Young Americans are becoming less supportive of Israel — but will it change anything?

In July, just over 50 per cent of respondents aged 18-29 said they deemed Israel’s offensive “unjustified”

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The Independent Online

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was the latest high-profile figure to undertake a “unity mission” to the Gaza conflict zone, recently appearing in solidarity alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He even toured one of Hamas’ purported “Terror Tunnels”, where he posed grimly for press photos.

Evidently, Cuomo judged that such a demonstration would gain him political favor on the homefront; he faces re-election this fall, not to mention an escalating corruption inquiry. To a large degree, Cuomo is likely correct in his judgment.

All the same, however, recent data suggest attitudes toward Israel have shifted dramatically, such that proclaiming undying support for its activities may not necessarily be the default politically “safe” option.

Young people, people of color, and self-identified Democrats increasingly express ill-regard for this war-addled US client state. In July, 51 per cent of respondents aged 18-29 told the firm Gallup they deemed Israel’s offensive “unjustified.” Compared to Britain, where the public is generally more sympathetic towards Palestine, this could seem inconsiderable. But in America it's very significant indeed. In a Pew poll conducted last month, 51 per cent of Americans overall said they sympathise with Israel over Palestine.

Such a finding makes sense. The most vivid coverage of the conflict has indisputably come via Twitter, as international journalists and ordinary Gazans document Israel’s attacks in real-time. To follow Operation Protective Edge on Twitter has been a uniquely vivid, jarring experience, and has shaped America's perceptions of the conflict in ways that were impossible before.

On one hand you might look down at your phone and see images of small girls calling out for their dead mothers. It's hard not to be moved by these images, or avoid them — they have filled the site in the last two months. And as young people are the most active group on Twitter, it's unsurprising to see them starting to question their country's relationship with their "strongest ally".

However, another effect of the Gaza conflict seems to have been the Israeli government’s open alignment with among the most fanatical elements of the Republican Party coalition, which has further alienated non-whites and non-conservatives. Netanyahu foreshadowed these developments when, mere weeks before the 2012 presidential election, he “went beserk,” over America's policy towards Iran, and launched a campaign to undermine Barack Obama on behalf of “longtime pal” Mitt Romney.

Last month Netanyahu also personally addressed the annual Washington, D.C. “Christians United for Israel” conference convened by Pastor John Hagee, a San Antonio, Texas mega-pastor whose defining theological conviction is that Jesus Christ will return to rule over Earth from Jerusalem, bringing about the End Times. America, Hagee argues, must therefore defend Israel.

 

That Netanyahu has thrown in his lot with such characters as Hagee and Fox News’ Sean Hannity speaks volumes about Israel’s latest self-defeating public relations strategy. In a telling moment earlier this month, MSNBC commentator Joy Ann Reid bristled at Netanyahu’s reported admonition that Obama was to “never second-guess him again” on matters pertaining to Hamas.

“Um… What?” Reid, a frequent Obama defender, tweeted. For partisan Democrats, especially black Americans, Netanyahu’s perceived condescension, bullying and nastiness toward Obama strikes at unwelcome chords.

Given the chronic ineptitude of the GOP, Democrats will probably continue to control the federal government for the foreseeable future — or at least the executive branch, as Republicans are slightly favored in this year's Congressional midterm elections. Under those circumstances, Israel would be wise to avoid continually rebuffing the liberal left in America, as it could put their relationship with the world's most feared military power in serious jeopardy.