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For Peace and Progress: Assessing the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. Michael Bacharach Sociology

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For Peace and Progress:

Assessing the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

Michael Bacharach


Objective: To gauge students’ understanding of international conflict, specifically the Palestinian-Israeli crisis. Furthermore, this study compared the relative knowledge of scholars students in Public Leadership versus those in Environmental Science. Finally, the opinions of scholar’s students were compared with world public opinion in order to identify general trends.

Analysis:Students had a mean score of 36.9% on 8 factual questions. Public Leadership scored slightly better than Environmental Science students: 39% vs. 35% correct. Government Majors did better than other majors with a mean score of 3.42 vs. 2.88%.

Only 8.8% of students could correctly name the current leaders of both Israel and Palestine. Respondents generally overestimated the number of Jews and underestimated the number of Muslims. The range given was anywhere from 5,000 to 5 billion people. Students also were confused as to the percentage of Israel which is Jewish (76%). Nearly, ¼ said 90% or greater and another ¼ said 60% or less.

Overall, respondents did not align themselves with world opinion, and were uninformed, which begs the question, why don’t students care more about this issue, or global politics in general?

Research Context:Since the inception of the world’s only Jewish state more than 50 years ago, Arabs and Israeli’s have suffered through 7 wars, 2 Intifadas, multiple assassinations, dozens of failed peace negotiations, and the deaths of thousands of young men and women. Following a recent trip to Israel I was inspired to seek out students thoughts and feelings concerning this contentious topic, and found a survey to be the most reliable conduit.

Modifications/Limitations: After half of the surveys were collected it became clear that an abnormally low number of correct responses were received for question number one. This question was unprompted, and for the second half of the students an addendum was included to more precisely assess students understanding. In addition, the survey audience may be considered too homogeneous both in intellect and ethnic background to be considered a true representation of the general public, or even University of Maryland students.

  • 55.2 % of people sampled said that Yasser Arafat (deceased) is the current leader of the Palestinian National Authority
  • 51.2% of respondents believe that Arab’s are denied the right of citizenship in the state of Israel. (incorrect)
  • 72.8% of respondents agreed to shared blame in the failure to reach peace, but 16% blamed the Palestinians, and 8% blamed the Israelis
  • Nearly 1/3 of respondents believe that loss of U.S. support is the greatest threat to Israel.
  • 65.6% of respondents feel that a two state solution is the best alternative for peace
  • 73.6% believe the United Nations has a responsibility to help solve the conflict.
  • 28% of respondents believe the United States should be a mediator in this conflict

Research Method:A 20-queston survey was administered to 125 College Park Scholars students aged 18-22. Students varied in age, ethnicity, major and Scholars subset. The survey was divided into four subtopics: Current Affairs, World Perceptions, Future Solutions, and Media Influences. Surveys were distributed in person to ensure the integrity of the study. Because half of the questions are factual in nature, face to face surveys mitigate the use of unauthorized sources which would negate research findings. To maintain confidentiality, respondents were given numbers 1-125 and no names were recorded during the analysis stage. Responses to all 20 questions were recorded, charted and graphed in order to share survey results.