Monday, June 03, 2013

Shimon Peres, the Jerusalem Post and Biblical spies

By Tuvia Brodie

Early last week, Israel President Shimon Peres spoke before Arab leaders gathered in Jordan for the 2013 World Economic Forum for the Middle East. He is quoted as having declared, “There is an overwhelming majority [in Israel] that favours a diplomatic solution of ‘two states for two peoples’ on the 1967 lines” with specified concessions.
Two days later, the Jerusalem Post headlined a story that appeared to explain what Mr Peres meant when he’d referenced that  ‘overwhelming majority’ (JPost staff, “Poll: most Israelis back Arab peace initiative,” May 28, 2013): according to a new poll by New Wave Research, 69 per cent of Israelis would back the Arab Peace Initiative if Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adopted it.
There are two noteworthy issues here.  First, while Mr Peres had not directly quoted New Wave as his source, a report on AI-Monitor suggested that this was indeed his source. The Post should have done some homework. For one thing, New Wave Research’s track record may be suspect. As reported in Haaretz (Chaim Levinson, “Are the polls accurate? In a word, no”, December 16, 2012), in the 2009 national Israeli elections, the very worst pollster was New Wave Research, with pre-election predictions off by 24 seats. This year, its ranking among pollsters improved, but it still missed the final 2013 election results by 20 seats.
In arithmetic, that 20-seat error (when predicting 120 seats in the Knesset) is a margin of error of 16%. In most places, you don’t business with someone whose error is that great.
Then, there is the poll itself. Like many polls in Israel, this one interviewed only 500 people. Some have criticized the accuracy of such a small sampling (see Raphael Ahren, “Poll warning: Believe the trends, beware specifics,” The Times of Israel, January 3, 2013). A sample of this size could yield inaccurate results.
The Post didn’t say if there were any political conflicts of interest that might have influenced poll questions. This is an important issue because, according to the story in Al-Monitor (above), this poll was in fact commissioned by an Israeli Peace Initiative organization, a collection of individuals who have proposed their own ‘Peace Initiative’ in ‘response to’ the Arab Peace Initiative. They are considered to be politically Leftist.  They could have an interest in commissioning questions that support their ideology. The Post did not identify who had paid for this poll—or the political orientation of that payor.
When a poll response this strong has in fact been commissioned by a payor with a political agenda, the Post should have wondered about accuracy.  It did not.
This is a concern because the Post story does suggest that the poll was flawed. The majority of those interviewed acknowledged they understood next to nothing about the Arab Peace Initiative. They needed interviewer assistance to understand the issues. Such assistance opens the door to interviewer manipulation. That manipulation could affect result accuracy. The story did not explore this issue.
The Jerusalem Post knows that a story like this could have significant political consequences.  Given the bias of those who paid for this poll and the apparent ignorance of those who took it, thePost had many reasons to be cautious about this report.
It was not cautious. Why did it publish, without cautionary comment, such a problematic survey? Does it prefer a pro-peace agenda to accuracy-in-reporting?
A second issue here is Mr Peres’ own agenda. Shimon Peres may have won a Nobel Prize for his work on the 1993 Oslo Accords, but for Israel, Oslo has brought only death and woe, not peace. Almost two thousand Israelis have died and thousands of rockets have been fired at Israel as a direct result of that agreement. These are not signs of a success. They are signs of failure. Mr Peres refuses to acknowledge this.
Does Shimon Peres remind us of Biblical spies? When those spies returned from their reconnaissance of Israel to report to the nation on the nature of the land they were about to enter, they ignored the obvious (G-d had already told the Jewish nation that the land was good—and would be theirs). Instead, they spoke of their own agenda (to convince the nation they would fail if they crossed into Israel). The consequence of that agenda was disaster. G-d punished the Jewish nation for failing to have faith in Him.
There is always a price to pay when we ignore the obvious in order to promote our own agenda. Our Arab ‘peace partners’  want to conquer Israel and call it ‘Palestine’. They do not hide that. It is not a secret. To ignore that because we have a dream doesn’t create that dream—it creates a recipe for disaster.
Mr Peres—and Post editors-- should study Tanach and its traditional commentary. They might learn that personal agendas can lead to national disaster.

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