Palestinians used to be considered the best educated and most cultivated-and secular-of all the Arabs, before the gore-spattered Arafat and his bloody-handed cronies returned from Tunis in the mid-90s to murder their opposition, immiserate their brethren, and destroy the Palestinian civil-society NGOs that had flowered after 1967, and before inroads by radical Islam commenced to turn Gaza into the Wahhabi Outpost of Hamastan (about which more below). Even now, despite the depredations of Arafat and his weak and corrupt Fatah successors, and notwithstanding their ostensible victimhood, the Palestinian literacy rate, at 91 percent, is still one of the highest in the Arab world. What this tells us about the "occupation" may be argued ad infinitum by the Ahmadinejad/Walt/Klein cabal, but here is something that even our Israel-allergic president and his amen corner on the anti-Semitic left will have to contend with: According to a poll released the other day by the International Peace Institute, Obama is not beloved of Palestinians, and settlement growth matters very little to them:
The main gestures under discussion in Washington and Jerusalem - a settlement freeze and reducing checkpoints - are the least important to Palestinians of six major confidence-building measures under consideration. Palestinians are much more interested in evacuation of Israeli settlements/outposts (28%) and prisoner releases by Israel (27%). Next came further Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank (13%) and easing border crossings, particularly in isolated Gaza (11%).
Only seven percent of all Palestinians polled-and a mere four percent of those living in the place where there actually are settlements, Judea and Samaria-care at all about settlement growth, one of the two great bugbears of the Middle East peace fantasy harbored by U.S. policymakers (the other being putative Israeli war crimes allegedly committed during operation Cast Lead, about which see this from Jen Rubin). Noteworthy, too, is that even with respect to the expulsion of Israelis from established settlements and the evacuation of outpost dwellers, those "much more interested" number an impressively small 28 percent.
What do Palestinians want? It appears they want to get rid of Hamas, and apparently in high numbers ("Palestinian Authority President Abbas has a 55% job approval rating, while his likely challenger, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, languishes at 32%".) With Gaza coming increasingly to resemble Saudi Arabia, as this amazing report in the Jerusalem Post details, that is no wonder. A sampling of statutes imposed upon the benighted citizens of that hell-hole by the "Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice" security force:
Rules banning men from bathing topless, and women (who may still bathe separately from men and fully covered) from laughing or smiling while bathing, are also in the process of enforcement. . . . Few women may now be seen in Gaza without the hijab. More and more are now wearing the jilbab (the long, shapeless black dress associated with Islamic piety). Many secular teachers have been fired. Hamas summer camps, which provide cheap alternatives for poor families in the summer months, involve intensive Koran study and competitions. . . . The promotion of Islamic norms in Gaza extends to the widespread banning of books and restricting of access to "immoral" internet sites.
However much they've come to believe in their own self-infantilizing propaganda, Wahhabi in Hamastan, it turns out, is not how these people wish to end up living.