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US Democrat support for Palestine higher as Israeli ‘self-defence’ narrative collapses

September 26, 2022 at 2:36 pm

Israeli and American flags on March 21, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel [Uriel Sinai/Getty Images]

Support for Palestine has surged in the US over recent years, especially among young adults where there has been a dramatic shift. Sixty-one per cent of American adults under 30 have a favourable view of the Palestinian people, reports FiveThirtyEight, compared with 56 per cent who have a favourable view of apartheid Israel. The data cited in the website’s new report covers the seismic shift that has taken place in the US since 2014.

More democrats than ever support the Palestinian cause, and that is something that is dividing the party, said the report published in ABC News’ sister site, which focuses on opinion poll analysis. It has published details of the shift in support for Palestine and offered explanations for why increasing numbers of people are abandoning Israel. Highlighting the dramatic shift over the past two decades it cited a 2001 Gallup poll when only 16 per cent of Americans sympathised more with the Palestinians, while 51 percent sympathised more with the Israelis.

Two decades later, though, the landscape has changed. The percentage of Americans with more sympathy toward the Palestinians is now 26 per cent. That support has more than doubled among Democrats, said the report. Today, 38 per cent of Democrats express more sympathy for the Palestinians.

Read: MEMO in conversation with Prof. Norman Finkelstein

Doubt and distrust over the Israeli narrative and the rise in social media are said to be the main reasons for the shift towards greater solidarity with Palestine. Social media has changed how wars and conflicts are witnessed around the world, especially among young people. Israel’s military offensive against Gaza in 2014 is seen as a watershed movement in the shift. The onslaught left 2,251 Palestinians dead, with more than 11,000 wounded.

Such casualty statistics affected the way that the world saw the conflict, and the “self-defence” narrative pushed by Israel to justify the attack wasn’t accepted universally outside Israel, according to Dov Waxman, director of the Y&S Nazarian Centre for Israel Studies at UCLA.

“It’s really the last decade, during which so many events and shifts and factors have changed thoughts in the public domain,” Waxman is reported as saying. It was explained that what happened in 2014 was the first large-scale escalation in the age of widespread social media. In the years since, researchers have pointed to the ways in which social media has reframed how the international community observes war in real time, whether over the past decade with the Palestinians or this year with the Ukrainians.

For many people, 2014 was the first time that they were exposed to and had access to first-hand accounts from Palestinians. These accounts challenged or at least contextualised the details reported by the mainstream media.

Other factors include the rise of Black Lives Matter and social justice groups in general. Their campaign against structural racism has exposed the decades long suffering of Palestinians under an apartheid regime.

A third reason mentioned in the report is that an increasing number of Democrats and liberals are realising that their values are inconsistent with the values of the apartheid state of Israel. “In the past, supporting Israel was seen as aligned with or consistent with liberal values,” explained Waxman. “And, increasingly, it’s seen as contradicting liberal beliefs and values.”

Former US President Donald Trump’s close alliance with Israel’s then Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital also drove the notion of unconditional support for Israel further to the right of American politics.