Cutting through the bullshit.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Agree to differ

On her Muzzlewatch blog a couple of months ago, Cecilie Surasky, Director of Communications at Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), excoriates the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for their recent survey of Israeli Jews, headlining the post, ADL completely disappears 25% of Israel’s population- joining efforts with Avigdor Lieberman?

Nowhere in their lengthy release does it mention what you can only find by reading the actual report, under Methodology, where it says:
The poll was conducted as a telephone survey…constituting a representative sample of the adult Jewish population (aged 18 and higher) in Israel.
So in the eyes of the ADL, if you are not Jewish, you are not Israeli. Some 25% of Israelis are not Jews
She’s absolutely right to say the press release, which claims that it was ‘a comprehensive poll of Israeli opinions’ and consistently generalizes about ‘Israelis’ without ever mentioning that only Jews were sampled, is downright offensive. And the report, entitled ‘Israeli Views of President Obama and US-Israel Relations’, should have been clearer that it was a survey specifically of Israeli Jews. But it’s not true that you have to read all the way to the Methodology section – the second paragraph of the report – to find this out, because the very first sentence declares, ‘we have conducted an opinion poll among the Jewish public in Israel’.
And yet, a poll of all Israelis that fails to disaggregate Jewish views from those of other Israelis in the sample would be decidedly less interesting, a point I’ll return to. It’s not that the views of Palestinian Israelis are uninteresting – quite the contrary. But when aggregated with the views of the Jewish majority, they dilute and are themselves diluted by Jewish responses.
Importantly and somewhat surprisingly, she observes
Sounds just like “anti-Arab demagogue” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who thinks of non-Jewish Israeli Arabs, whose families lived in Jaffa and Hebron long before most Jewish Israelis made Aliyah, as a fifth column. Some choose to think Lieberman’s open racism is an exception, but it’s not. The kind of thinking which only recognizes Jews as citizens and denies full rights to others has long pervaded Israel and the Jewish Diaspora here.
The poll itself is mainly concerned with Jewish Israelis’ views of Obama and the ‘special relationship’ between the US and Israel. But that’s not what struck me as the most interesting findings.
Asked ‘Obama has declared his intention of bringing about reconciliation with the Muslim and Arab worlds in order to improve the United State’s position and reputation. Do you believe or not that such reconciliation will be at Israel’s expense?’ (Q13), 63% said ‘It will come at Israel’s expense (80% of those who expressed an opinion one way or the other).
Fifty-one percent said, ‘The U.S. should not negotiate with Iran’ and 66% support Israeli
military action aimed at destroying the Iranian nuclear facilities (81% of opinion holders), and 75% of those who supported an Israeli attack still supported it even ‘if the Obama administration opposed’ it.
Finally, 52% said American Jews should not ‘feel free to publicly criticize the Israeli government and its policy’ (Q20), while 35% disagreed. In a 2007 survey, only 36% opposed freedom of expression for US Jews, while 62% supported it. The recent J Street poll of American Jews found that 58% said ‘It does not bother me when American Jews disagree publicly with Israeli government policy’, while 28% said it did.
Last week the Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah wrote a devastating critique of parallel polls of Palestinians in the occupied territories and of Israelis conducted by One Voice in February, two months earlier than the ADL survey. He discerns that the survey, developed by Dr. Colin Irwin of the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool, ‘...appears intended to influence international opinion in a direction more amenable to Israel, rather than to record faithfully the views of Palestinians or Israelis...The group's press release unabashedly spun the results to claim popular legitimacy for the two-state solution and to discredit alternatives...’
Nevertheless, I found it remarkably interesting. Unlike any other poll I’ve come across, it gets right down to the nuts and bolts, asking about a broad, if not quite comprehensive, range of options regarding the principal aspects of any solution, including even refugees and the corridor connecting Gaza with the West Bank, as well as process related issues. Although neither Abunimah’s critique nor Irwin’s report mentions it explicitly, a footnote indicates that Palestinian Israelis were included in the Israeli sample and their responses are disaggregable, although not actually disaggregated except with respect to two questions about the division of Jerusalem mentioned in the note. As I mentioned earlier, this pollutes the responses of the Israelis, presumably drawing the Israeli proportions closer to the ‘Palestinian’. For example, when asked about ‘Greater Israel – A Jewish state from the Jordanian border to the sea‘, 47% of Israelis found the prospect ‘Unacceptable’. My suspicion is that this proportion would be lower in a poll of Israeli Jews.
Irwin’s method is to ask respondents to rate various propositions on a five point scale: ‘Essential’, ‘Desirable’, ‘Acceptable’, ‘Tolerable’, ‘Unacceptable’. I’m ambivalent about this approach. The first and last points are true polar opposites and may provide a sound basis for comparison. But I’m not confident that the respondents could distinguish ‘Acceptable’ from ‘Tolerable’. I’m not sure what Irwin wanted to capture with these terms myself. Furthermore, there’s no real middle term – the first four points on the scale are effectively opposed to ‘Unacceptable’. In his analysis, Irwin sometimes sums ‘Essential’ and ‘Desirable’ responses as if this were an ordinary five point scale where the response categories are more balanced around a non committal middle term. In other cases, he sums all four responses – ‘Essential’ through ‘Tolerable’ – to provide the impression of a larger base of support for a proposition.
In the OneVoice press release, we learn that ‘74% of West Bank & Gaza Palestinians and 78% of Israelis are willing to accept a two state solution’. These figures represent the sum of all responses other than ‘Unacceptable’ to the question about the ‘Two state solution - Two states for two peoples: Israel and Palestine’. So we don’t actually know what the respondents found ‘Essential’ or ‘Tolerable’. In all probability, the Palestinians thought they were responding to a question about a version of partition where the border would be drawn along the Green Line (78% ‘Essential’) and East Jerusalem would be incorporated into the Palestinian state (89% ‘Essential’), while the Israelis, or the Israeli Jews, at any rate, thought they were being asked about a partition with the border drawn along the wall (58% ‘Essential’ to ‘Tolerable’), and Israel retaining sovereignty over all of Jerusalem (74% ‘Essential’ to ‘Tolerable’). So it is a distortion to imply that the Israelis and Palestinians surveyed are prepared to tolerate the same two state ‘solution’.
As Abunimah points out, 53% of the Palestinian sample were willing to tolerate ‘One joint state – A state in which Israelis and Palestinians are equal citizens’, but only 18% said it was ‘Essential’, and 43% said it was ‘Unacceptable’, while the Israeli sample wasn’t asked about this option. As for ‘One shared state - Bi-national federal state in which Israelis and Palestinians share power’, 34% of Palestinians and 32% of Israelis were prepared to tolerate it, while 59% and 66%, respectively, found it ‘Unacceptable’.
Note that, as Abunimah also remarks, ‘One Voice asserts that a "very conscious effort was made in this poll to cover as wide a range of potential solutions as possible." But except for the initial question about the type of state, all the other questions assume, and are primarily relevant to, a two-state solution.’
I think it might be instructive to compare what the Palestinian sample found ‘Essential’ and comparing it to what the Israeli population found ‘Unacceptable’, for some key issues, omitting the equivocal middle terms – ‘Desirable’, ‘Acceptable’, and ‘Tolerable’. In this way, we may discover some intractable sticking points. Among the Israelis, there was little consensus on what was ‘Essential’ – they are mainly united in their rejectionism.
The option the highest proportion of Palestinians deemed ‘Essential’ was ‘Historic Palestine – From the Jordanian river to the sea’ with 71%, another option not offered the Israeli sample. On what was ‘Essential’, the highest proportion among the Israelis was 32% for the two state ‘solution’.
According to the Saudi plan, Israel will retreat from all territories occupied in 1967 including Gaza the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, and a Palestinian state will be established. The refugees problem will be resoved through negotiation in a just and agreed upon manner and in accordance with UN resolution. In return, all Arab states will recognize Israel and its right to secure borders, will sign peace treaties with her and establish normal diplomatic relations. Do you agree or disagree to this plan?
As is always the case with complex questions like this, ‘disagree’ answers are uninformative because we don’t know which component respondents objected to. But it is probably safe to assume that those who agree accept every component. Only 22.2% of Israeli Jews agreed with this formulation, 7% ‘definitely’. Among the Palestinian sample, 57.3% agreed, 8.3% definitely. Interestingly, in a follow up survey of Israelis only and not disaggregated by ethnicity conducted after Obama’s 4 June Cairo speech, 35% of all Israelis agreed, 13.3% ‘definitely’. This represents a slight decrease from before the speech when 36.3% of all Israelis agreed, 14% ‘definitely’. Although the margin of error is not stated, the drop may not be significant.
On the question of the border, 78% of Palestinians said it was ‘Essential’ ‘Israel should withdraw to the 67 border’, while 60% of Israelis said that was ‘Unacceptable’. There was again no consensus among Israelis on what was ‘Essential’, but 58% would tolerate a ‘Border established by the security wall’, an option 73% of Palestinians considered ‘Unacceptable’.
It was ‘Essential’ for 91% of Palestinian respondents that ‘All of Jerusalem should remain in Palestine’, while 45% of Israelis said it was ‘Essential’ that ‘All of Jerusalem should remain in Israel’. A point of agreement was that majorities of both populations regarded it as ‘Unacceptable’ either to divide the city or to make it an ‘International City of Peace’ under UN or multifaith jurisdiction.
Ninety-eight percent of Palestinians said it was ‘Essential’ that ‘All the settlers should leave the occupied territories/West Bank and settlements demolished’ and 83% that ‘Abandoned settlements and infrastructure should be given to Palestinians’. Without access to the interviewers’ instructions or comparable metadata, I can’t be sure, but I surmise that this apparent contradiction arises because respondents were asked to consider each option independently of the others. These were ‘Unacceptable’ to 53% and 58% of Israelis, respectively. Thirty-seven percent of Israelis said it was ‘Essential’ that ‘All the settlements on the Israeli side of the security wall should be part of Israel’ and 20% that ‘All the settlements should remain as they are’. Significant majorities of both populations agreed it would be ‘Unacceptable’ for settlers to stay in the Palestinian state.
Curiously, the Palestinian sample was not asked about the crucial corridor connecting Gaza to the West Bank, but among the Israelis, 47% said a bridge would be ‘Unacceptable’, 57% rejected a tunnel, and 43% wouldn’t accept a ‘Corridor between Gaza and West bank on land given to Palestine under land exchange’. Only about 8% of Israelis thought it ‘Essential’ for there to be any form of ‘transportational contiguity’ between the two enclaves at all.
Among Palestinians, 96% said ‘Palestinians should have control of their energy, minerals and air space’, while this was unacceptable to 35% of Israelis. Ninety-three percent of Palestinians considered it ‘Essential’ for the Palestinian state to have an army, while 63% of Israelis said that would be ‘Unacceptable’, and 25% said it was ‘Essential’ that ‘The IDF should remain in the Occupied Territories/West Bank’.
On the central issue of the right of return for the refugees, 87% of Palestinians said return with compensation, as provided in UN General Assembly Resolution 194, was ‘Essential’, while 77% of Israelis said it was ‘Unacceptable’, 83% even without compensation. Even the prospect that ‘The number of refugees returning to Israel should be limited to family members and numbers agreed between Israel and Palestine/the Palestinians’ was unacceptable to 49% of Israelis. Similarly, 60% rejected ‘An Israeli recognition of the suffering of the Palestinian refugees, while most refugees return to the West bank or Gaza and some return to Israel’.
In summary, in the context of a partition arrangement, an overwhelming majority of Palestinians consider it essential for the Israel to withdraw to the Green Line, evacuating all settlements, with Jerusalem to be incorporated into the Palestinian state, which must have its own army and control its own resources, and the refugees should have the right of return and compensation. A majority of Israelis regard most of these as unacceptable, with a large minority rejecting Palestinian control of resources. A significant plurality says it is essential for Israel to retain all of Jerusalem.
Key issues
Palestinians – Essential
Israelis – Unacceptable
Israel should withdraw to the 67 border
All the settlers should leave the occupied territories/West Bank and settlements demolished
Right of return AND compensation
All of Jerusalem should remain in Palestine
All of Jerusalem should remain in Israel
Palestinians should have control of their energy, minerals and air space
Palestine should have an army
Finally, only 33% of Israelis said it would be ‘Unacceptable’ that ‘Israeli Arabs should be transferred to Palestine/the West Bank and Gaza’, while 18% thought it ‘Essential’ and another 46% can live with it.
What this shows is that when asked about ‘the two state solution’ majorities among both Israelis and Palestinians say they would tolerate it, but when probed about the details they are diametrically opposed on the main issues – borders, refugees, settlements, and Jerusalem. At the same time, there is no enthusiasm for binationalism on either side and while a small majority of Palestinians would tolerate ‘one joint state’, the prospect was so offensive to Israeli respondents that ‘the interview would often be brought to a close’.
The International Consensus, as I understand it, is more or less captured by the three principal demands of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative:
I. Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.
II. Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.
III. The acceptance of the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. [my emphasis]
The Palestinian respondents to the OneVoice poll regard these provisions as ‘Essential’. Their only departure from the Consensus is in demanding all of Jerusalem. It’s clear that they don’t mean just the part that Israel occupied in 1967 because 50% rejected the proposition that ‘Jerusalem should be divided into East and West along the pre 67 border’. Large, but not overwhelming, majorities of Israeli respondents, in contrast, reject all the provisions of the Peace Initiative, including 77% who reject dividing Jerusalem on the old border.
While we’re talking about The International Consensus, I might just point out that there is a wee problem. I mean apart from the problem about partition and all. It calls for an independent Palestinian state and goes on in a later section to offer normalisation of relations with Israel. This has received a lot of coverage lately, as US President Obama is quite keen on that aspect of the Initiative, effectively asking the Arab states to normalise relations before Israel complies with the provisions I quoted. Now the whole point of Israel is to be a Jewish state – state that privileges Jews in some meaningful sense. But what would it mean to achieve ‘a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194’? For reference, here is the relevant passage:
11. Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible [my emphasis]
Nobody really knows how many of the millions of refugees would actually exercise their right to return, but, as I wrote some time ago,
In other words, it is up to the refugees themselves, and not someone purporting to negotiate on their behalf, to decide whether or not to return, and the place they are entitled to return to is not some arbitrary place, but ‘their homes’. Even if only a small fraction of those currently languishing in refugee camps were to decide to exercise their right, if it were a meaningful right – to return to their homes - it would almost certainly entail a non Jewish majority within the Green Line. The compensation due to those choosing not to exercise their right, if it were just, would almost certainly bankrupt Israel.
As I read it, therefore, any two state arrangement that provides the minimum just redress for the 1948 refugees would create a non Jewish majority in the Jewish state, which is precisely why the Zionists reject the right of return as ‘national suicide’. The inevitable outcome of two states in historic Palestine turns out to be two non Jewish Palestinian states, which defeats the purpose.
But of course, since the purpose of the two state ‘solution’ from the 1947 UN partition resolution to the Geneva initiative and the Road Map is precisely the creation or retention of a sectarian racist ethno-religious Jewish state, the question of justice - for the refugees or anybody – doesn’t arise. And in the absence of justice, there will not be peace.


  1. Hey, Ernie - Great to see more work being put on line.

    Of course, it makes you a target of the psychopaths and their stipend attachment apparatchik - little minds, with little to support their delusions, except money.

  2. Thanks, 2nd anonymous. Curiously, I get many trolls around here. By and large, I don't bother arguing with them, as all their 'arguments' have long since been refuted.

  3. I mean, 'I don't get many trolls...'