Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Economist and the "respected Palestinian pollster"

My analysis on How to Handle Hamas.The Holy Land needs a more modest peace plan.Think Cyprus which was published in The American Conservative (April 10, 2006) opens with the following.
Google "respected pollster" and "Palestinian" and you'll get quite a few hits leading to Khalil Shikaki, who is described as "the most respected Palestinian pollster." This view is shared by Tom Friemdman and other journalists who regularly soundite the head of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research -- whose institute has received funding from American Foundations and who has served as an adviser to the U.S. government.

I go on to suggest that there is one major problem in leading respectability as a pollster: his polls. Shikaki conducted three crucial polls tht showed the moderate Fatah well ahead of the militant Hamas by a comfortable and growing margin on the eve of the Palestinian parliamentary elections in which Hamas won Big. The problem was thah Shikaki's polls helped reinforce expectations in Washington that Fatah would win, noting that his polls have become a font of conventional wisdom (CW) in Washington and elsewhere. They shouldn't, I argue, warning the recent CW promoted by Shikaki, that trends in Israeli and Palestinian opinion favor a new American efforts to launch a "peace process" are very misleading and shouldn't serve as a basis for constructing new U.S. initiatives.
So... I wasn't very surprised to read in the new (April 15)issue of The Economist the following:
Paradoxically, though Palestinians have voted for extremism and many Israelis for unilateralism, some say the time for talks is propitious. Khalil Shikaki, a respected Palestinian pollster, says that a majority on both sides still wants talks, under the right conditions. But a lot will depend on who will be in Israel's ruling coalition, and whether they choose to encourage any glimmers of hope, or prefer Israel to go it alone.

I wasn't surprised because like Shikaki, The Economist has become a font of CW. And that's too bad because I think that since the magazine emerged in the 1990's as the leading organ of the ruling political and business elites of the Global Economy, a Davos Weekly, it has been starting to lose some of its pizzazz and has become kind of predictable (which is the worst thing that you could say about a weekly magazine). That means that what I'm now getting in The Economist is a concise summary of what's I've been reading all week in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times plus some nuggets from the Weekly Standard and The New Republic (all of which have referred to Shikaki as a "respected Palestinian pollster"). And, yes, as departing editor Bill Emmott notes in the new issue, the magazine's decision to support the American invasion of Iraq has been "the most controversial decision" of his editorship. Moreover, the British magazine continues to insist that America should "stay the course" in Iraq and seems to assume that America has the obligation to use its military power to spread democracy in the Middle East and worldwide. I do hope that the magazine whose classical liberal orientation I share will get a little bit more exciting, more original, more provocative under the new editor, John Micklethwait. He could start by refraining from carrying the CW of that "respected Palestinian pollster."


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