After pro-Israel swing post Oct 7, Gaza’s humanitarian crisis alters US mood

Washington: Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israel stopped an ongoing shift in favour of Palestine and reversed it and it may or may not return to that upward trajectory after the war.

Americans have been historically more sympathetic to Israel than to Palestine but the gap has been narrowing. In a 2013 Gallup poll, Americans sympathized with Israel over Palestine 64 per cent to 12 per cent and a poll by the same agency conducted earlier this year showed that the gap had narrowed to 54 per cent to 31 per cent.

That increase in sympathy for the Palestinian cause registered on other polls as well. The shift, according to Gallup, was mostly on account of how American Democrats see the rift. They went from sympathizing with Israelis over Palestinians 55 per cent to 19 per cent in 2013 to backing Palestinians over Israel 49 per cent to 38 per cent in 2023 in a massive flip.

The October 7 attacks may have jeopardised that trend. A Fox News poll conducted between October 7 and 9, immediately after the Hamas attacks showed that 68 per cent of American polled sympathized with Israel and 18 per cent with Palestinians.

A Morning Consult poll done between October 10 and 12 had American sympathizers of Israel at 41 per cent to only 9 per cent Palestinians. Quinnipiac had it at 63 per cent to 13.

With the progress of the war and the deepening of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the mood in America has changed and become less sympathetic with Israel, although there has been no uptick in sympathy for Palestinians — YouGuv poll conducted October 16-19 showed backing for Israel had dropped to 36 per cent from 48 per cent in a poll the agency had conducted for The Economist just two days before, October 14-16.

The change in the mood in the country is reflected in the perceptible hardening of the position of the Biden administration towards Israel, It has gone from a close embrace of the immediate aftermath of the Hamas attacks to more focus on the need for humanitarian aid and relief for the civilians of Gaza.

The progressive caucus of the Democratic party has expressed concern over the unfolding crisis in Gaza.

“We strongly believe that Israel’s response must take into account the millions of innocent civilians in Gaza who themselves are victims of Hamas and are suffering the consequences of their terror campaign,” they said in a joint letter to the president signed by 55 lawmakers.

The October 7 attacks agitated the Israel-Palestine divide across the US. A six-year-old Palestinian American boy was killed and his mother was stabbed by their landlord in Chicago area. The killer had yelled “You Muslims must die” before attacking them.

The incident shocked the United States. “As Americans, we must come together and reject Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry and hatred,” Biden said in a statement issued y the White House. “I have said repeatedly that I will not be silent in the face of hate. We must be unequivocal. There is no place in America for hate against anyone.”

The divide has played out across US universities and colleges. At New York University School of Law, a student leader sparked outrage and debate saying in a newsletter, “Israel bears full responsibility for this tremendous loss of life.”

A New York lawmaker shot back: “If you are speaking to an Israeli mother whose child has been beheaded, I cannot think of anything more callous and cruel than telling a grieving mother: you had it coming.” And authorities of the school distanced themselves from the newsletter.

Some schools that were not so quick to quell or distance themselves from pro-Palestine sentiments and writings on the campus found their funding pulled or threatened with it by some very powerful donors. Leslie Wexer, who has a building named after him at Harvard told the university board, according to a report in the Financial Times, his foundation was “formally ending its financial and programmatic relationships” in view of its “dismal failure . . . to take a clear and unequivocal stand against the barbaric murders of Israeli citizens.”


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