Palestinians in occupied territories want US to solve conflict with Israel: survey

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaking at the UN Security Council. Below: Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu. AFP Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a briefing on coronavirus developments in Israel at his office in Jerusalem, on September 13, 2020. - Israel’s government announced it would impose a three-week nationwide lockdown in an effort to stem one of the world’s highest novel coronavirus infection rates after a surge in cases. (Photo by Yoav Dudkevitch / POOL / AFP)
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Updated 26 October 2020

Palestinians in occupied territories want US to solve conflict with Israel: survey

  • Arab News/YouGov pan-Arab survey takes the political pulse of Palestinians in occupied territories
  • Backing for US efforts to play bigger role in mediation with Israeli contrasts with wider Arab opinion

DUBAI, ERBIL: Palestinians in the occupied territories back US efforts to play a bigger role in mediation with Israel, according to the Arab News/YouGov pan-Arab survey, putting their view at odds with what a majority of Arabs across the wider region think is best for them.
Of the 2,192 respondents polled across 18 Arab countries ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election, 52 percent said they are against the US playing a bigger role in mediating between Israelis and Palestinians.
Younger people across the region appear especially hostile to a bigger US peace-broker role, with 67 percent of 18-24-year-olds against. By contrast, 61 percent of people over the age of 45 support a bigger role for Washington, indicating a stark generational divide.


Opinions also appear to diverge based on marital status, with 62 percent of unmarried people rejecting more US involvement, while 56 percent of people who are married with children voice their support.

By contrast with the Arab region as a whole, 52 percent of Palestinians in the occupied territories support US efforts to play a bigger role in mediating between Israelis and Palestinians, with the remaining 48 percent against.
“One of the reasons why you see the Palestinians looking for US involvement is because they believe the US is one of the few countries in the world that has influence over Israel and can help pressure it in the context of the peace process,” Will Wechsler, director of Middle East programs at the Atlantic Council, told Arab News in response to the findings.


READ: The methodology behind the Arab News/YouGov Pan-Arab Survey



Many observers in the Arab world appear to blame the Palestinian leadership for the lack of progress, accusing them of failing to take advantage of opportunities when presented.

“The Palestinian leadership itself is also becoming less and less positively viewed, not just by the leaders in the Arab world, but by the Palestinians themselves,” Wechsler said.
“If you look at recent polls in Israel, what you see is widespread disillusionment with the peace process. Similarly, with the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world, there’s not a lot of hope that the process will improve anytime in the near future.”
In a three-part interview that he recently gave to Al Arabiya, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to the US, blamed the Palestinian leadership for a catalogue of failures and wasted opportunities through the decades, especially between 1978 and 2015.
One reason why wider Arab publics do not support US efforts to play a bigger role in Israeli-Palestinian mediation could well be President Donald Trump’s decision in 2018 to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Some 89 percent of respondents in the survey opposed the embassy move, while just 11 percent approved.
The decision was widely seen as a blow to the Palestinian vision of establishing their own capital in East Jerusalem. Furthermore, the Trump administration has not explicitly condemned the construction of additional units in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, regarded by many as counterproductive to the goal of establishing a viable, independent Palestinian state.


Despite their apparent frustration with the glacial pace of mediation, a large proportion of those surveyed still believe the next US administration should consider finding a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict a high priority.
Equal numbers of respondents (44 percent) across the region said solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict and empowering young people should be the focus of the next US president.
These feelings were especially pronounced in North Africa, where 48 percent placed the Palestinian question at the top of their wish list of priorities for the next administration.
Nadim Shehadi, an associate fellow at Chatham House, said there is a strong appetite for peace, but not without “some form of justice” for the Palestinians. “It can be achieved very easily because a two-state solution is one step away,” he added.
“A state of Palestine can be achieved very easily if there’s no US veto, with preparation for some minimal negotiations with Israel. The state of Palestine already exists; it was declared in 1988 and recognized by 139 countries. Kosovo was admitted into the (UN) General Assembly with a lot less.”
Shehadi said the prospects for peace will depend on what is actually on offer — not on who sits in the White House or which party forms the next administration, as both the Democrats and Republicans have a “bad track record” on Palestine.
“The Trump administration achieved a huge step, but it will be wasted if it’s not followed up with an initiative that gives a sense of overall solution,” Shehadi added. “The key is the Arab Peace Initiative. It’s within reach.”
The Arab Peace Initiative, drafted by Saudi Arabia in 2002, offered the establishment of diplomatic ties in exchange for Israel making a statehood deal with the Palestinians and withdrawing to the pre-1967 borders.

Twitter: @CalineMalek


In Iraq, virus revives traumas of Daesh survivors

Updated 04 December 2020

In Iraq, virus revives traumas of Daesh survivors

BAJET KANDALA CAMP, Iraq: For half a decade, Zedan suffered recurring nightmares about militants overrunning his hometown in northern Iraq. The 21-year-old Yazidi was just starting to recover when COVID-19 revived his trauma.
Zedan had lost several relatives when Daesh stormed into Sinjar, the rugged heartland of the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq’s northwest.
The militants killed Yazidi men, took the boys as child soldiers and forced the women into sexual slavery.
Zedan and the surviving members of his family fled, finding refuge in the Bajet Kandala camp near the Syrian border where they still live today.
“We used to be farmers living a good life. Then IS (Daesh) came,” he said, wringing his hands.
In a pre-fabricated building hosting the camp’s mental health clinic, Zedan shared his traumas with Bayda Othman, a psychologist for international NGO Premiere Urgence. Zedan refers to the violence of 2014 vaguely as “the events.”
The UN says they may constitute something much more serious: Genocide.
“I started having nightmares every night. I would see men in black coming to kill us,” Zedan said, telling Othman that he had attempted suicide several times. He has been seeing her for years, learning how to cope with his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through breathing exercises that she taught him.
Earlier this year, his nightly panic attacks stopped. Finally, he could sleep again. But only for a few months.
In March, Iraq declared a nationwide lockdown to try to contain the spread of Covid-19. Zedan broke down.
“I fear that my family could catch the virus or give it to me,” he said. “It obsesses me.”
As lockdown dragged on, Zedan’s brother lost his job at a stationery shop on the edge of the camp.
“There’s no more money coming into the family now. Just thinking about it gives me a panic attack,” he said.
“The nightmares returned, and so did my desire to die.”
Out of Iraq’s 40 million citizens, one in four is mentally vulnerable, the World Health Organization says.
But the country is in dire shortage of mental health specialists, with only three per 1 million people.

HIGHLIGHT

The Daesh extremists killed Yazidi men, took the boys as child soldiers and forced the women into sexual slavery.

Speaking about trauma or psychological problems is widely considered taboo, and patients who spoke to AFP agreed to do so on the condition that only their first names would be used.
In camps across Iraq, which still host some 200,000 people displaced by violence, the pandemic has pushed many people with psychological problems into remission, Othman said.
“We noticed a resurgence of PTSD cases, suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts,” she told AFP.
In October, there were three attempted suicides in Bajet Kandala alone by displaced people, who said their movements outside the camp were restricted by the lockdown, or whose economic situation had deteriorated even further.
A tissue factory who fired people en masse, a potato farm that shut down, a haberdashery in growing debt: Unemployment is a common thread among Othman’s patients.
“It leads to financial problems, but also a loss of self-confidence, which rekindles trauma,” she said.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), about a quarter of Iraqis who were employed prior to lockdown have been permanently laid off.
Youth were particularly hard hit: 36 percent of 18-24 years old who had been employed were dismissed, the ILO said.
A new patient in her forties walked toward the clinic, her hair covered in a sky-blue veil.
Once settled in a faux-leather chair, Jamila revealed that she, too, feels destabilized by the pandemic.
The Yazidi survivor lives in a one-room tent with her son and four daughters. But she doesn’t feel at home.
“I have totally abandoned my children. I feel all alone even though they’re always at home. I hit them during my panic attacks — I didn’t know what else to do,” she said.
Othman tried to soothe Jamila, telling her: “Hatred is the result of untreated sadness. We take it out on relatives, especially when we feel devalued — men prey on women, and women on children.”
But the trauma is not just an issue for the displaced, specialists warn.
“With the isolation and lack of access to care, children who have lived a genocide develop difficulties as they become adults,” said Lina Villa, the head of the mental health unit at a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in northern Iraq.
“We fear suicide rates will go up in the years to come.”