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Hillary’s Doublespeak on Palestinian TV By: P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, March 12, 2009

A poll published this week by the West Bank-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that, at present, Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh would defeat Fatah-affiliated, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, 47%-45%, if elections were held in the West Bank and Gaza.

Three months ago, before Operation Cast Lead, Abbas would have beaten Haniyeh by 48%-38%, so the shift is dramatic. The current poll also found that Hamas’s popularity as a movement increased in the same period from 28% to 33%, while Fatah’s dropped from 42% to 40%.

The poll indeed attributes the change to the effect of Cast Lead in bolstering sympathy for Hamas, along with the official end of Abbas’s tenure in office and resultant loss of legitimacy.

Fatah could still win, though—if it fielded the right candidate. If Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti were to run instead of Abbas, he would handily defeat Haniyeh by a margin of 61%-34%. The trouble is that Barghouti is in jail, having been given five life sentences by an Israeli civilian court in 2004 on five counts of murder in his role as leader of the violent Tanzim faction of Fatah during the Second Intifada.

Those eager for signs of Palestinian moderacy, then, can find little encouragement in these results. The U.S. and most European governments acknowledged that Israel’s launching of Cast Lead was a justifiable response to intolerable rocket and mortar barrages on its citizens. But to a majority of Palestinians, Hamas’s role in the war evoked admiration—even though, in addition to its naked aggression against Israel, it exploited Palestinians in Gaza as human shields.

As for Barghouti, a few years after the winding-down of the Second Intifada with its savage mass-murder attacks, his luster as one of the ringleaders hasn’t dimmed.

Even less encouraging, if such is possible, were the results of a 2007-2008 poll released late last month by the World Public Opinion organization that showed “the Palestinian Authority leading several other Arab and Muslim countries in hatred for the United States, belief that the United States is battling Islam and support for attacks on American civilians” (see a report on the poll here, and World Public Opinion’s own report, with a link to the full poll, here).

Among the specific findings, 89% of PA Arabs said the U.S. was trying to control Middle East oil resources and 70% that it was “definitely” hoping to divide and weaken the Muslim world; 53% said they supported some terrorist groups that attack U.S. citizens, 30% supported “most or all” of them, while only 14% disapproved of all of them; and 67% of PA Arabs strongly approved of attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, 23% somewhat approved, while all of 5% “somewhat” or “strongly” disapproved.

On these and similar measures, the PA Arabs were at or near the top of a group that also included Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Morocco, Nigerian Muslims, Pakistan, and Turkey.

Meanwhile Palestinian Media Watch has made available a transcript of an interview Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave on Sunday to a Palestinian Authority TV program for teenagers. It contrasts starkly with the reality reflected in the above polls.

Having met with Palestinian children a few days earlier in Ramallah as part of the U.S. government’s Access English Language Scholarship Program, Clinton was asked on the show: “What role do such programs play in bridging the gap between cultures and what can be done to make them two-way exchange programs?”

She replied: “I am hoping to play a big role in working to connect the Palestinian people and American people more closely…. I want to do more to connect up our two countries:…having the Palestinian people feel that they have a better understanding of the United States and having the American people feel like they have a better understanding of the Palestinian people.”

Asked what “concrete steps” she and President Obama are planning to “bring…about a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinian people,” Clinton replied: “Well, we already have taken some. One of my first recommendations to President Obama was to appoint Senator Mitchell as our Middle East envoy…. We wanted to send a very clear message to the Palestinian people, to the Israeli people, to the region, that this administration is dedicated to working toward a two-state solution. My appearance at Sharm el-Sheikh [Egypt] at the Gaza reconstruction conference…was intended to send another message: that the United States will commit nine hundred million dollars to the people of Gaza because we want to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Gaza, but some of that money will also go to the West Bank….”

Clinton was also asked “what you would do if your daughter Chelsea was unfortunate enough to have been born under occupation, to be born deprived of freedom and liberty” and answered: “…I would never lose hope, I would never give up on the dream of a Palestinian state. No matter what happens, no matter what people do to try and derail that dream….”

Finally, asked in a similar vein “What message would you deliver to young Palestinians, many of whom have lost hope in justice and can no longer see the light at the end of the tunnel?” Clinton responded: “…There is always the possibility of the human spirit that can overcome any barrier. Not violence, not rejectionism and despair but constantly making it clear that human beings deserve the same rights no matter who you are…. Now there have to be changes, and the United States is committed to a two-state solution…. Both Israelis and Palestinians are looking toward the day when Israelis can live in security, because that’s of course a very legitimate concern, and the Palestinian people can live in security in their own state and shape their own destiny.”

Even allowing that Clinton was speaking on a show for teenagers, made one reference to “violence” and “rejectionism,” and is a professional diplomat, her language was fundamentally Orwellian considering that she was addressing members of a polity whose heroes and elected leaders are terrorists and that is steeped in violent hatred of Israel and of the United States itself. This polity is also the world’s most obsessive focus of Western largesse and concern yet remains underdeveloped and corrupt, and has already rejected hands-down several concrete offers of the statehood that is presumed—in the face of repeated experience—to be its aspiration.

Some say that, even if peace or a two-state solution are not currently realistic goals, the American, Western, and Israeli diplomatic and economic involvement with the Palestinians plays a geopolitical role of demonstrating concern and helping balance the U.S. support for Israel and keep the relatively moderate Arab and Muslim countries in the Western camp.

But if there has to be such involvement, would it not be more constructive to address the real problems of the West Bank and Gazan Palestinian society—first and foremost, a culture of hatred instilled by education—and make reform and assistance go hand in hand? With the United States genuinely, proactively attempting to improve things in Iraq, why, in the Palestinian Authority, does it settle for doublespeak and pumping more and more dollars into a mechanism of terror?

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/. He can be reached at pdavidh2001@yahoo.com.

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