Survey: Palestinians Have Little Faith In International Law

A global public opinion poll has found that Palestinians, Pakistanis and Iraqis have relatively little faith in international law.

The survey, conducted by, found that citizens in 17 of the 21 nations polled feel that their country should follow international law regardless of national interests. The majority of those surveyed felt that international legal bodies were fair and impartial.

Over 20,000 people were surveyed in 21 countries representing 64 percent of the world’s population.

On average, 57 percent of those polled felt their governments “should consistently follow international laws,” even if the government “thinks it is not in our nation’s interest.”

In the Middle East, support for international law was strongest in Egypt, where support for international over national law was 63 percent, six points above the global average, and faith in international legal institutions was 67 percent, well above the global average of 54 percent.

Respondents in Iraq, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories, however, were relatively sceptical of international law and legal institutions.

Only 38 percent of Pakistanis said their national interest justifies violating international law, almost 20 points below the global average and the lowest percentage of all countries surveyed.

Palestinians, the survey found, were divided on the question of international law versus national law, with 50 percent of respondents saying international law should always take precedence. An even smaller percentage of Palestinians had faith in the fairness of international legal bodies and only 18 percent of Palestinians felt they were more supportive of abiding by international law than their compatriots. This was the lowest figure in all the countries surveyed.

Dr Nabil Kukali is the director of the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion and ran the poll in the Palestinian territories.

“The majority of Palestinians are not so confident that international law will be fair to them,” Dr Kukali told The Media Line. “They feel there is an international wall when it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and that’s the reason the majority of Palestinians are less supportive than the other countries.”

“The questions that needs to be asked is what Palestinians think of international law in regard to anything outside of Palestine,” said Dr Kukali. “My guess is that for anything outside of the country, Palestinians feel that international law and the international court is working. But when it comes to the Palestinian Israeli conflict, it doesn’t work.”

Field work for the survey was done between April 4 and July 9, 2009, well ahead of the release of Judge Richard Goldstone’s report on last years Gaza War to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Dr Kukali argued that the report, which said war crimes had been committed during the war by both Israel and Hamas, may have changed Palestinian opinions of international law.

“I think if we retook the poll now Palestinians would be more supportive of international law,” he said. “I think now people are starting to think international law might actually do something for them.”

The poll found that only 39 percent of Iraqis had faith in international courts, the lowest figure of all countries surveyed.

Dr. Haitham Numan, Director of the Asharq Research Center, which ran the poll in Iraq, said that Iraqis been repeatedly disappointed by the international community.

“There are many reasons Iraqis don’t believe in following international law,” Dr Numan told The Media Line. “International law did very little for the Iraqi people under Saddam Hussein. The old regime under Saddam built a culture which perceives the international community as controlled by the U.S. and people completely lost their faith in the international community after the sanctions destroyed the economy and really hurt the people, but not the regime.”

“Also the recent U.S. invasion of Iraq was completely illegal,” Dr Numan said. “So Iraqis say ‘if international law is not followed by the world’s most powerful country, what use is it?'”

“So to be honest, the 46 percent support for international law was even higher than I expected,” Dr Numan added. “I would have expected 20 to 25 percent of the people to have faith in international law.” is a collaborative project between research centers around the world and is managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland.



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