Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Israel is losing its campaign against Gaza not so much on the battlefield — though it is unclear that very many of its military goals have been accomplished — but in the court of public opinion. The Israeli far right has long ignored such PR setbacks, convinced that as long as the US government protects it at the United Nations, it retains impunity.
The Biden administration cannot, however, veto public opinion. A new You.gov opinion poll finds that 34% of Americans believe Israel is committing a genocide against the Palestinians of Gaza. I can’t tell you what an incredible statistic this is. In previous decades polling generally found that most Americans had no sympathy whatsoever for the Palestinians, who might as well have been gum stuck to the soles of the boots of Israeli troops.
These Americans are not just saying that the Israelis are oppressing the Palestinians (which most of them wouldn’t even have admitted 20 years ago). They’re saying that they think the Israelis are trying to wipe out the Palestinians of Gaza.
Moreover, it isn’t just that a third of Americans believe there is an ongoing Israeli genocide in Gaza. An absolute majority — 55% — of Americans aged 18 to 30 see it as a genocide. That isn’t a good sign for Israel’s future.
Moreover, a simple majority of Democrats believe the Israeli Gaza campaign is a genocide, some 51%. Again, Israel’s impunity has resulted from bipartisan support in the US, which is now shifting.
It is also true that 39% of Americans believe that Hamas tried to genocide the Israelis on October 7. The Israeli government should not, however, take it as a compliment that so many Americans view its tactics and goals as identical to those of Hamas.
It is also significant that 20% of Republicans think Israel is committing a genocide. The tone in the Republican Party is set by the evangelical Christian Zionists who generally think Israel can do no wrong and that its brutality against the Palestinians is necessary to usher in Christ’s second coming. (I worry a little that typing that sentence made me stupider.) Accusing Tel Aviv of genocide isn’t just a criticism, it is a severe condemnation.
These numbers spell at least some trouble for the deeply unpopular Joe Biden, whose enthusiastic embrace of the Israeli campaign and denial of Palestinian deaths is deeply alienating for youths and progressives. While it is true that they won’t vote for Trump, they could just stay home next November out of apathy, which would not be good news for the Biden campaign.
King Pyrrhus of Epirus (northern Greece and Albania) bestowed his name on a military campaign where you win at such a devastating cost that the triumph turns to dust in your mouth and becomes a kind of defeat. Pyrrhus, fighting on the Italian coast, proved the victor in two initial battles with the Romans, but so depleted his army of 25,000 men than he lost the third, decisive, encounter.
The extremist government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, chock full of full-on fascists and unabashed racists, waged war against the Hamas terrorist organization by targeting its known middle and lower management in their apartment buildings, blowing up the entire complexes and killing everyone living there — women, children, non-combatant men. They couldn’t do the same to the top leadership because of the hostages or because the latter were better hidden. The Israeli government also designated civil society institutions such as schools, universities, hospitals, clinics, municipal administrative centers and Non-Governmental Organizations as what they called “power centers” and subjected them to intensive aerial bombardment and shelling, oblivious to the well-being of innocent civilians. Apparently the theory was that university presidents, provosts, faculty, staff and students were all Hamas operatives with blood on their hands and so all universities had to be destroyed. The theory, of course, was monstrous and did not differ from Usama Bin Laden’s declaration that no Americans were civilians. Israel’s +972 Mag called this tactic a “mass assassination factory.” These acts of savagery have so far racked up over 25,000 deaths and over 60,000 woundings of Palestinians some 70% of them women and children and most of the rest non-combatant men. Of 25,000 Hamas fighters, it isn’t clear that any significant number have been killed.
In addition to razing entire residential blocs with 2,000-pound bombs, the rules of engagement set for Israeli ground troops apparently directed them to shoot to kill any person moving in the streets, regardless of whether they were waving a white flag.
A video caught such a war crime and was replayed on Britain’s ITV on Wednesday, provoking widespread public revulsion and condemnations in Parliament.
Israel’s atrocities against Palestinians in recent years have increasingly ended up being recorded on smartphone video, and were only covered up by the neglect of the major European and American “news” organizations, which largely declined to broadcast them. Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta (Facebook and Instagram) has intentionally used algorithms to shadowban news about Palestinians (and, increasingly, news in general).
The situation is so horrible now, however, that even mainstream outlets like Britain’s Sky TV are beginning to report when Israel fires tank rounds into a UN training center being used as a refugee shelter, killing 9 and wounding 75.
ITV and Sky TV are playing catch up, however. TikTok, run by a Chinese company, freely allows video from Gaza to be shared and to go viral, and Americans thirty and under have therefore seen the war unfold before their eyes. Old people glued to CNN or Fox might not even know that a war is going on, and they certainly would have no sense of the magnitude of Israel’s atrocities. Not so for the under-30 population, which is why 55% of them have decided this is a genocide.