Twenty years in the past, Tallie Ben Daniel was a school scholar wandering the campus of the College of California, Santa Cruz, when she got here throughout a bumper sticker that learn “Free Palestine.” Born to an Israeli household in Los Angeles, Ben Daniel had by no means heard the phrase earlier than. “I had zero context for what that meant. And I didn’t perceive,” she recalled. “Free Palestine from what?”
As we speak, Ben Daniel is an advocate for Palestinian human rights. She’s at the moment the managing director of Jewish Voice for Peace, a corporation that challenges the way in which the Israeli authorities treats Palestinians. However her previous confusion is sensible in opposition to the backdrop of the early 2000s.
On the whole, U.S. help for Israel was a standard, unquestioned stance on each side of the aisle, whereas the aftermath of 9/11 solely deepened Individuals’ rapport with Israel from the lens of solidarity in opposition to terrorism claimed by Islamic extremists. Even amongst these involved for the Palestinians, many clung to the fleeting optimism that the Oslo Accords of the Nineties may yield a peaceable two-state answer for Israelis and Palestinians.
In 2001, when Gallup polled Individuals on the Palestinian-Israeli battle, views have been clear and constant: Solely 16 p.c of Individuals sympathized extra with the Palestinians, whereas 51 p.c sympathized extra with the Israelis. Again then, this wasn’t even a very partisan challenge — solely 18 p.c of Democrats sympathized extra with Palestinians.
Twenty years later, although, the panorama has modified. The share of Individuals with extra sympathy towards the Palestinians has ticked as much as 26 p.c. And that help has greater than doubled amongst Democrats: As we speak, 38 p.c report feeling extra sympathy for the Palestinians.
A confluence of things over the previous decade appears to be driving this shift. Social media has modified how warfare is witnessed throughout the globe — particularly amongst younger folks — and a rising consciousness of social inequities within the U.S. could also be reshaping how some Individuals understand battle internationally, too. However most of all, the Palestinian-Israeli query has develop into a subject that embodies an intra-party id challenge for Democrats, one which has more and more pushed liberals to rethink what constitutes progressive politics.
Summer season 2014 marked probably the most lethal episodes of violence in Gaza. In Could that 12 months, Israel Protection Forces troopers killed two Palestinian youngsters. In June, three Israeli youngsters have been kidnapped whereas hitchhiking within the West Financial institution and in the end killed, and the IDF launched a full-force protection operation in response. In accordance with the United Nations Workplace for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 73 Israelis have been killed — 67 troopers and 6 civilians. In the meantime, 2,251 Palestinians have been killed, 551 of them youngsters. These casualty numbers affected the way in which the world noticed the battle, and the narrative of justified self-defense that the IDF offered wasn’t universally accepted outdoors Israel, mentioned Dov Waxman, director of the Y&S Nazarian Middle for Israel Research at UCLA.
“It’s actually the final decade, throughout which so many occasions and shifts and components have modified ideas within the public area,” Waxman mentioned.” Certainly, myriad dynamics — for instance, how U.S. social-justice actions drew parallels to the escalating violence of the 2010s and the way Donald Trump’s allied stance towards Israel raised eyebrows throughout his presidency — have step by step moved the needle on how the American public views the Palestinians.
Notably, what occurred in 2014 was the primary large-scale escalation within the age of widespread social media. Within the years since, researchers have pointed to the methods wherein social media has reframed how the worldwide group observes warfare in actual time, whether or not over the previous decade with the Palestinians or this 12 months with the Ukrainians. Whereas bumper stickers as soon as unfold messages regionally, hashtags have been now sending info buzzing across the globe. Till then, most wide-scale info, significantly about life in Gaza, got here via mainstream media shops. Now, for the primary time, folks around the globe have been uncovered and had entry to firsthand accounts from Palestinians, lots of which challenged (or a minimum of contextualized) the small print reported by giant shops. Some posts additionally singled out headlines and language utilized by such publications, accusing their framing of the violence as unfairly neglecting the Palestinian battle.
“That summer season, it was simply so clear, how disproportionate the violence was,” mentioned Ben Daniel. “The Israeli authorities will usually discuss their assaults as ‘it’s a warfare,’ but it surely turned clear that there was just one aspect with a navy.”
Her change in perspective is indicative of how Individuals’ opinions on the Palestinian-Israeli battle have shifted, too — with change particularly pronounced amongst youthful Individuals. In accordance with Pew Analysis Middle knowledge from March, 61 p.c of American adults beneath 30 have a good view of the Palestinian folks, in contrast with 56 p.c who’ve a good view of the Israeli folks. Ben Daniel thinks it’s essential that these younger Individuals have additionally been witnessing rising civil rights actions at house.
“Across the identical time, Black Lives Matter was having a resurgence. And alliances between people at, say, Ferguson [Missouri] and Palestine shifted consciousness generally,” mentioned Ben Daniel. She believes that the violence in Gaza in 2014 and the help of Black Lives Matter occurring in tandem and underpinned by social media helped flow into comparisons to the battle by paralleling police brutality within the U.S. with IDF techniques in Gaza.
Certainly, the Black Lives Matter motion, which fashioned following the July 2013 acquittal of the neighborhood-watch volunteer who killed Trayvon Martin, has aligned itself with the Palestinian trigger. In 2014 and once more in 2021, pro-Palestinian activists and Black Lives Matter activists have demonstrated their help for one another on social media.
As a rising share of Individuals started confronting uncomfortable and embedded injustices in their very own nation, the parallel particulars in Palestinian accounts of systematic oppression contextualized a battle midway internationally in a brand new gentle.
This comparability has been transferring. But it surely has additionally been controversial.
“It may be a place to begin for folks new to the battle, however I warning in opposition to taking the comparability too far. That’s ignoring numerous extra sophisticated dynamics and historical past,” mentioned Laura Birnbaum, the nationwide political director of J Road, a distinguished pro-Israel advocacy group that helps a two-state answer. Evaluating the BLM and pro-Palestine actions isn’t one thing everybody will see as truthful, Birnbaum mentioned. She and different supporters of Israel don’t suppose it’s cheap to analogize Jews in Israel as white, slave-owning colonizers when the Jewish state exists due to the historic oppression of its folks. And a few nonetheless see Israel in a precarious place as the one non-Muslim-majority nation within the Center East, Waxman mentioned.
That is one other place the place age might come into play. Whereas some older generations of Individuals lived via the latter half of the twentieth century, when Israel’s existence was not essentially thought-about a assure, millennials and Gen Zers usually tend to view Israel as a robust nation with ample monetary and navy energy, Waxman mentioned.
On the very least, the usage of the BLM comparability reveals how the framing of this dialog has modified. What was as soon as a debate over the logistics of land division has now, for liberal Democrats, turned to a dialogue about Palestinians’ human rights.
And that, Waxman mentioned, helps clarify why the pro-Palestine place has develop into a side of progressive and Democratic id. “Prior to now, supporting Israel was seen as aligned with or per liberal values. And, more and more, it’s seen as contradicting liberal beliefs and values,” he mentioned. This shift has occurred primarily among the many most liberal Democrats. Gallup polling from February signifies that liberal Democrats sympathize extra with Palestinians in contrast with Democrats as an entire, by 52 p.c to 38 p.c. Reasonable and conservative members of the occasion nonetheless are likely to sympathize extra with Israelis.
And that’s precisely what we’ve seen with a small however rising set of politicians. A Pew Analysis survey from April 2016 confirmed a widening hole on this challenge between supporters of Hillary Clinton and supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders. In the meantime, essentially the most publicly pro-Palestinian members of Congress — Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who herself is Palestinian American, and Rep. Ilhan Omar, whose hijab renders her visibly Muslim — have additionally aligned themselves with the occasion’s progressive left arm. This divide between average and liberal Democrats on the Palestinian-Israeli battle is evocative of recurring debates within the path of the occasion throughout a number of points.
And the schism occurring inside the Democratic Social gathering over Israel is barely additional facilitated by how staunchly Republicans have doubled down on their help. Conservatives are extra sympathetic towards Israel than ever, and apparently, evangelical Christians, who skew overwhelmingly Republican, report even stronger pro-Israeli beliefs than Jewish Individuals in keeping with Pew. In the meantime, Waxman and Ben Daniel additionally prompt that Trump’s shut allyship with Israel’s then-prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and controversial resolution to acknowledge Jerusalem — a metropolis claimed by each Israel and Palestine — as Israel’s capital solely drove the notion of unconditional help for Israel additional to the proper.
The Palestine-Israel query has develop into an growing variable in politics, figuring out marketing campaign funding for sure candidates. Earlier this 12 months, within the Democratic major for North Carolina’s 4th Congressional District, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, helped elevate about $2 million for state Sen. Valerie Foushee, who ran in opposition to and in the end defeated pro-Palestinian and hijabi candidate Nida Allam, a Durham County commissioner. As is often the case, nevertheless, the cash in Foushee’s marketing campaign didn’t go towards pro-Israel marketing campaign messaging however as a substitute to closer-to-home on a regular basis points that resonated with constituents on the bottom, like Foushee’s pro-choice abortion stance.
That’s indicative of the truth that, whereas the pendulum is shifting for Democrats, it hasn’t actually affected coverage but, Waxman mentioned. That’s as a result of irrespective of their political id or age, Individuals don’t price Israel as a excessive precedence challenge of their each day lives. “Individuals aren’t voting on this, actually,” Waxman mentioned. “It’s too far eliminated in comparison with different, extra on a regular basis points.”
That mentioned, opinions on the Palestinian trigger present that points don’t should dictate votes to be related inside a celebration. This subject will possible proceed to matter for Democrats, even when it doesn’t assist get them elected.
UPDATE (Sept. 22, 2022, 7:05 p.m.): This text and the second chart have been up to date with Gallup polling knowledge from Feb. 1-17. They beforehand cited Gallup polling knowledge from 2021. The second chart has additionally been up to date to make clear that the share of Individuals who sympathize extra with Palestinians is being subtracted from the share of Individuals who sympathize extra with Israelis, not Israel itself.