Sunday, July 19, 2009

Palestinians think very little of their own government(s) too

The PCPSR report I referenced in my last post also has some very telling indicators on how Palestinians view the PA in the West Bank (ruled by Mahmoud Abbas) and the de facto Hamas-run regime in Gaza. Palestinians have little trust in these governments and the length individuals go to avoid the system (especially the police) is troubling to say the least.

Corruption has long been a problem in the Fateh-dominated Palestinian Authority, deriving from Arafat's authoritarian leadership over the faction even prior to the establishment of the PA. Current President Mahmoud Abbas was supposed to bring positive democratic reforms to the government and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was seen as a promising candidate to cut deep into the PA's corrupt economic practices (which comprised mainly of granting Fateh loyalists monopolies over various industries and withholding permits to opposition members).

Most Palestinians, however, have been less than satisfied with the PA's performance. The PCPSR study indicates that almost 70% of Palestinians believe there is still corruption in PA institutions while only 27% of respondents believe it will decrease.

On the issues of democratic practices and respect for human rights, only 35% of Palestinians believe the current status of the PA concerning these issues is good or very good. This figure drops to 30% when the question was asked about human rights and democracy under the Hamas regime in Gaza.

Only 43% of Palestinians have been satisfied with the leadership of Abbas since his election in 2005. Keep in mind of course that Mr. Abbas has been effectively ruling the West Bank by decree since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

The most troubling aspect of the survey for me is the level of mistrust that characterizes the relationship between Palestinians and their police and security services - comprised mainly of young faction loyalists at the present.

12% of Palestinians interviewed reported being the victim of a crime (either violence or theft) in the last year. Of this number,
"43% saythey have submitted a complaint to the police and security services and 56% say they did not. 35% of those who did not submit a complaint say the reason they did not submit one is that they do not trust the police while 44% say the police can not do anything to help them. 26% of those who did submit a complaint say they were satisfied with the police work in the investigation to uncover the circumstances of the crime while 73% say they were not satisfied. The levels of satisfaction with the performance of the police among those who submitted a complaint are similar in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip."
Troubling indeed. But wait, there's more (if you've had time to digest the fact that almost 75% of Palestinians are unsatisfied with the police and a whopping 44% view them as incompetent stooges reminiscent of the Keystone Cops.) There are some major differences in the public's view of police services between the West Bank (Fatehstine) and the Gaza Strip (Hamastan). When the responses are broken down by territory, 50% of crime victims reported the incident to police in the West Bank while only 36% did so in the Gaza Strip, indicating that individuals living under the PA have greater confidence in the the police than those under the thumb of Hamas. However, Palestinians in Gaza have greater trust in the police but simply do not believe they will be able to address the problem. Mistrust of the police is about 10% higher in the West Bank (40%-30%). 20% more respondents from Gaza than the West Bank claimed the police could do little about a committed crime (52%-32%).

A final thought-provoking matter concerning Palestinians' trust of their police institutions (especially the PA) is the rather high number (23%) of West Bank Palestinians that answered "other" when asked why they did not submit a crime report to police. Only 4% of respondents from the West Bank indicated that they did not want the crime to become public knowledge, compared to 10% in Gaza. I am certainly in no position to speculate as to what this "other" category contains and why the responses were so high. I will e-mail the PCPSR directors and try to find more information. Stay tuned...

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