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Most Americans say speech opposing Israel's right to exist and Palestinian statehood should be allowed

Fifty-eight percent of Americans say opposing Israel's right to exist should be allowed, while many US lawmakers and pro-Israel groups say it amounts to antisemitism
 Pro-Palestine demonstrators march through the streets during a rally on 13 January 2024 in Washington DC.
Pro-Palestine demonstrators march through the streets during a rally in Washington DC, on 13 January 2024 (Samuel Corum/AFP)

A new survey has found that the majority of Americans polled believe that expressing opposition to Israel's right to exist should be allowed in the United States.

The poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center, found that 58 percent of Americans hold the view that opposing Israel's right to exist should be allowed, while 17 percent felt that it should not be allowed.

The poll also found that 61 percent of Americans similarly believe that opposition to Palestinian statehood should be allowed.

A larger majority of Americans, 70 percent, say that expressing support for "Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state" should be allowed.

The American public's belief that questioning Israel's right to exist is acceptable comes in stark contrast to the views of many US lawmakers, Israeli leaders, and pro-Israel groups in the US which often claim such questioning falls into the realm of antisemitism.

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US President Joe Biden said in 2021 that questioning Israel's right to exist is an obstacle to peace.

"Let’s get something straight here: until the region says, unequivocally, they acknowledge the right of Israel to exist as an independent Jewish state, there will be no peace," Biden said.

The invocation of Israel's right to exist has also come up most recently in Israel's war on Gaza, where Israeli forces have killed more than 32,000 Palestinians, in what many rights and legal experts, and several countries view as genocide.

In November, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution which "recognizes that denying Israel’s right to exist is a form of antisemitism".

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby has also used the phrase to justify US support for the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"It’s about supporting the Israeli people’s right to exist, right to be a nation," he said in a January press briefing.

However, many Palestinian Americans have accused Israel of invoking the phrase "right to exist" whenever it is criticised for its treatment of Palestinians.

Pro-Palestine sentiments in US

The poll comes amid a rise in pro-Palestinian sentiments in the United States since Israel's war on Gaza.

The war began after the 7 October attacks on southern Israel led by Hamas, which killed around 1,200 people and saw more than 200 people taken back to Gaza as hostages.

Israel responded in full force, beginning with a devastating aerial bombing campaign followed by a ground invasion of Gaza.

Harvard Law School body labels Israel's war on Gaza a 'genocide'
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In addition to Israeli forces so far killing more than 32,000 Palestinians, most of whom were women and children, Israel's military has also levelled entire residential neighbourhoods, and targeted hospitals and aid workers. Israel most recently targeted a truck carrying several workers with the World Central Kitchen, an international humanitarian organisation.

Several polls conducted in the US have shown the American public's criticism of Israel's conduct in the war. Half of Americans ages 18-29 believe Israel is carrying out genocide in Gaza, while about 35 percent of all Americans believe this, according to a YouGov poll.

In another poll conducted by Pew, more Americans were found to have favourable views of Palestinians than of Israelis.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the US have outnumbered the pro-Israel actions. According to the Nonviolent Action Lab, 6,889 pro-Palestine actions have taken place since October. In contrast, there were 1,035 pro-Israel actions in the same period.

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