Israel is finding that it has diminished public support across the US and the Western world.
Shifting dynamics in global public opinion, particularly in the US and Europe, against Israel, could irreversibly hurt the Middle Eastern state.
Israel has long enjoyed support from both Western governments and their populations. In recent escalations, most Western governments, primarily the US, have continued to explicitly back Tel Aviv.
But the same thing cannot be said for Western public opinion as thousands of people across different US states and European cities like London, Brussels, Berlin, Madrid, Paris and Dublin have marched against Israeli attacks on Gaza. Also, in Canada and New Zealand, protesters in numerous cities have strongly condemned Israeli occupation and the recent assaults against Palestinians.
“What’s happening is that Palestinian people are resisting fiercely, unfortunately alone. And they have been able to raise the world's consciousness towards their plight,” says Sami al Arian, a prominent Palestinian-American professor.
“What we are seeing today is that there is a major shift in many capitals around the world, particularly, among people and the youth, rejecting this Zionist apartheid regime and ethnic cleansing that is taking place today in Palestine,” Arian tells TRT World.
“That’s a very hopeful sign. I believe eventually Palestinian people will prevail over these Zionist and racist policies,” adds the professor, who was a leading voice in the American Muslim community in the past, prior to his forceful exile from the US.
Despite the continuation of Western support for Israel’s aggression and ethnic cleansing against Palestinians, a move towards a pro-Palestinian global sentiment signals that Israel, under its embattled hardliner Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, might be losing the bigger picture and the war of ideas.
‘Geopolitical panic attack’
Comparing the current situation in Israel to the former South African Apartheid regime, Richard Falk, a leading international law expert and an emeritus professor at Princeton University, says that losing the war of ideas could be a devastating blow to the State of Israel.
“Despite having what appeared to be effective and stable control of the African majority population through the implementation of brutal apartheid structures, the racist regime collapsed from within under the combined weight of internal resistance and international solidarity,” Falk wrote in a recent article, referring to the South African Apartheid regime.
“Israel is not South Africa in a number of key aspects, but the combination of resistance and solidarity was dramatically ramped upwards in the past week,” Falk reminded.
Like some former white South African leaders, Netanyahu, who is facing several corruption charges, appears to be keen on using escalating tensions to favour his political fortunes. Israel has gone through four elections in two years and Netanyahu has failed to assemble enough votes for its right-wing coalition, exposing the country’s internal rifts.
“Israel has already long lost the main legal and moral arguments, almost acknowledging this interpretation by their defiant way of changing the subject with reckless accusations of antisemitism,” asserts the Jewish-American professor.
Despite its occupation of Palestinian lands for over five decades, the international community continues to regard Israeli actions as illegal. In an even more worrying sign for Israel, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has allowed its prosecutor to launch a comprehensive investigation over Israeli war crimes against Palestinians across the Holy Land.
While Washington continues to block the UN Security Council from holding Israel accountable for its actions, there is a solid moral majority in the international body which finds Israeli actions immoral and illegal.
A few years ago, a report commissioned by the UN also reached the bleak conclusion that "Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole." With its discriminatory laws and inhumane political practices, Israel aims to create a dominant Jewish majority at the expense of Palestinians, according to the report.
Recent Israeli expulsions of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem are just the most recent demonstration of Israel’s goal to create a Jewish majority in the city.
But recent pro-Palestinian protests, particularly in the heart of the Western world, might herald that even Israel “is in the process of losing the political argument,” after being discredited on legal and moral grounds, Falk noted.
“Israel’s own sense of vulnerability to a South African scenario has been exposed by this growing tendency to brand supporters of BDS and harsh critics as ‘antisemites,’ which seems in the context of present development best described as ‘a geopolitical panic attack,’” the professor said.
“It seems appropriate to recall Gandhi’s famous observation along these lines: 'first, they ignore you, then they insult you, then they fight you, then you win,'” he concluded.
What the numbers say
In the US, shifting dynamics, considering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, have been getting clearer in recent years. While US public opinion has been heavily weighted in support of Israel for a long time, that is changing, according to different polls.
A Gallup poll released in March demonstrated that supportive views toward Palestinians have reached “all-time highs” compared to previous years, noting an ongoing trend for a declining sympathy towards Israel. The poll indicated a steadily increasing support for Palestinians.
A 2019 poll showed that 60 percent of respondents demanded Washington not to take either side in the conflict.
Another poll in March 2020 illustrated even more worrying developments for Israel regarding its influence over the American public. While it was almost a political taboo to criticise Israel in the past, the poll indicated that “two-thirds of Americans, including 81% of Democrats say that it’s “acceptable” or even the “duty” of members of the U.S. Congress to question the Israeli-American relationship.”
That signals a major shift in American attitudes toward Israel. Some analysts thought that intensifying American liberal discourse aided by the left’s criticism of Israeli actions led by Democratic leaders like Bernie Sanders, a Jewish-American politician, helped change political dynamics in the US.
Also liberal academic research like The Israel Lobby and the U.S. Foreign Policy written by prominent professors, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, has exposed how much Israeli influence creates unnecessary political risks for Washington.
The same poll also suggested that in the future Democrats would probably be divided in equal terms to support both Israel and Palestine, showing that “Democrats want U.S. even-handedness on this issue,” wrote Shibley Telhami, a professor in the department of government and politics at the University of Maryland, who led the research.
A 2020 Democratic primary in New York was almost a live action scene to view the shifting dynamics in the US. In the 16th Congressional District, Jamaal Bowman, a newcomer, challenged Eliot Engel, a veteran politician. During the campaign, Bowman strongly criticised Engel’s pro-Israeli stances, defending Palestinian rights, while Engel received a substantial amount of contributions from pro-Israeli groups. Bowman won the primary with a big margin.
In the most recent show of Democratic uneasiness over Israeli politics, the party’s leading progressives, who have recently become increasingly vocal in their criticism, released a letter last week, urging President Joe Biden, a Democrat, to put “diplomatic pressure” on Tel Aviv to stop its assault against Palestinians.