'Most Palestinians don't trust UN'

Overwhelming majority believe the UN is dominated by the US, according to a new public opinion poll.

August 21, 2007 22:28
3 minute read.
observers watching lebanon border

UN observers 298 88. (photo credit: AP)

An overwhelming majority of Palestinians does not trust the United Nations because they are convinced that it is dominated by the US, according to a new public opinion poll. Out of 16 populations included in the poll, only the Palestinians rejected the idea that governments should be "more willing to make decisions within the UN" if this means going "along with a policy that is not its first choice." An overwhelming 81% of Palestinians think their leaders should not be more open to such concessions. The survey, which was conducted between October 8 and October 15, 2006, included some 1,056 Palestinians living in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These results reflect the widespread view among Palestinians that the UN is largely an instrument of US policy, said Dr. Nabil Kukali, an expert on public opinion in the Palestinian territories. "Palestinians think that the UN, at least in the last few decades, is to a great extent dominated by the United States of America," said Kukali, founder and director of the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, which conducted the survey as part of a worldwide study by WolrdPublicOpinion.org and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. The results of the poll suggest that although the Palestinians strongly support multilateralism in principle, they show reluctance to submit to multilateral decision making. This appears to be derived from their fear that such decisions would inevitably be controlled by the US, a country they greatly mistrust. In principle, Palestinians support a robust UN. Palestinians are among the populations most supportive of UN military action to stop genocide. Four out of five (78%) said the UN Security Council has the right to authorize the use of military force to prevent severe human rights abuses such as genocide. Palestinians also showed overwhelming support for the idea that the UN Security Council has the "responsibility" to authorize the use of force to stop genocide "even against the will of their own government." Again, Palestinians are among those most in favor of this idea out of the 12 populations surveyed. About 70% of the Palestinians think the UN has a responsibility to authorize force in such cases. Only the Chinese (76%), Americans (74%), Armenians (66%) and Israelis (64%) showed similarly high levels of support. The Palestinians expressed unusually high levels of support for allowing the UN Security Council to approve military action to "defend a country that has been attacked" (81%) and "restore by force a democratic government that has been overthrown" (67%). They even agreed that the UN Security Council could authorize the use of force to "stop a country from supporting terrorist groups" (61%). But a majority of Palestinians express reservations about using UN power to address an issue that has recently been the focus of US efforts. The majority of Palestinians does not believe that the Security Council should be able to approve force to prevent countries from either acquiring nuclear weapons (59%) or producing fuel that could be used to make such weapons (57%). Questions about nuclear proliferation, Kukali explained, raise the issue of the international community's treatment of Iran, which Palestinians see as "hypocritical." He said the Palestinians compare the UN Security Council's treatment of Iran to its treatment of Israel, which, as a non-signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, was not punished with sanctions despite being widely assumed to possess a nuclear arsenal. "The UN tolerates that Israel is in possession of many hundreds of nuclear heads, which might be carried to and dropped on any Arab capital or on Teheran by the Israeli air force," Kukali said. "On the other hand, the UN, under US pressure, denies this right of possessing WMD to Iran. Why? The reason, [Palestinians] argue, is simple: Israel is a strategic ally for the United States in the Middle East." The Palestinians stand out - even compared to other Muslim populations - for their overwhelmingly negative attitudes toward the United States. The most recent survey also showed that some 70% of the Palestinians have a "very unfavorable" view of the US. The Palestinians not only rejected the idea that the US should remain the "preeminent world power," but also that it should "do its share in efforts to solve international problems together with other countries." The Palestinians were one of only two populations, out of 15 surveyed, in which a majority (55%) said that the "US should withdraw from most efforts to solve international problems."

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