Do Arabs care about Palestine?
To conclude that Arabs do not care about the Palestine issue on the basis of a recent newspaper survey is wrong.
In The New York Times, Professor Efraim Karsh of King’s College London, draws our attention to a poll that suggests 71 per cent of Arabs don't care about the Palestine issue.
At face value the statistic is pretty sobering, as are the conclusions he draws from it.
Because of this "staggering" number, the Professor says, there is absolutely no basis to the belief that the Palestine problem is fuelling " regional anger and despair, [that gives] a larger rationale to terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and to the insurgency in Iraq".
Then, citing a list of carefully chosen historical events, he glides into the further conclusion that an even bigger problem for Palestinians is active persecution by Arab governments. (Not even a passing mention for any other Governments that may be party to this particular issue.)
And the logical end product of this reasoning is that Palestinian people might as well give up any hopes of being heard:
"The sooner the Palestinians recognise that their cause is theirs alone, the sooner they are likely to make peace with the existence of the State of Israel and to understand the need for a negotiated settlement."
Many people will, of course, buy into this simplistic narrative, but two basic problems stand out.
First - public ignorance and lack of concern about a chronic and intractable geopolitical issue is far from "staggering", it's the norm in almost all countries, even the best educated.
It therefore seems rather foolish to base an entire political philosophy on this one selective statistic.
But more importantly, the Professor appears to have entirely mis-interpreted the very statistic upon which he bases his argument.
If 71 per cent of Arabs don't care about the Palestinian problem, then, logically, 29 per cent do.
As a rough benchmark of the size of the Arab world, let's take Wikipedia's word:
Twenty-five countries and territories with a combined population of 358 million people straddling North Africa and Western Asia.
It seems to me that 29 per cent of 358 million people is a plenty big enough population to drive the kind regional anger and action that the Professor so glibly dismisses.