The American people, it seems, no longer give unquestioning support to the state of Israel, even though the US government still does
This shift in U.S. public has been laid bare in recent surveys taken in the US. Amongst the most remarkable of the results is the finding that 39 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. should impose sanctions on Israel if they continue to build settlements on Palestinian land!
The following review from ‘The American Conservative’ downplays the significance of the overall results, suggesting that Americans have always preferred their government not to take sides. What the reviewer finds more startling is the fact that Republicans are now far more keen to support to Israel than Democrats.
What I find even more remarkable is a statistic not mentioned in this review – namely, that Evangelical Christians are the only group in the U.S. who still think that Israel’s Jewish character is more important than its democracy (see here)! Even American Jews valued democracy ahead of ethnicity!
U.S. Public Opinion and Israel/Palestine
Shibley Telhami reviews the contents of a recent survey of American views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He finds that most Americans still don’t want the U.S. to take sides:
Consistent with prior years most Americans (64 percent) want the United States to lean toward neither side in the conflict, while 31 percent want it to lean toward Israel. But there is a huge difference between Democrats and Independents, on the one hand, and Republicans on the other. Among Democrats, 77 percent want the United States to lean toward neither side, 17 percent toward Israel, and 6 percent toward the Palestinians; among Republicans, those who want the U.S. to lean toward Israel outnumber those who want it to lean toward neither side, 51 percent-46 percent.
The partisan gap on this question is not all that surprising, but the size of the gap is nonetheless remarkable. Three quarters of Democrats say they don’t want the U.S. to take sides in the conflict, while just over half of Republicans want the U.S. to favor Israel. One would scarcely know that from the way their representatives vote and how their party leaders talk about the U.S. role in the conflict. Despite the fact that nearly two-thirds of Americans have consistently wanted the U.S. to be neutral or even-handed in the conflict for as long as the question has been asked, the U.S. has been overwhelmingly supportive of one side in practice.
Telhami points to another result about Palestinian statehood at the U.N.:
What do Americans recommend if the Palestinians take the issue of statehood to the United Nations? A plurality, 45 percent, advocate abstaining; 27 percent support voting against the resolution; and 25 percent support voting for it. Party differences are large with more Republicans supporting opposing the resolution, but still less than half (46 percent).
In other words, almost half of Americans don’t want the U.S. to take a position, and there are almost as many supporters of such a resolution as there are opponents, but it is virtually guaranteed that the U.S. will vote no. On both of these questions, a large majority doesn’t support backing Israel to the hilt, and yet that is what the U.S. will continue to do. This isn’t news. Polls have been finding the same things for decades. Even so, it is useful to be reminded every so often that U.S. policy on Israel and Palestine is wildly at odds with what most Americans claim to want. When Congress and the administration endorse conventionally “pro-Israel” positions, they are doing the opposite of what most Americans prefer.
Sara Roy is a well-credentialed advocate of the Palestinian cause. Not only is she an academic of high standing but she is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. This makes it difficult for her opponents to dismiss her as an anti-Semite.
What follows is Roy’s response to a statement that appeared in the New York Times, authored by Eli Wiesel, in which the Israeli apologist accuses Hamas of using children as human shields.
A Response to Elie Wiesel
I read your statement about Palestinians, which appeared in The New York Times on August 4th. I cannot help feeling that your attack against Hamas and stunning accusations of child sacrifice are really an attack, carefully veiled but unmistakable, against all Palestinians, their children included. As a child of Holocaust survivors—both my parents survived Auschwitz—I am appalled by your anti-Palestinian position, one I know you have long held. I have always wanted to ask you, why? What crime have Palestinians committed in your eyes? Exposing Israel as an occupier and themselves as its nearly defenseless victims? Resisting a near half century of oppression imposed by Jews and through such resistance forcing us as a people to confront our lost innocence (to which you so tenaciously cling)?
Unlike you, Mr. Wiesel, I have spent a great deal of time in Gaza among Palestinians. In that time, I have seen many terrible things and I must confess I try not to remember them because of the agony they continue to inflict. I have seen Israeli soldiers shoot into crowds of young children who were doing nothing more than taunting them, some with stones, some with just words. I have witnessed too many horrors, more than I want to describe. But I must tell you that the worst things I have seen, those memories that continue to haunt me, insisting never to be forgotten, are not acts of violence but acts of dehumanization.
There is a story I want to tell you, Mr. Wiesel, for I have carried it inside of me for many years and have only written about it once a very long time ago. I was in a refugee camp in Gaza when an Israeli army unit on foot patrol came upon a small baby perched in the sand sitting just outside the door to its home. Some soldiers approached the baby and surrounded it. Standing close together, the soldiers began shunting the child between them with their feet, mimicking a ball in a game of soccer. The baby began screaming hysterically and its mother rushed out shrieking, trying desperately to extricate her child from the soldiers’ legs and feet. After a few more seconds of “play,” the soldiers stopped and walked away, leaving the terrified child to its distraught mother.
Now, I know what you must be thinking: this was the act of a few misguided men. But I do not agree because I have seen so many acts of dehumanization since, among which I must now include yours. Mr. Wiesel, how can you defend the slaughter of over 500 innocent children by arguing that Hamas uses them as human shields? Let us say for the sake of argument that Hamas does use children in this way; does this then justify or vindicate their murder in your eyes? How can any ethical human being make such a grotesque argument? In doing so, Mr. Wiesel, I see no difference between you and the Israeli soldiers who used the baby as a soccer ball. Your manner may differ from theirs—perhaps you could never bring yourself to treat a Palestinian child as an inanimate object—but the effect of your words is the same: to dehumanize and objectify Palestinians to the point where the death of Arab children, some murdered inside their own homes, no longer affects you. All that truly concerns you is that Jews not be blamed for the children’s savage destruction.
Despite your eloquence, it is clear that you believe only Jews are capable of loving and protecting their children and possess a humanity that Palestinians do not. If this is so, Mr. Wiesel, how would you explain the very public satisfaction among many Israelis over the carnage in Gaza—some assembled as if at a party, within easy sight of the bombing, watching the destruction of innocents, entertained by the devastation? How are these Israelis different from those people who stood outside the walls of the Jewish ghettos in Poland watching the ghettos burn or listening indifferently to the gunshots and screams of other innocents within—among them members of my own family and perhaps yours—while they were being hunted and destroyed?
You see us as you want us to be and not as many of us actually are. We are not all insensate to the suffering we inflict, acceding to cruelty with ease and calm. And because of you, Mr. Wiesel, because of your words—which deny Palestinians their humanity and deprive them of their victimhood—too many can embrace our lack of mercy as if it were something noble, which it is not. Rather, it is something monstrous.
Sara Roy is a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University.
The following speech was given by Father Dave at the Al Quds Day rally in the Sydney CBD – July 26th, 2014
In the name of God, merciful and compassionate (bismi-llahi r-ra.mani r-ra.im), and with respect to the traditional custodians of this land (the Gadigal people), let me thank you (my Muslim sisters and brothers) for the privilege of standing with you today in solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine.
The tears of Jesus mingle with the blood of the innocent of Gaza. The brutality of this latest assault seems to surpass even the violence of the Israeli government’s previous attacks on this beleaguered civilian population. Whole families are killed, children die in their beds, mosques and schools and hospitals are targeted for destruction. Jesus weeps. How can we but weep with him?
When I was asked to speak at this gathering, more than a month ago, our primary concern was with the Australian government’s refusal to acknowledge the Israeli Occupation. Since that time the gates of hell have opened up again in Gaza, and now the terrible refusal of the Australian government to acknowledge the Palestinian Occupation has been eclipsed by their even more appalling silence in the face of the horrendous holocaust of human suffering our sisters and brothers in Gaza are enduring.
Jesus weeps for the people of Gaza and we weep with him, and yet we must do more than weep. We must move our government to act in support of our suffering brothers and sisters! How we accomplish that, I am not sure, but what I am sure about is that if we are going to be effective we must work on this together!
Sisters and brothers, in this great tragedy I also see a great opportunity – an opportunity that people of faith everywhere (and most especially Christians, Muslims and Jews) might be drawn together from across the globe to stand together in solidarity with the Palestinian people! Jesus weeps and there is no way that any person of faith can be blind to the injustice that is being visited upon Gaza. We weep, and as we weep my hope and prayer is that God will draw us together in love!
A Muslim brother of mine once said to me “do you know that before I was a Muslim I was a Christian”. I was surprised until he added “and before I was a Christian I was a Jew!” I don’t know if all of you all of my Muslim sisters and brothers here share this perspective – that before you were Muslims you were Christians – but if you do then we must also acknowledge that before we were Christians we were Jews!
We have all sprouted from the same seed, and that seed was planted in Palestine! Since that original seed was planted we have branched out in very distinct ways and we have grown apart and indeed there has indeed been a tragic history of violence between us, the vast bulk of which has been the responsibility of the Christian branch of that tree! Even so, would it not be wonderful if our love for our common birthplace and our love for the people of that land where our seed was first sown – would it not be wonderful if that love for Palestine could draw us back together?
We are of different faiths (and I do not intend to minimise any of those differences). Even so, while we are different in many ways, our love for Palestine is one! We may be divided by culture and race and creed, but we are united in our love for Palestine, we are united in our thirst for justice, and we are united in our commitment to ending the Occupation and the oppression of the Palestinian people!
Brothers and sisters, let us stand together for Palestine. The forces of injustice and oppression are strong. The propaganda ministry of the State of Israel functions like a well-oiled machine. Their narrative is well rehearsed, they are well financed and powerful and they speak with one voice! If we are going to stand against them we too must be united.
This is my prayer and my hope – that, enshallah, this tragedy might draw us together in solidarity with the people of Palestine, for if we stand together – Muslims, Christians and Jews – against the Palestinian Occupation and against the genocide being enacted in Gaza, I believe we will see change. Justice will come, and our tears of sorrow will be replaced by tears of joy as we celebrate a free, free Palestine. Enshallah!
Apparently Google Play has just pulled from its virtual shelves a new hit game – “Bomb Gaza”. The game – previously available for both iPhone and Android – required the player to bomb military targets in virtual Gaza while avoiding killing civilians wherever possible!
It’s hard to think of a game that could dredge the bottom of the bad-taste barrel any more effectively. Not only does it caricature the suffering and death of so many Gazan people but it simultaneously supports the Zionist narrative that allows the blood-letting continue by depicting the assaulting army as a group of concerned humanitarians, only wanting to defend themselves against faceless assailants armed with all sorts of scary weaponry.
My feeling is that rather than retire the game, a greater service would be done to the online community if the rules could be re-written so as to make the game more educational by bringing it into greater accordance with reality.
For a start, the object of “Bomb Gaza” should be for the assailant to simply destroy everything – combatants, civilians, men, women and children, civilian infrastructure, schools and hospitals, with special bonus points being scored for every mosque or church that’s hit while worshippers are still inside!
This would make for satisfying gameplay, I’m sure, even if a little less challenging to begin with. But in the rewritten game, the real challenge would take place at the end of each level where, once the village has been flattened and every creature that had breath has been extinguished, the player would have to convince ‘the boss’ that all civilian deaths were actually unavoidable accidents!
At this point the player would be able to choose from a variety of well-worn excuses, ranging from outright denial to sophisticated obfuscation:
- We cannot confirm that the school was actually targeted
- That UN compound was actually hit by Hamas rockets that missed their targets
- Hamas was storing weapons in the hospital’s basement
- Hamas was using the murdered children as human shields
These would be high-scoring defences. Less effective defences would include claims that a ‘mistake’ was made or that there was ‘collateral damage’. Appeals to The Holocaust would entail a loss of credibility points.
Perhaps this sort of diplomatic work is beyond the scope of the small-screen-game-playing demographic? I don’t know, but when I look at the list of excuses used to justify the murder of so many people in Gaza, one does wonder whether the Israeli propaganda department is run by a 12-year-old child.
Having said that, high-level politicians and dignitaries around the world continue to pay homage to the propaganda of the Israeli military machine. It does make you wonder what sort of game they are playing!
Shalom, Salaam, Peace.
In the name of God –merciful and compassionate (bismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm), and with respect to the traditional custodians of this land (the Gadigal people):
Jesus weeps for the people of Gaza and yet the so-called Christian leaders of our world say nothing! Mr Obama, Mr Abbott – you claim allegiance to Christ above all others. Christ is standing on the beaches of Gaza, grieving with the mothers of dead Palestinian children and yet you say nothing!
Martin Luther King said that the greatest tragedy that history would record would not be “the strident clamour of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” I do not know if our great ‘Christian’ leaders are good people but I do recognise that their silence is appalling!
Since 2005 the population of Gaza have been subjected to what Israeli historian Ilan Pappé refers to as ‘incremental genocide’. They have been sealed off from the outside world since then and every item of food, medicine and clothing going into Gaza is subject to the discretion of the Israeli military, while farmers and fishermen are prevented from accessing land and sea.
For nine years the people of Gaza have endured deprivation and a virtual imprisonment, and now (once again) they are being killed in their homes! The wailing of the mothers of Gaza echoes across the oceans and cries out to Heaven for redress, but in Washington and in Canberra there is silence!
I look to the Muslim political leaders of our world – Prime Minister Erdogan (the Ottoman protector), the proud princes of the house of Saud, General Sisi of Egypt. I hear words of concern but I do not understand why there is so little in the way of tangible action! Why aren’t any of these great powers stepping in to defend the people of Gaza?
Sisters and brothers, it is up to us! Even if the great powers of our world chose silence over integrity we will not remain silent. We will not stay quiet in the face this violence – the injustice and oppression of our Palestinian sisters and brothers. We will NOT sit down and shut up – not so long as this reign of death and terror continues!
Even if our political leaders are too corrupt and comprised to take any real initiative, we – ordinary people from Sydney, Australia, and from around the world – can be the leading edge of real change!
We ordinary people – Christians, Muslims and Jews, Sunni and Shia, people of all faiths and people of no faith – can bring about real change BUT we must act together!
These architects of the destruction of Palestine are powerful and they are united. Their narrative is well rehearsed, their propaganda is sophisticated, they are well financed and powerful and they speak with one voice! If we are going to stand against them we too must be united.
Muslims and Christians and Jews – all of us who stand with the suffering people of Gaza – we must stand together, and we must stand together not because there are no differences between us. There are profound differences between us but we must stand together because our Palestinian sisters and brothers are worth it!
The great Latin American Bishop, Dom Helder Camara, said “when one man dreams it is just a dream but when we all dream together it is the beginning of a new reality”. Let us together dream a dream of Palestine. Let us together dream of a world where mothers will never again have to wail as they watch their children slaughtered as they play.
Let us dream together in faith, and commit ourselves to the building of that new reality, believing that under God all things are possible – knowing that justice can come and that justice will come enshallah, enshallah!
speech delivered by Father Dave at the Sydney Gaza Rally, Sydney Town Hall, July 20th 2014