Friday, August 6, 2010

Brookings poll: majority in Arab world in favour of Iran obtaining nuclear arms

Whoever claims to reflect the feelings  of people in the Middle East in general, should first read the latest results of the yearly poll of the Brookings Institute in cooperation with the University of Maryland. The poll is a yearly event and most of the results are more or less consistent with results obtained in the years before. But some are remarkable nonetheless. Take the fact that Israel and the US have repeatedly stressed how the Arab world presumably is afraid of an Iranian nuclear bomb. The exact opposite is the case: 57% of the respondents think that the situation in the Middle East would improve if Iran obtained the bomb (up from 29% in 2009). A large majority (77%) thinks that Iran has a right to pursue a nuclear program anyhow, and 92% thinks it has peaceful purposes.

The poll was taken  in July 2010 among 3.976 respondents spread over Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan and Lebanon. Less spectacular than the answers concerning Iran as far as I'm concerned, but in spite of that more widely quoted, was the drop in popularity of US president Obama. I for me could hardly be suprised that by now 62% turns out to have a negative picture of him, as opposed to only 23% last year. The reason is - no surprises here - his policy towards Israel-Palestine (61%). Iraq takes only second place with 27%. (I wrote 'no surprises here'', but for some this outcome might have the function that it reminds them that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict still plays a major role in shaping Arab public opinion. In this respect  it is ironic that just last week The New York Times gave the opportunity to the third rate Israeli historian Ephraim Karsh to write an OpEd wherein he revived the old contention that nobody in the Arab world cared about the Palestinian case so that they did best to accept whatever Israel these days offered them).

Other results: Hamas is slightly more popular than Fatah in the Arab world, but both don't score very high (13 and 7% respectively), whereas Palestinian unity is favoured by 70%. About half of the respondents (46%) think that the Palestinians need an independent, continguous state. A majority is prepared for peace if Israel gives up the1967 territories including East-Jeruzalem, but most think that this is likely going to happen in a near future.
Somewhat shocking might be the response to a question, newly introduced to the poll, about what the average Arab feels when he is watching a program or film about the Holocaust: 59% said to resent it, as it brings sympathy towards th Jews at the expense of Palestinians and Arabs, 29% said it had mixed feelings. It, no doubt, is a response to what has become known among critics as 'Israel playing the holocaust card'. What is noteworthy, is that the resentment is highest in Morocco (85%), only to be beaten by the respondents in the UAE: 99%.
For the complete results of the poll click here. 

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