demonized as a monstrous evil, Palestinian support for terrorism and extremist views is politely ignored in order to market the Palestinian cause as a worthy focus of progressive activism.

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