Social Media Study Reveals Palestinians' Intentions?

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Many Palestinians continue to support terrorism against Israelis, a unique study of Arabic-language Palestinian social media by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies revealed.

The study, entitled "Palestinian Pulse: What Policymakers Can Learn from Palestinian Social Media," was co-authored by FDD Executive Director Mark Dubowitz and Vice President Jonathan Schanzer. To read the full report, click here.

The Washington, D.C.-based group enlisted Constrat, a web analysis company, to track Palestinian social networking sites - including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube - on the peace process.

"FDD undertook this project with the assumption that online social networks provide important political insights - particularly in the Palestinian online environment - because they grant their users anonymity and freedom of expression," the group said on its website.

The findings suggest the Obama administration may have misread prevalent Palestinian sentiment rejecting peace with Israel.

Using military-grade software to compile and collate the information, Constrat analyzed an estimated 20 percent of 10,000 Arabic-language Palestinian media entries posted between May and August 2010.

"In the end, the company analyzed 1,788 statements contained within 1,114 unique posts across 996 threads written by 699 authors," FDD stated on its website.

The resulting data gave a more accurate picture of Palestinian thinking in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The findings showed, for example, that reconciliation between Hamas, the Palestinian faction controlling the Gaza Strip, and Fatah, remains elusive.

"The three-year conflict between Hamas and Fatah is not likely to end very soon," Schanzer said.

"In fact, our research found that Hamas showed more interest in reconciling with radical Salafist factions than with Fatah. Palestinian reform factions also have little influence, raising red flags about the trajectory of Palestinian society," he said.

With regard to PA President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction, the study showed that half support non-violent resistance and half "armed conflict and terrorism against Israel."

The study also concluded that most Palestinians are not predisposed "to challenge Iran's vast influence in the Gaza Strip, where it is prevalent, or in the West Bank, where its influence is less clear."

Based on the findings, FDD suggested the Internet may be a more "valuable barometer of politics than Palestinian polls."

FDD also recommended that Washington continue monitoring Palestinians online and increase funding for the U.S. State Department's Digital Outreach team, which puts Arabic-speaking officials in online conversations with Palestinians.

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