Americans overwhelmingly reject laws designed to penalize supporters of BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights, according to a new poll.
More than 70 percent of respondents oppose laws that target BDS activism as an infringement on the constitutional right to free speech.
That opposition rises to 80 percent among Democrats but is still remarkably high among Republicans, at 62 percent.
Similar measures pending in Congress face strong opposition from civil liberties groups.
The University of Maryland Critical Issues poll asked a representative sample of more than 3,000 Americans in September about their attitudes towards Middle East issues.
Among respondents, about half had heard something about BDS.
Of those, 26 percent support BDS. Another 26 percent neither supports or opposes it.
Meanwhile, 47 percent – fewer than half – say they oppose BDS.
Following recent trends, there is strong party polarization: Just 8 percent of Republicans support BDS compared with 48 percent of Democrats.
Just 15 percent of Democrats oppose BDS, according to the poll.
Confirming that the boycott message is reaching the party’s progressive base, 77 percent of the Democrats who have heard of the movement agreed that BDS “is a legitimate, peaceful way of opposing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.”
Only 19 percent of the Democrats agreed with the statement – typical of Israeli government claims – that BDS is an “anti-Israel organization attempting to weaken Israel and to undermine its legitimacy,” and that some of its supporters are anti-Semitic.
Positions were reversed among Republicans, with just 13 percent agreeing that BDS is legitimate and 85 percent viewing it as “anti-Israel.”
This poll confirms long-term trends where support for Palestinian rights is gaining strength in the base of the Democratic Party.
This is playing out in the ongoing primary campaign.
Such unquestioning praise of Israel had until recent years been standard fare for ambitious politicians of either main party.
But the leading Democrats are heading in the other direction.
Warren has for years been loath to make any commitment to holding Israel accountable.
Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, did not go as far.
Answering a question at the University of Chicago over the weekend, he said, “I think that the aid is leverage to guide Israel in the right direction.”
But he suggested that as president he would only reduce aid if Israel proceeded with formal annexation of settlements.Until this week, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has been the only major candidate seeking the Democratic nomination to state clearly that he would withhold military aid from Israel.
Former Senator Mike Gravel, who dropped out of the race in August, had pledged to end military aid to Israel.