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New polling shows Americans' views warming towards Palestinians

Poll by Pew Research Center finds young adults and Democrats both view Palestinians more favourably than Israelis
Pro-Palestinian protesters rally in Washington to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the Nakba on 15 May 2022.
Pro-Palestinian protesters rally in Washington to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the Nakba, on 15 May 2022 (MEE/Umar Farooq)
By MEE staff in Washington

A poll by the Pew Research Center shows that Americans are expressing more positive views towards both the Palestinian people and the Palestinian government, with young Americans and Democrats viewing Palestinians more favourably than Israelis.

The survey is the latest sign that US public perception of the Israeli-Palestinian issue is changing.

The poll, released on Thursday, showed that since 2019, the number of Americans with favourable views towards the Palestinian people increased by eight percent, while there was a nine percent increase in positive views towards their government.

While overall more Americans continue to view Israel more favourably than Palestine, a closer look at different age groups shows a considerable amount of support for Palestinians.

Among the respondents under 30 years of age, 61 percent had positive views of the Palestinian people while 56 percent shared similar views of Israelis. In comparison, 78 percent of respondents over 65 years of age had favourable views of Israelis.

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Similarly, albeit by a slim margin, more young adults, 35 percent, had positive views of the Palestinian government than they had of the Israeli government, which stood at 34 percent. 

Pew also noted that it did not define what the term "Palestinian government" was referring to. The Israeli-occupied West Bank is currently governed by the Palestinian Authority, while Gaza is governed by the Hamas movement.

The polling is the latest and most substantial sign of how the country's views towards Palestinians and Israelis have changed in the past several years.

For decades, Israel has had huge swathes of support both within the halls of US Congress and across the country, and since its creation following the Second World War, it has been the closest US ally in the Middle East.

But in recent years, a growing number of Americans have shared views critical of the country. A poll released last month by the University of Maryland found that fewer than one percent of respondents viewed Israel as one of the US's top two allies.

Last year, following Israel's May offensive on Gaza that killed more than 260 Palestinians, Human Rights Watch released a report declaring Israel was guilty of apartheid. A poll by the Jewish Electorate Institute found that a quarter of American Jewish voters viewed Israel as an apartheid state.

Democrats growing critical of Israel

According to the Pew poll, the difference in views is not isolated to just generational lines. The survey found that 64 percent of Democrats said they view Palestinians positively, while 60 percent said they view Israelis favourably.

Meanwhile, 78 percent of Republicans viewed Israelis positively, compared to only 37 percent of Republicans that shared similar views towards Palestinians.

In recent years, several Democratic lawmakers have voiced criticism of Israel, breaking a longstanding political consensus in Washington of bipartisan support for Israel.

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While this shift has fallen short of converting into actual policy, a significant number of lawmakers have issued critical statements, sent letters of concern to the Biden administration, and also introduced legislation aimed at limiting US aid to Israel.

Israel continues to receive $3.8bn in annual military aid from Washington, and this year also received an extra $1bn in funding for its Iron Dome missile defence system.

The Pew survey consists of responses from 10,441 US adults and was conducted between 7-13 March, several months before the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

Abu Akleh was shot and killed by Israeli forces while covering an Israeli raid on the Palestinian village of Jenin in the occupied West Bank.

It is unclear whether the killing of Abu Akleh would have any effect on Americans' perception of the Israeli government. However, her death was met with international outrage, including calls for an independent investigation into what happened.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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