DEMOCRATS CRIT­I­CIZ­ING IS­RAEL, IS IT JUST ANTI TRUMPISM?

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page - RAGIP SOYLU

THE SUPPORT for Is­rael in the U.S. is still high thanks to evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians. But the so­cial change in the U.S. and rise of the mil­len­ni­als are likely to amend this, at least in the Demo­cratic Party

For the first time in re­cent his­tory, there is a con­sid­er­able di­vide be­tween Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can sym­pa­thiz­ers in their support for Is­raeli actions in Gaza and mov­ing the U.S. Em­bassy to Jerusalem. One can ar­gue that anti-Trumpism on the left pushed a lot of usu­ally pro-Is­raeli peo­ple and groups to op­pose the con­tro­ver­sial em­bassy de­ci­sion, such as New York Daily News, which at­tacked Ivanka Trump as “daddy’s lit­tle ghoul” for her cheer­ful image in the em­bassy cer­e­mony as Gaza civil­ians were be­ing killed by Is­raeli forces.

Of course, there is some­thing more to it than just anti-Trumpism. Since the for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, a Demo­crat, had be­gun to serve in 2009, there has been a con­sid­er­able ten­sion be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Tel Aviv over a var­i­ous set of is­sues, from il­le­gal set­tle­ments to the Iran deal. When Ne­tanyahu vis­ited Wash­ing­ton in May same year, the White House didn’t pro­vide photo avail­abil­ity or state­ments with the pres­i­dent; there wasn’t even a wel­com­ing cer­e­mony for Ne­tanyahu. Re­ports sug­gested that at one point in the meet­ing, Obama abruptly left the room to have din­ner with his fam­ily.

Many an­a­lysts per­ceived this is­sue only a personal mat­ter be­tween two pow­er­ful lead­ers, but the Iran nu­clear deal and the fail­ure of pro-Is­raeli groups to block it through the Congress proved that there is in­deed a change in U.S. pol­i­tics. Ac­cord­ing to a 2017 Pew Re­search Cen­ter sur­vey, only 17 per­cent of the U.S. Jews find il­le­gal set­tle­ments in West Bank as some­thing that helps Is­raeli se­cu­rity, and 61 per­cent say Is­rael and Pales­tine can co-ex­ist. Var­i­ous polls con­ducted in 2015 show that the plu­ral­ity, if not ma­jor­ity, from 49 per­cent to 60 per­cent of Amer­i­can Jewish cit­i­zens were in fa­vor of the Iran nu­clear deal. So there is a trend.

I think the so-called mil­len­ni­als in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, com­bined with the left­ist Jewish di­as­pora, which is in­creas­ingly getting un­com­fort­able with Is­raeli right-wing pol­i­tics, sig­nif­i­cantly changed the tune in the Demo­cratic Party. By def­i­ni­tion, mil­len­ni­als are prone to per­ceive the world with­out ex­treme forms of na­tion­al­ism and re­li­gious be­liefs. Mil­len­ni­als see them­selves as more a world cit­i­zen than an Amer­i­can. This is why Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Se­na­tor Bernie San­ders’ rhetoric on a so­cial­ist revo­lu­tion or his sugges­tion that the U.S. should be more like Scan­di­navia gained support rather than anger among the young Demo­cratic vot­ers.

San­ders, the first Jewish pres­i­den­tial con­tender in U.S. his­tory, re­fused to per­son­ally ad­dress the Amer­i­can Is­rael Pub­lic Af­fairs Com­mit­tee (AIPAC) con­ven­tion in 2016. On top of that, the same day San­ders un­leashed an un­prece­dented level of crit­i­cism against the Jewish set­tle­ments in oc­cu­pied Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries and Is­raeli poli­cies in the re­gion. This week, he was also vo­cal against Is­raeli actions in Gaza that left over 60 un­armed civil­ians dead. He took a di­rect aim at Is­raeli and the White House rhetoric, “Ha­mas vi­o­lence does not jus­tify Is­rael fir­ing on un­armed pro­test­ers.”

One can say that San­ders is only one per­son. Yet, ac­cord­ing to a CNN re­port, in 2016, Democrats un­der the age of 30 said their sym­pa­thies aligned with the Pales­tini­ans by a 39-33 mar­gin, rather than with the Is­raelis. For Democrats aged 65 and above the split was 50 per­cent for Is­rael and 24 per­cent for the Pales­tini­ans.

Ac­cord­ing to a Pew poll this Jan­u­ary, the per­cent­age of Democrats who sym­pa­thize more with Is­rael dropped to the low­est level since 2001 at 27 per­cent, while 25 per­cent of the par­tic­i­pants said they fa­vor Pales­tine.

Is­rael is also los­ing Jewish col­lege stu­dents in the U.S. Support for Is­rael has dropped by 27 per­cent­age points among Jewish col­lege stu­dents in the U.S. since 2010, a poll con­ducted by Brand Is­rael Group in 2017 said.

Over­all, the support for Is­rael in the U.S. is still high thanks to evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians. But the rapid so­cial change in Amer­i­can communities and rise of the mil­len­ni­als are likely to amend this, at least in the Demo­cratic Party. This can be very well a game changer for the Pales­tinian cause.

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