'Palestinian web landscape dominated by radicalism'

New research focuses on search engines, social media sites, YouTube, Twitter, and other sources used to gauge views of general population.

October 20, 2010 12:31
1 minute read.
Palestinians  chant slogans as they attend a rally

Palestinians protest talks 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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A study of Palestinian social media commissioned by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) highlights what it calls the "serious risks to Israeli security" that may occur should the US push too hard for a peace agreement.

The results were compiled from postings on various sites including Twitter, Youtube and other social media sources, and showcase a cross-section of views. These reflect, according to the study, the opinions of the Palestinian people, or at least, those who are computer literate.

Mideast Monitor: Polling the Arab public
Poll: 'Most Palestinians back direct talks'

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The study, "Palestinian Pulse," was conducted by Jonathan Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz, both employed by the FDD, and utilized ConStrat, a company that deploys military-grade technology on behalf of the US Central Command. Schanzer and Dubowitz said the following in an article on The National Interest:

"While polls are often designed to elicit specific responses, social media is largely free of outside manipulation. Most Palestinians write under pseudonyms, enabling them to discuss controversial issues without fear of retribution."

The overriding conclusion drawn from the 102 page report of the results was that "although the Palestinian web landscape is not devoid of users with moderate to liberal views, it is dominated by radicalism."

Some of the study's conclusions were not altogether surprising, including that Hamas shows little desire for peace with Israel, that Fatah is in internal disarray, and that the conflict between Hamas and Fatah shows little sign of being resolved.

The authors went on to make recommendations following an analysis of the material collected.

Firstly, said the authors, "the US cannot afford to discount the potential impact of deepening Palestinian radicalism and rejectionism. If the online environment is even a relatively accurate indicator of Palestinian public sentiment, the Obama administration should consider the serious risks to Israeli security from an overly aggressive and premature push for a comprehensive peace agreement."

Further, the US government should keep a close eye on the Palestinian online presence, as this could yield more accurate results than the often-disputed opinion polls, they said.

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