Thursday, March 25, 2004

# Posted 11:32 AM by Patrick Belton  

IN YET ANOTHER INDICATION that the Palestinian people are infinitely more sensible than any of their leaders, there's been an extraordinary backlash lately in the West Bank and Gaza against militant groups following the apprehension of a 14-year old suicide bomber at a roadblock in Nablus. Hussam Abdu, say reporters, had been bullied at school, and told army interrogators that he decided to commit suicide "because nobody liked me." Similar widespread Palestinian condemnations had also occurred in November and January, when Hamas dispatched mother-of-two Reem Al-Riashi at the Erez Crossing as a suicide bomber from the Gaza Strip into Israel, and when Al-Aqsa sent a youth of 17, Sabih Abu Saud, to an Israeli guardpost near the West Bank city of Kalkilya. As sad as it is that extremist organizations would place so little value on the lives either of vulnerable Palestinian adolescents or Israeli civilians, it inspires some hope that their fanaticism is seen for what it is among the Palestinian people. Incidentally, seventy prominent Palestinian intellectuals have signed a newspaper advertisement rejecting Hamas's recent call for violence against Israeli officials, and calling instead for a "peaceful intifada."

If the Palestinian people were actually permitted to run the place, rather than either the Islamists of Hamas or the corrupt coterie surrounding Arafat, it might not actually turn out half bad.

UPDATE: Brian Ulrich has more on Palestinian public opinion, and reports on a lecture by Palestinian political scientist (and track two negotiator) Khalil Shikaki. Noteworthy points: 1. over half of Palestinians support a two-state solution (including 40% of Hamas supporters, who probably give the organization their support mostly because of its success in providing public services and its lower level of corruption compared to the PA); 2. a large plurality (40%) of Palestinians don't like any of their political choices (with 35%, concentrated in Gaza, supporting Hamas, and only 20% backing Fatah); 3. even in Gaza, Hamas would probably not poll much above 35%, suggesting it would be useful to hold elections in Gaza before the Israeli withdrawal: this would prevent a complete consolidation of power by Hamas in Gaza after the Israeli pull-out, publicly reflect the proportion of Gaza's population who do not support terror, and place a great deal of pressure on Fatah to reform or risk losing support.
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