Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Why Facts Don't Matter

A poll published in today's NY Times states that 84% of Palestinians support the Mercaz massacre. 64% support shooting rockets at towns and cities in the Negev.

That is a very scary number. But the number itself won't affect how people will view the Palestinians. The Left will just use this poll as evidence that we need a political solution and the longer we wait, the more angrier the Palestinians will get and the chances of an Intifada breaking out will only get higher. The Right will point to this poll as a reason to suspend negotiations, because how can we negotiate with people who overwhelmingly support mass murder of civilians?

All data regarding to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are processed through these frameworks. One side believes that the Palestinians are essentially like us and would cease violence if they saw a real light at the end of the tunnel. They only support violence because they are helpless and feel as if they have no other choice. Give them a state and freedom and the majority will live in peace with Israel. The other side denies that the Palestinians are basically like us westerners and claim there is no evidence the Palestinians will ever want peace. The Palestinian refusal to make real peace could be based on genetics, the nature of Islam, or just some nationalistic ideology that promotes irredentism.

Obviously the policy preferences of these groups reflect these assumptions. The first group supports the peace process no matter what and will never allow violence to stop peace talks. That is because peace talks are the antidote to violence. While some groups in Palestinian society benefit from the status quo, they will be marginalized once the peace process is completed because majority of Palestinians will no longer support their cause. The other side sees negotiations as futile at best and suicidal at worst. The Palestinian ideology does not allow for peace and the peace process will only facilitate their ultimate goal, which is the destruction of Israel.

This poll will only strengthen the beliefs of both sides. the first group will argue that we need to push the process faster, because once we have something in place in the West Bank, the Palestinians in Gaza will reject Hamas. The other side claims that negotiations with a people who support murder is idiotic.

Either way new facts aren't going to change anyone's views.

As an aside, the pollster Khalil Shikaki was almost killed a few years ago by Palestinians for reporting his findings that the vast majority of Palestinians would not choose to return to Israel if they had a right of return.

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