Sunday, June 04, 2006

European Palestinian support drops.

Middle East: Amazing what a couple of terrorist attacks and riots can do to people's opinions.

New public opinion surveys conducted among "opinion elites" in Europe show that support for the Palestinians has fallen precipitously, according to a leading international pollster, Stan Greenberg, who has been briefing Israeli leaders on his findings in the past few days. There has not necessarily been "a rush to Israel" but there has been a "crash" in backing for the Palestinians, he noted. Greenberg, a key pollster for president Clinton who also worked with former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, conducted the surveys for the Israel Project, a US-based non-profit organization devoted to educating the press and the public about Israel. ....At the root of the change, said Greenberg, was a fundamental remaking in Europe of the "framework" through which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is viewed. Three years ago, he said, the conflict was perceived "in a post-colonial framework." There was a sense "that Europe could cancel out its own colonial history by taking the 'right' side" - the Palestinian side. Yasser Arafat was viewed as "an anti-colonial, liberation leader." The US was seen as a global imperial power, added Greenberg, and the fact that it was backing Israel only added to the "instinctive" sense of the Palestinians as victims. France, with the largest Muslim population - moreover an entirely Arab Muslim population - with the direct experience of Algeria and the most anti-US positions, was most prey to this mindset. Today, by contrast, the Europeans "are focused on fundamentalist Islam and its impact on them," he said. The Europeans were now asking themselves "who is the moderate in this conflict, and who is the extremist? And suddenly it is the Palestinians who may be the extremists, or who are allied with extremists who threaten Europe's own society." An increasing proportion of Europeans are concluding that "maybe the Palestinians are not the colonialist victims" after all. Furthermore, the pollster said, the question of which side held "absolute," uncompromising positions had also shifted - to Israel's benefit. The sea-change in attitudes, he said, had been accelerated by the fact that former prime minister Ariel Sharon, who had been widely regarded as an ideological "absolutist," had surprised Europe with his disengagement initiative. And at about the same time, the Palestinians had chosen the "absolutists" of Hamas as their leadership. "

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