Saturday, December 5, 2009

The American Public’s Incredibly Strong Support for Israel; Pew Gets Wrong the Amazing Results

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 By Barry Rubin

According to the latest Pew poll, 51 percent of the American public say they sympathize more with the Israelis, while just 12% say they sympathize more with the Palestinians. (14 percent say neither; 19 percent have no opinion). That’s very impressive, right?

That means that two-thirds of Americans who have an opinion sympathize more with Israel.

What about all the academics who hate Israel, all the anti-Israel propaganda, the supposed sympathy for Palestinians as victims and underdogs? No apparent effect.

The poll also shows that among Democrats the number supporting Israel has remained the exact same (43 percent) over the last 16 years. So there’s been no decline due to a party or shift to the left within this camp. That’s important, too.

True, among those describing themselves as liberals, the gap is only 35 to 27 percent which is quite narrow and far different from the overall population. Here is where the hostility has made some real difference. Yet among Democrats as a whole it is a much wider 43 to 18, and for Democrats to be elected they need votes from the even more pro-Israel independents.

But there’s more. Among independents, support for Israel rose from 44 to 49 percent. And among Republicans it’s gone up sharply, from 52 to 68 percent.

Wait a minute, though. Pew says regarding the overall figure (51-12), “These numbers have changed little in recent years.” But that’s just flat wrong.

In fact, in 1990 the figures were 34 percent support for Israel and 13 percent for the Palestinians. So here’s the incredible story that Pew not only left out but denied:

Since 1990 backing for the Palestinians has remained the same low number, while sympathy for Israel has gone up from 34 to 51, a rise of 50 percent!

This is extraordinary.

How can one explain this tremendous shift in the face of such a contrary position by a vocal part of the intellectual and cultural elite?

Presumably, the public understands that Israel tried sincerely to make peace and was turned down by the other side; that radical Arab nationalism and militant Islamism hate America for lots more reasons than its support of Israel; an understanding about the origins of terrorism; a grasp of the threat from Iran (quite visible in other parts of the poll); and many other factors. In short, it is a victory for common sense.

[For the kind of thinking most Americans must be doing, even if only subconsciously, see here]

These figures should shape our understanding of the mood in the United States toward the ongoing conflict, the continuing attitude in Congress, and the political impact these factors must have on any U.S. government.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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