Palestine and Mexico - Two Interesting Anomalies in the World Public Opinion Survey Data on Knowledge of the Perpetrators of the 9/11 Attacks:

Yesterday, I blogged about the recent World Public Opinion survey that gauged knowledge of the identity of the perpetrators of 9/11 attacks across 17 countries. For the most part, the distribution of responses in the 17 nations was about what I had expected. However, there were two interesting anomalies, one positive and one negative.

I. Palestine.

The positive anomaly is Palestine. 42% of Palestinian respondents correctly indicated that al Qaeda were the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. If you add in the 7% of Palestinians who named "Saudis," "Egyptians," or other Arabs as having also given correct answers, it turns out that almost half of Palestinians know who carried out the 9/11 attacks. This may not seem like an impressive figure; after all, 46% of Palestinians still claim that either the US government (blamed by 27% of respondents) or Israel (19%) were responsible. However, it is far better than comparable results elsewhere in the Arab world. For example, the WPO survey found that only 16% of Egyptians and only 11% of Jordanians realize that al Qaeda was responsible for the attacks. 54% of Egyptians and 48% of Jordanians say that it was either Israel or the US. These results are also consistent with previous surveys showing that the vast majority of respondents in several Arab countries as well as many European Muslim populations deny that the 9/11 atrocities were perpetrated by Arabs. The WPO results show that recognition of the true identity of the 9/11 perpetrators is far more widespread among Palestinians than any other Arab Muslim population ever surveyed on this issue. Interestingly, only 19% of Palestinians claim that Israel was responsible, compared to 43% of Egyptians and 31% of Jordanians; this despite the fact that Palestinians have far more grievances against Israel than do Arabs residing in these two other countries. What accounts for the difference between the Palestinians and other Arabs? It's hard for me to say; perhaps experts on the region can shed light on the answer. Whatever the cause, it is a mildly encouraging sign (emphasis on "mildly") that Palestinian public opinion is at least somewhat rational and therefore potentially amenable to one day living in peace with Israel and the US.

II. Mexico.

The negative anomaly is Mexico. Only 33% of Mexican respondents in the WPO poll identified al Qaeda as the perpetrators of 9/11; this number is statistically indistinguishable from the 30% who blamed the US government (1% of Mexicans laid the blame on Israel). Strikingly, a higher percentage of Mexicans claimed that the US government carried out an attack on its own citizens than did respondents in any other country except Turkey (36%). Ironically, there is far more recognition of al Qaeda's responsibility for 9/11 among Palestinians than among Mexicans, even though the former have far more reason to be unhappy with American foreign policy.

Obviously, I know that there is anti-Americanism in Mexico and that Mexicans have various historical grievances against the US government, some of them legitimate. At the same time, Mexico derives many benefits from its relationship with the US, including extensive trade, and remittances from the large Mexican immigrant population in this country. Certainly, I didn't expect this level of anti-American prejudice in Mexican public opinion on 9/11.

I strongly support free trade with Mexico and continued Mexican immigration and decry the recent nativist attacks on Mexican and other Hispanic immigrants. A positive relationship between the US and Mexico is, I think, very much in the interests of both countries. Before writing this post, I even wondered whether I should avoid highlighting the Mexican data, so as not to give more fodder to opponents of NAFTA and advocates of draconian restrictions on immigration.

However, the WPO poll results are a troubling indication that there is more irrational anti-Americanism in Mexico than I, at least, would have expected. That does not bode well for the future of US-Mexican relations. Perhaps specialists in Mexican politics and public opinion can shed more light than I can on the causes of this disturbing trend.

UPDATE: Various commenters on this and my previous post suggest that the Palestinians may simply be "proud" or supportive of al Qaeda's role in the 9/11 attacks and thus unwilling to deny it. This is theoretically possible, but unlikely. In virtually every survey, including the WPO survey, anti-Americanism and support for radical Islamism are positively correlated with 9/11 denial. In other similar cases, people who deny the reality of major atrocities or blame the victims for them overwhelmingly tend to sympathize with the perpetrators and/or hate the victims. For example, most Holocaust deniers are anti-Semitic. Most of those who deny the realities of communist mass murder are either communist sympathizers or at least people who think that communism may not have been as bad as the "capitalist" alternative.

In principle, anti-Semites could take the view that the Holocaust did happen, but that Hitler had good reason for doing it. In practice, that response is far less common than denial. The same seems to be true of the anti-American and radical Islamist reactions to 9/11.