Poll: Majority of Democrats wants more pressure on Israel

Two men embrace in front of US and Israeli flags

President Joe Biden’s staunchly pro-Israel policies are increasingly out of step with the base of his ruling Democratic Party. (US Embassy Jerusalem)

President Joe Biden has made clear his administration’s staunch support for Israel.

He’s so far failed to roll back the Trump administration’s most damaging attacks on Palestinian rights.

Even before the election, Antony Blinken, now secretary of state, reassured the Israel lobby that under Biden, US funding for Israel’s military would remain unconditional.

Since the election, top Biden officials, including Blinken, have reaffirmed their hostility to BDS – the nonviolent boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.

A new Gallup poll indicates just how out of step these hardline anti-Palestinian positions are with the Democratic Party base – further confirmation of longtime trends.

On its face, the poll may appear reassuring for the Israel lobby. Overall, 75 percent of Americans view Israel favorably while 30 percent see the Palestinian Authority – as distinct from the Palestinian people – more favorably.

Similarly, 58 percent of Americans sympathize more with the Israelis – though that is down from 64 percent in 2018.

Meanwhile, the number whose sympathies lie more with the Palestinians has edged up from 19 percent in 2018 to 25 percent today.

But that hides what Israel lobbyists will consider an alarming shift: More than half of Democrats now want the US to put more pressure on Israel than on the Palestinians.

Pressure on Israel

After hitting 50 percent in 2018, the percentage of Americans wanting more pressure placed on the Palestinians has fallen to 44 percent now. Meanwhile, the proportion of Americans wanting more pressure on Israel has increased from 27 percent to 34 percent, Gallup states.

That’s a positive trend for Palestinians. But it may not be the most significant result of the poll.

Most of the increase since 2018 in Americans wanting the US to pressure Israel more comes from Democrats, “the majority of whom now take this position,” Gallup states.

The 53 percent of Democrats opting for more pressure on the Israelis is up from 43 percent in 2018, and no more than 38 percent in the decade before that.

This marks “a substantive change in Democrats’ perspective on US policy,” according to Gallup.

Only 29 percent of Democrats now think the US should put more pressure on Palestinians than on the Israelis.

This will horrify lobby groups that have long lamented the steady erosion of support for Israel in the Democratic Party’s base.

The lobby has tried to fight back.

One such effort is Democratic Majority for Israel, a group that attacked progressive standard bearer Senator Bernie Sanders during the 2020 primaries.

Sanders had proposed making US aid to Israel conditional on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Partisan divide

According to the Gallup poll, a narrow majority of Americans – 52 percent – favors Palestinian statehood, while 37 percent oppose it.

Unfortunately, Gallup did not ask about alternatives, like a single democratic state with equal rights, nor did it inquire about views on BDS.

The poll also confirms a sharp partisan divide: 80 percent of Republicans sympathize more with the Israelis, compared with just 10 percent whose sympathies are more with Palestinians.

Yet among Democrats the split is much more even: 43 percent sympathize more with Israel, against 38 percent who sympathize more with Palestinians.

Among Americans identifying as “liberal,” a larger number (44 percent) now sympathizes more with the Palestinians than with Israel (36 percent).

There are also some notable demographic contrasts.

For example, 48 percent of whites think there should be more US pressure on the Palestinians to make compromises, while one-third thinks there should be more pressure on Israel.

But among non-whites, according to Gallup, the number who think US pressure should focus on the Palestinians drops to 38 percent, while 37 percent want to see more pressure on Israel.

Meanwhile, almost half of those aged 55 and up want to see more pressure on the Palestinians, while 34 percent want to see more pressure on Israel.

For those aged 18-34 there is a more even split: 40 percent want more pressure on Palestinians, while 38 percent want Israel to feel more pressure.

All of this means that the battle lines between staunchly pro-Israel Democratic Party elites and a base much more oriented towards justice are going to remain sharp – and that advocacy for Palestinian rights appears to be having an impact.

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What is remarkable is that shift in opinion has taken place while US media are seriously biased towards Israel. Imagine what the figures would be if there was even-handed comment, and further, if the facts were consistently placed before the US public. It would be interesting to know how many Americans are aware of the attack on the USS Liberty, and among those who are, what is their view of Israel? How many Americans know how many dollars are granted to Israel annually? How many know what weapons and training America provides? How many know what the population of Jews is compared to that of Palestinians in Israel/Palestine? How many know what Sykes-Picot was? How many know the the Herzelites compared Britain to the Nazis during the Mandate? It would be interesting to know because without being informed, and the historical facts are uncontroversial, making a reasonable judgement is difficult. Informing people is easy. You don't need to read Pappe in detail to get the gist of the ethnic cleansing of 1948 or the nature of Gaza as a prison. Modern communication technology is extraordinary. It's easy to inform people. Yet what is put before them by the media falls in, by and large, with the Israel view of things. That the propaganda machine works night and day and still people see through it and make up their own minds, even if, as yet, a minority, is testament to the propagandists' failure to understand the discrepancy between what is offered and how it's received. There is enough scepticism and independent thinking for Big Brother not to be able to infest every corner of every mind. And, of course, there are the valiant few who continue to seek the facts and to base their perspective on the evidence. In the long run, the propagandists are bound to fail because their distorted view is an insult to the human mind. We are moral by nature and in the end we insist on fairness.

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So what? Does anyone really think that AIPAC, and all the organs of the deep state in Washington care one iota about what the majority of Democratic party voters want? The days back in 1947 when the Department of Defense and the Department of State were OPPOSED to the UNGA resolution to partition Palestine are now a distant memory. And this doesn't mention what level of pressure it would take for Israel to do anything REAL anyway. It's all smoke and mirrors, windowdressing, and patent B.S. Palestinians need to 'stick to their guns', fight, and wait for the day when the one-state reality becomes a single state in Israel and Palestine, and that is NOT going to happen with Israeli consent.

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Ali Abunimah

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.