In yesterday’s The New York Times, there is a front page article with the headline “6 Palestinians Killed in Gaza At Fatah Rally.” In the article, a Gazan woman is quoted as saying about Hamas, “The Israelis were more merciful than them. They beat children in front of my eyes.”
That almost all Arabs would rather live in Israel than in a Palestinian state is well-known. But the fact that most Palestinians actually prefer Israeli occupation to Palestinian self-rule is a show-stopper. That sentiment turns the dominant Western attitude toward a solution for the Palestinians on its head. It means that those who claim to be speaking for all Palestinians when defending their actions by expressing their frustration in living under Israeli rule are actually contradicting popular Palestinian will. The assumption in Western governments and international organizations that a Palestinian state is the only desirable end is likewise deflated. While a Palestinian state that functioned and protected civil rights in the manner that Israel does would be preferable to Israeli control to the majority of Palestinians, any foreseeable Palestinian entity is becoming increasingly unappealing compared to the situation under Israeli military presence.
Daniel Pipes categorizes the reasons behind the nostalgia for Israeli control. Prosperity, freedom of expression, services, and protection of minorities are major factors.
In my experience with Gazans, I found similar feelings. When my company assumed responsibility for the security of the Erez crossing in the wake of the Hamas coup in the Gaza Strip, I sat down to eat lunch beside a group of Palestinian workers. Conversation turned to the deepening crisis in Hamas’ Gaza Strip, and one man said. ” It wasn’t like this when Israel controlled it. We had jobs, and were safe. Now, Hamas has made Gaza into a mess. No one wants to live there.” The other workers nodded emphatically.
Daniel Pipes, MEMRI, and others have collected Arab statements that show a preference for life under Israeli rule.
From the New York Times, August 29, 2006-
“Gaza is suffering under the yoke of anarchy and the swords of thugs,” Ghazi Hamad, a former Hamas newspaper editor and the spokesman for the current Hamas government, wrote in an article published Sunday in Al Ayyam, the Palestinian newspaper.
After so much optimism when Israelis pulled out of Gaza a year ago, he wrote, “life became a nightmare and an intolerable burden.”
He urged Palestinians to look to themselves, not to Israel, for the causes. But he appeared not to be placing the blame on Hamas or the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister, Ismail Haniya of Hamas. He said various armed groups in the Gaza Strip – most affiliated with Fatah, Hamas’s rival – were responsible for the chaos.
“We’ve all been attacked by the bacteria of stupidity,” Mr. Hamad wrote. “We have lost our sense of direction.” He addressed the armed groups: “Please have mercy on Gaza. Have mercy on us from your demagogy, chaos, guns, thugs, infighting. Let Gaza breathe a bit. Let it live.”In the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) elections that took place in January 2005, a significant percentage of Arab Jerusalemites stayed away from the polls out of concern that voting in them might jeopardize their status as residents of Israel. For example, the Associated Press quoted one Rabi Mimi, a 28-year-old truck driver, who expressed strong support for Mahmoud Abbas but said he had no plans to vote: “I can’t vote. I’m afraid I’ll get into trouble. I don’t want to take any chances.” Asked if he would vote, a taxi driver responded with indignation, “Are you kidding? To bring a corrupt [Palestinian] Authority here. This is just what we are missing.”
From Daniel Pipes’ blog–
Arab citizens of Jerusalem prefer to remain under Israeli rule, with their freedoms and benefits, even though they are not citizens.
In mid-2000, when it appeared that some Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem would be transferred to Palestinian Authority control, Muslim Jerusalemites expressed less than delight at the prospect. Peering over at Arafat’s PA, they saw power monopolized by domineering and corrupt autocrats, a thug-like police force, and a stagnant economy. Arafat’s bloated, nonsensical claims (“We are the one true democratic oasis in the Arab region”) only exacerbated their apprehensions.
‘Abd ar-Razzaq ‘Abid of Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood pointed dubiously to “what’s happening in Ramallah, Hebron, and the Gaza Strip” and asked if the residents there were well off. A doctor applying for Israeli papers explained:
The whole world seems to be talking about the future of the Arabs of Jerusalem, but no one has bothered asking us. The international community and the Israeli Left seem to take it for granted that we want to live under Mr. Arafat’s control. We don’t. Most of us despise Mr. Arafat and the cronies around him, and we want to stay in Israel. At least here I can speak my mind freely without being dumped in prison, as well as having a chance to earn an honest day’s wage.
In the colorful words of one Jerusalem resident, “The hell of Israel is better than the paradise of Arafat. We know Israeli rule stinks, but sometimes we feel like Palestinian rule would be worse.”
In the view of Fadal Tahabub, a member of the Palestinian National Council, an estimated 70 percent of the 200,000 Arab residents of Jerusalem preferred to remain under Israeli sovereignty. A social worker living in Ras al-‘Amud, one of the areas possibly falling under PA control, said: “If a secret poll was conducted, I am sure an overwhelming majority of Jerusalem Arabs would say they would prefer to stay in Israel.”
Hisham Gol of the Mount of Olives community council put it simply: “I prefer Israeli control.”
One individual willing publicly to oppose Arafat was Zohair Hamdan of Sur Bahir, a village in the south of metropolitan Jerusalem; he organized a petition of Jerusalem Arabs demanding that a referendum be held before Israel lets the Palestinian Authority take power in Jerusalem. “For 33 years, we have been part of the State of Israel. But now our rights have been forgotten.” Over a year and a half, he collected more than 12,000 signatures (out of an estimated Jerusalem Arab population of 200,000). “We won’t accept a situation where we are led like sheep to the slaughterhouse.” Hamdan also expressed a personal preference that Sur Bahir remain part of Israel and estimated that the majority of Palestinians reject “Arafat’s corrupt and tyrannical rule. Look what he’s done in Lebanon, Jordan, and now in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He has brought one disaster after another on his people.”
The same holds true with the Arab citizens of the Galilee. Though they elect anti-Israel MKs, and regularly complain about Israeli racism, they are willing to protect violently their right to remain Israeli-
When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government released a trial balloon in February 2004 about giving the Palestinian Authority control over the Galilee Triangle, a predominantly Arab part of Israel, the response came strong and hard. As Mahmoud Mahajnah, 25, told Agence France-Presse, “Yasir Arafat runs a dictatorship, not a democracy. No one here would accept to live under that regime. I’ve done my [Israeli] national service; I am a student here and a member of the Israeli Football Association. Why would they transfer me? Is that logical or legitimate?”
One resident quoted what he called a local saying, that “the ‘evil’ of Israel is better than the ‘heaven’ of the West Bank.” Shu‘a Sa‘d, 22, explained why: “Here you can say whatever you like and do whatever you want-so long as you don’t touch the security of Israel. Over there, if you talk about Arafat, they can arrest you and beat you up.” Another young man, ‘Isam Abu ‘Alu, 29, put it differently: “Mr. Sharon seems to want us to join an unknown state that doesn’t have a parliament, or a democracy, or even decent universities. We have close family ties in the West Bank, but we prefer to demand our full rights inside Israel.”
The entrance to Umm al-Fahm, the largest Muslim town in Israel, sports the green flags of the Islamic Movement Party that rules the town, along with a billboard denouncing Israel’s rule over Jerusalem. That said, Hashim ‘Abd ar-Rahman, mayor and local leader of the Islamic Movement, has no time for Sharon’s suggestion: “Despite the discrimination and injustice faced by Arab citizens, the democracy and justice in Israel is better than the democracy and justice in Arab and Islamic countries.”
Just 30 percent of Israel’s Arab population, a May 2001 survey found, agree to the Galilee Triangle being annexed to a future Palestinian state, meaning that a large majority prefers to remain in Israel. By February 2004, according to the Haifa-based Arab Center for Applied Social Research, that number had jumped to 90 percent preferring to remain in Israel. No less startling, 73 percent of Triangle Arabs said they would resort to violence to prevent changes in the border. Their reasons divided fairly evenly between those claiming Israel as their homeland (43 percent) and those cherishing Israel’s higher standard of living (33 percent). So intense was the Arab opposition to ceding the Galilee Triangle to the Palestinian Authority that Sharon quickly gave the idea up.
Figures in Arab countries sometimes let expressions slip that put the Israelis in a better light than Arab governments-
Syria. Salah Khalaf (a.k.a. Abu Iyad), one of the PLO’s top figures, declared in 1983 that crimes committed by the Hafiz al-Assad regime against the Palestinian people “surpassed those of the Israeli enemy.” In like spirit, Yasir Arafat addressed a PLO figure murdered at Syrian instigation at his funeral: “The Zionists in the occupied territories tried to kill you, and when they failed, they deported you. However, the Arab Zionists represented by the rulers of Damascus thought this was insufficient, so you fell as a martyr.”
• Jordan. Victor, a Jordanian who once worked as advance man for a senior Saudi government minister, observed in 1994 that Israel was the only Middle Eastern country he admires. “I wish Israel would just take over Jordan,” he said, his brother nodding in vigorous agreement. “The Israelis are the only people around here who are organized, who know how to get things done. And they’re not bad people. They’re straight. They keep their word. The Arabs can’t do anything right. Look at this so-called democracy in Jordan. It’s a complete joke.”
• Kuwait. Palestinians collaborated with Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait in 1990, so when the country was liberated, they came in for some rough treatment. One Palestinian newspaper found that in Kuwait, “Palestinians are receiving treatment even worse than they have had at the hands of their enemies, the Israelis.” After surviving the Kuwaiti experience, another Palestinian minced no words: “Now I feel Israel is paradise. I love the Israelis now. I know they treat us like humans. The West Bank [still then under Israeli control] is better [than Kuwait]. At least before the Israelis arrest you, they bring you a paper.” With less exuberance, Arafat himself concurred: “What Kuwait did to the Palestinian people is worse than what has been done by Israel to Palestinians in the occupied territories.”
They respect Israel’s self-restraint-
After the PA police raided the house of a Hamas supporter in an after-midnight operation and roughed up both him and his 70-year-old father, the father yelled at the police, “Even the Jews did not behave like you cowards.” And the son, when he came out of the PA prison, declared his experience there much worse than in the Israeli jails. An opponent of Arafat’s pointed out how Israeli soldiers “would first fire tear gas, and then fire rubber bullets, and only then shoot live ammunition. They never shot at us without a direct order to shoot, and then they only shot a few bullets. But these Palestinian police started shooting immediately, and they shot everywhere.”
They recognize that their expression is infinitely freer under Israel-
‘Adnan Khatib, owner and editor of Al-Umma, a Jerusalem weekly whose printing plant was burned down by PA police in 1995, bemoaned the troubles he’d had since the Palestinian Authority’s heavy-handed leaders got power over him: “The measures they are taking against the Palestinian media, including the arrest of journalists and the closure of newspapers, are much worse than those taken by the Israelis against the Palestinian press.” In an ironic turn of events, Na‘im Salama, a lawyer living in Gaza, was arrested by the PA on charges he slandered it by writing that Palestinians should adopt Israeli standards of democracy
For this audacity, he spent time in jail. Hanan Ashrawi, an obsessive anti-Israel critic, acknowledged (reluctantly) that the Jewish state has something to teach the nascent Palestinian polity: “freedom would have to be mentioned although it has only been implemented in a selective way, for example, the freedom of speech.” ‘Iyad as-Sarraj, a prominent psychiatrist and director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, confesses that “during the Israeli occupation, I was 100 times freer [than under the Palestinian Authority].“
They see a model in Israel’s democracy-
Israel’s May 1999 elections, which Netanyahu lost, impressed many Palestinian observers. Columnists cited in a Middle East Media and Research Institute (MEMRI) study remarked on the smooth transition in Israel and wanted the same for themselves; as one put it, he envies the Israelis and wants “a similar regime in my future state.” Even one of Arafat’s employees, Hasan al-Kashif, director-general of the PA’s Information Ministry, contrasted Netanyahu’s immediate and graceful exit from office with the perpetual power of “several names in our leadership” who go on ruling in perpetuity. Nayif Hawatma, leader of the terrorist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, wished the Palestinian Authority made decisions more like Israel:
We want the PNC [Palestine National Council] to discuss the developments since 1991, particularly the Oslo accords, which were concluded behind the back of the PNC contrary to what happened in Israel, for example, where the accords were presented to the Knesset and public opinion for voting.
The rule of law is superior in Israel-
As the intifada of 1987 degenerated into fratricidal murder and became known as the “intrafada,” PLO leaders increasingly appreciated Israeli fairness. Haydar ‘Abd ash-Shafi‘, head of the Palestinian delegation to the Washington peace talks, made a remarkable observation in 1992 according to a transcript published in a Beirut newspaper: “Can anyone imagine that a family would be happy to hear a knock at the door in the middle of the night from the Israeli army?” He continued: “When the infighting began in Gaza, the people were happy because the Israeli army imposed a curfew.” Likewise, Musa Abu Marzouk, a high-ranking Hamas official, scored points against Arafat in 2000 by comparing him unfavorably with the Jewish state: “We saw representatives of the Israeli opposition criticize [Israeli prime minister Ehud] Barak and they were not arrested … but in our case, the Palestinian Authority arrests people as the first order of business.”
Palestinian minorities and homosexuals yearn for Israel’s tolerance-
Christians and secular Muslims particularly appreciate Israel’s protection at a time when Palestinian politics has taken an increasingly Islamist cast. The French weekly L’Express quotes a Christian Palestinian to the effect that when the Palestinian state comes into existence, “the sacred union against the Zionist enemy will die. It will be time to settle accounts. We will undergo the same as our Lebanese brothers or the Copts in Egypt. It saddens me to say so, but Israeli laws protect us.” His fear is in many ways too late, as the Palestinian Christian population has precipitously declined in recent decades, to the point that one analyst asks if Christian life is “to be reduced to empty church buildings and a congregation-less hierarchy with no flock in the birthplace of Christianity?”
In the West Bank and Gaza, conviction for sodomy brings a three- to ten-year jail term, and gay men tell of being tortured by the PA police. Some of them head for Israel where one estimate finds 300 mostly male gay Palestinians living. Donatella Rovera of Amnesty International comments, “Going to Israel is a one-way ticket, and once there their biggest problem is possibly being sent back.”
Palestinians living in the West who visit the Palestinian Authority are vividly aware of its drawbacks compared to Israel. “There is a difference between the Israeli and the PA occupation,” wrote Daoud Abu Naim, a medical researcher in Philadelphia, while visiting family in Shuafat:
The Israelis whom I met with over the years have been diverse. Some have been insensitive to our needs, and some have not been. On the other hand, the Arafat/Rajoub regime is more than simply “corrupt.” It is exclusively interested in setting up a dictatorship in which Palestinian citizens will have no civil liberties whatsoever.
MEMRI documented Arab voices who long for the return of the Israeli occupation of Gaza-
Faiz Abbas and Muhammad Awwad, journalists for the Israeli-Arab weekly Al-Sinara, wrote: “People in Gaza are hoping that Israel will reenter the Gaza Strip, wipe out both Hamas and Fatah, and then withdraw again… They also say that, since the [start of the] massacres, they [have begun to] miss the Israelis, since Israel is more merciful than [the Palestinian gunmen] who do not even know why they are fighting and killing one another. It’s like organized crime, [they said]. Once, we resisted Israel together, but now we call for the return of the Israeli army to Gaza.” 
Al-Hayat Al-Jadida columnist Yahya Rabah wrote: “When the national unity government was formed, I thought, ‘This will be a government of national salvation.’ If a government that includes Fatah, Hamas, other factions and independents associated with [various] factions has not been able to save the day, it means that no one can, unless Israel decides that its army should intervene. Then it will invade [the Gaza Strip], kill and arrest [people] – but this time not as an occupying [force] but as an international peace-keeping force. Look what we have come to, how far we have deteriorated, and what we have done to ourselves.” 
Palestinian journalist Majed Azzam wrote: “We should have the courage to acknowledge the truth… The [only] thing that prevents the chaos and turmoil in Gaza from spreading to the West Bank is the presence of the Israeli occupation [in the West Bank]… [as opposed to] its absence from the Gaza Strip.” 
Bassem Al-Nabris, a Palestinian poet from Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip, wrote: “If a there was a referendum in the Gaza Strip [on the question of] ‘would you like the Israeli occupation to return?’ half the population would vote ‘yes’… But in practice, I believe that the number of those in favor is at least 70%, if not more – [a figure] much higher than is assumed by the political analysts and those who follow [events]. For the million and a half people living in this small region, things have [simply] gone too far – in practice, not just as a metaphor. [It did not begin] with the internal conflicts, but even earlier, in the days of the previous Palestinian administration, which was corrupt and did not give the people even the tiniest [ray of] hope. The fundamentalist forces which came into power [after it] also promised change and reform, but [instead, people] got a siege, with no security and no [chance of] making a living… If the occupation returns, at least there will be no civil war, and the occupier will have a moral and legal obligation to provide the occupied people with employment and food, which they now lack.”