Why Do Palestinians Believe What They Believe?

The “occupation” isn’t enough to explain the views they hold on Israel, Jews, and the desirability of violence.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations in September 2015. Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations in September 2015. Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Last Word
Nov. 23 2015
About the author

Daniel Polisar is the executive vice-president and a member of the faculty at Shalem College in Jerusalem.


The research for my essay, “What Do Palestinians Want?,” began over a year ago. Its publication in Mosaic coincided, as fate would have it, with a wave of Palestinian knifings, shootings, and car-ramming attacks in Israel that still shows no signs of receding. Largely as a result of this coincidence, I suspect, the essay has been read and debated far more widely than might otherwise have been expected. I’m gratified by the attention, and indebted to the many readers and commentators who, coming from different perspectives and holding disparate views, have raised a series of questions about the essay and the larger research project behind it. I’m especially appreciative of the formal responses in Mosaic by Haviv Rettig Gur, Amir Taheri, and David Pollock.

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More about: Israeli & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Palestinian pub