Despite the United States mainstream media’s backing of Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza, more young people in the US are critical of Israel’s war and taking leading roles in the movement against it.
A December New York Times/Siena College poll found that younger Americans are far more critical than older voters of Israel’s conduct and the administration’s response to the war in Gaza.
Among 18‒29 year-olds, 46% said they sympathise more with the Palestinians, compared with 27% for Israel. Nine percent said they sympathise with both, and 19% either didn’t know or didn’t answer.
Among 30‒44 year-olds, 24% said they sympathised more with the Palestinians compared with 36% for Israel. That number dropped to 13% for 45‒64 year olds and 11% among voters over 65.
“Few of them believe Israelis are serious about peace with the Palestinians,” reported the NYT. “Nearly half say Israel is intentionally killing civilians. Nearly three fourths say Israel is not taking enough precautions to avoid civilian casualties. And a majority opposes additional economic and military aid to Israel.”
Keesha Middlemass, a political scientist at Howard University, told USA Today “Young people are finally seeing the impact of America’s war machine,” adding that the poll shows young people are also questioning the government’s “blind loyalty” to Israel, “without consideration of the rights of Palestinians to exist”.
The NYT reported that voters who identified as “regular users of TikTok were the most adamant in their criticism” of the Joe Biden administration’s policies toward Israel.
Disturbing images of civilian casualties and hospital bombings that are filling Tik Tok and Instagram are labeled by the mainstream media, including the NYT, as “inflammatory propaganda”. However, given the absence of on-the-spot coverage from Gaza by the US mainstream media, they provide insight into what is really happening on the ground.
This generational division is also seen among Jewish youth. According to a December 20 NYT report, “Gen Z and young Millennials often see Israel as an occupying power oppressing Palestinians — a shock to their parents and grandparents, who tend to see it as an essential haven fighting for survival.”
Louisa Kornblatt, a young Jewish woman from Wisconsin, previously “shared her parents belief that the safety of Jewish people depended upon a Jewish state”, reported the NYT. However, after being prompted through her postgraduate social work studies to consider “questions around power, privilege and whiteness”, she “came to feel that her emotional ties to Jewish statehood undermined her vision for ‘collective liberation’”.
Louisa told the NYT she “became increasingly involved in pro-Palestinian activism, including through Jewish Voice for Peace, an anti-Zionist activist group and the If Not Now movement.
“I don’t think the state of Israel should ever have been established,” she said. “It’s based on this idea of Jewish supremacy. And I’m not on board with that.”
As Louisa’s political views were changing, her parents decided in 2019 to move to Israel, along with her older brother.
In November, as Louisa prepared to travel to Tel Aviv to be with her family, she told the NYT she questioned “how her parents could argue about a political solution that felt morally urgent to her: a permanent cease fire. ‘It feels so simple — just don’t murder people. Don’t kill people. Just stop it … It feels so simple, and a lot of my mom’s responses are like, It’s so complex.’”
“[T]he day after her arrival, her parents went to the square in Tel Aviv where families of hostages being held in Gaza were rallying for their release, while Louisa went to an antiwar, pro-cease-fire protest.”
Family tensions grew sharper when Louisa volunteered to help Palestinian families in the West Bank.
Young Blacks turn against Biden
For many young African Americans, Biden’s war mongering and empire building is a signal that he can’t be counted on to fight racism at home.
The Associated Press reported on December 17 that Cydney Wallace, a Black Jewish community activist, visited Israel and the West Bank in September “at the invitation of a Palestinian American community organizer from Chicago’s south side, along with two dozen other Black Americans and Muslim, Jewish and Christian faith leaders.”
The trip — which ended abruptly due to the Hamas break out and attack on October 7 — had a “big impact” on Wallace’s view of Israel and Palestine.
University student, Demetrius Briscoe, voted for Biden in 2020, but is “on the fence about whether he will support the president”.
Briscoe told USA Today he “doesn’t think many of his peers will vote for Biden because he hasn’t demanded a cease-fire” and that Biden’s support for Israel is “putting a stain on his presidency that I don’t think will be easily washed away”.
Delaney Leonard, a 19-year-old student who helped organise a pro-Palestine rally in October at Howard University — a historically Black university in Washington, DC — told USA Today she has no intention of voting for Biden and is looking for alternative candidates to support.
Khadirah Muhammad, a student at Georgia State University, who took part in a pro-Palestine rally on campus in October, told USA Today she “remembers seeing on social media the Black Lives Matter murals in Gaza and watching Palestinians demonstrating during the 2020 George Floyd protests. For her, it was a symbol of solidarity with Palestinians also in the struggle for freedom.”
Many Jewish faith leaders, students and activists were key supporters of Martin Luther King Jnr and the Civil Rights Movement. Progressive Jewish anti-Zionist groups are actively calling for solidarity with Palestine.
Black-Palestinian solidarity runs deep
For decades, some segments of the African American community have expressed strong support for the Palestinians and many polls show that Black people are more critical of US policy in the Middle East.
A poll conducted in November by GenForward, operated by the University of Chicago, found that 63% of Black voters plan to vote for Biden in 2024, compared to 17% who said they will vote for Trump if he is the nominee.
In the same poll, 16% of Black voters said they are more sympathetic towards Palestinians than Israelis in the conflict, compared to 13% who said they are more sympathetic towards Israelis. Thirty-nine percent of Black voters said they are sympathetic to both groups and 32% said they did not know.
In December’s NYT/Siena College poll, 34% of Black voters of all ages said they are more supportive of Palestinians than Israel in the conflict, compared to 28% who are more supportive of Israel. Eleven percent are sympathetic to both and 27% either didn’t know or refused to answer.
Black revolutionary socialist Malcolm X travelled to Gaza in 1964 when it was still part of Egypt (Israel took it over in the 1967 Six-Day War). He wrote and published his seminal essay “Zionist Logic” in the Egyptian Gazette on September 17, 1964.
A strong opponent of colonialism and exploitation in its various forms, Malcolm X was critical of how Judaism, Zionism, and colonialism were mixing to continue a dangerous precedent, and wrote: “If the ‘religious’ claim of the Zionists is true that they were to be led to the promised land by their messiah, and Israel’s present occupation of Arab Palestine is the fulfillment of that prophesy: where is their messiah whom their prophets said would get the credit for leading them there?
“It was [United Nations mediator] Ralph Bunche who ‘negotiated’ the Zionists into possession of Occupied Palestine! Is Ralph Bunche the messiah of Zionism?
“If Ralph Bunche is not their messiah, and their messiah has not yet come, then what are they doing in Palestine ahead of their messiah?
“Did the Zionists have the legal or moral right to invade Arab Palestine, uproot its Arab citizens from their homes and seize all Arab property for themselves just based on the ‘religious’ claim that their forefathers lived there thousands of years ago?
“Only a thousand years ago the Moors lived in Spain. Would this give the Moors of today the legal and moral right to invade the Iberian Peninsula, drive out its Spanish citizens, and then set up a new Moroccan nation…?
“In short, the Zionist argument to justify Israel’s present occupation of Arab Palestine has no intelligent or legal basis in history … not even in their own religion…”
Three decades later, South African leader Nelson Mandela said in a 1997 speech on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People: “We know too well that our freedom [as South Africans] is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”