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Al Jazeera and the Prospect of Peace

What effect does watching Al Jazeera have on the mindset of Israeli Arabs? A fascinating new piece of research suggests that watching the network makes Israeli Arabs more convinced that the Middle East conflict will escalate.

Some 53% of Israeli Arabs who regularly tune in to Al Jazeera believe the Arab-Israeli conflict will escalate in the coming years, while those who get their news from other sources were more optimistic. Among this second group, 30% said that the conflict will escalate.

The figures support the views of many Israeli analysts who believe that Al Jazeera presents news and analysis in such a way that promotes radical views and undermines moderation.

The figures show how widely Al Jazeera is watched by Palestinians: 48% said that the station is their main source of news; the results also reveal that Druze have a far lower take-up of Al Jazeera —only 15% of Druze said the station is their main source of news.

The poll, which was conducted by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, part of the Washington based Brookings Institution, found widespread pessimism among Israeli Arabs about the chances of peace. Only 11% see an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement coming through in the next five years.

However, when it came to interpersonal relationships with Jews, the poll paints a happier picture. The rate of Arabs reporting that they have Jewish friends was higher than widely perceived. Some 60% of respondents have Arab friends. Of these, the majority are on visiting terms: 34% of Arabs said they have Jewish friends whom they have visited or who have visited them in the last two years.

Pollsters also asked respondents about their attitudes towards America — and 20% said they are very favorable towards about the U.S., 21% somewhat favorable, 15% somewhat unfavorable and 32% very unfavorable. The “Obama effect” is discernable among Israeli Arabs, with people more hopeful about the Obama administration’s policy towards the Middle East than they are favorable about their own attitudes towards the U.S. — as 22% said they were very hopeful and 37% hopeful.

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