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News & analysis from Proletarian Internationalist Notes—news, reviews and analysis from a global perspective
Americanism and anti-Americanism in conflict: understanding public opinion on Palestine
August 9, 2016
An unofficial Saudi delegation visited Israel toward the end of July.(1) Among the most obvious results were multiple photos of Saudis smiling with Israelis in occupied al-Quds. After the appearance of improvement in Israel-Saudi ties, Iran’s @khamenei_ir said among other things, “Today, #Saudi government is in hands of unwise people, but close scrutiny shows US hands are behind all these issues.”(2) Ayatollah Khamenei also said, “This move by the Saudis is a big sin and treachery but the Americans are also complicit in this massive wrong measure because the Saudi government is [a] follower, possessed by and subservient to the American government,” according to PressTV.(3) In other words, Iran’s leader pushed the idea that it is not Saudi Arabia that dominates, but the United States. The idea is important, because too much emphasis on Saudi Arabia as an adversary causes problems for Iran itself in dealing with Amerikan influence around the world. People like Ayatollah Khamenei and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif know that very well.
A newspaper of the left wing of Israeli patriotism and parasitism, Haaretz, had two articles of interest. The articles, including one citing an allegedly communist Arab party and using the so-called far left in I$rael to make a point, suggested Saudi Arabia and Arab countries more generally were selling out the Palestinians and using Mahmoud Abbas to do so.(4) There was no emphasis on the United $tates, but there was emphasis on Saudi Arabia as an independent actor playing an alleged negative role in the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Editorially, Haaretz is critical of occupation and settlement in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and supports domestic equality, but the line there is that Abbas, Hamas, Saudi Arabia and Iran are all garbage. In that respect, it is similar to the New York Times as well as Western media claiming to be radical or socialist. Around the world, the idea that other countries and leaders need to be isolated, not the United $tates and Obama, leads to withholding support from governments struggling to pursue peace and ties on terms less shaped by the united $tates.
No doubt there are some Saudis who are possessed by the Great Satan and show little independence of action – as some don’t in several Muslim countries – but it would be a mistake to point to the superficial similarity between Iranian media and so-called left-wing Israeli media and conclude there is a basis for the Israeli working class to support a genuine socialist revolution making Arab nationalism and states obsolete. The Israeli working class isn’t as privileged as the working class in the united $tates and many other First World countries with higher wages and a much higher GDP per capita and GDP per hour worked, but it has great economic privilege relative to workers in other countries and remains very patriotic.
Criticisms of two-state solution efforts often fail to mention u.$. obstruction – which is not just failing to keep promises to the Palestinians, but includes subsidizing Israeli intransigence and thwarting other countries’ diplomacy and lobbying. Despite supporting the two-state solution verbally and posing as a mediator, the united $tates no more wants Middle East peace in actuality than it wants reunification on the Korean Peninsula unless its interests remain represented there – a parallel people should be talking about, not just Azania (South Africa) or the united $tates as a so-called multiracial society. Amerikan obstruction and global economic conditions – related to dollar dominance, Amerikan interference with other countries’ economic relations, u.$. exploitation of other countries, high wages of the petty-bourgeois u.$. working class, and excessive investment in the united $tates – are forcing other countries, more vulnerable than many Western countries, to pursue economic ties with Israel without Israel having accepted the unrevised Arab Peace Initiative.
The failure of past peace efforts due to u.$. hindrance doesn’t by itself invalidate the two-state solution except to people who want to capitulate. Various countries, including Egypt and Jordan (which already have peace treaties including recognition of Israel), continue to have an objective interest in the two-state solution even as some seem to eliminate some of the incentive for Israel to accept the Arab Peace Initiative. They have an interest in supporting the two-state solution for economic and political reasons. It is in their interests as nations, and in the interests of their capitalist governments responsive to domestic and international pressures.
Some of those accusing countries of betraying the Palestinians oddly seem to suggest that supporting the Palestinians can or should only be motivated by pure altruism, which Arab and Muslim country governments are said to lack while Westerners supposedly act out of the goodness of their precious hearts. Some of these ignorant of the economic and political issues underlying support for the two-state solution, who suggest that Arab and Muslim countries support the solution or Palestine only as a patina, then suggest the one-state solution and speak as though there were no economic obstacles to it.
Netanyahu’s appearing to watch the Euro final with Shoukry in July wasn’t exactly a photo op anybody needed to see – except maybe some Israelis worried about Egyptian influence and needing to see an embarrassed Egypt. Now, after the Saudi delegation visit that caused a public opinion problem for the Saudi government, people would be right to suspect something serious is going on, that the Arabs would take such risks. But many Europeans, Africans, Asians, Latin Americans, Arabs and Muslims didn’t support independent non-Amerikan diplomacy and pressure for the two-state solution, and they don’t do so now, and yet they sit there and criticize the results of failure. They demonstrate their concern by doing so, but the alternative for some is just the one-state delusion or a no-state fantasy. And they obscure the u.$. role in problems by replicating the Amerikan narrative that the issue is just a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, or between Israelis or Jews, and Arabs – a narrative that gives rise to antisemitism and anti-Arab sentiment.
People collaborating with Amerikan occupation or Amerikan meddling in their own country or another’s country have little right to speak, and it is a little hard to single out what Saudi Arabia is doing in Israel when so many countries – including European countries, most Third World countries, some Arab countries, and some Muslim countries – already recognize Israel and already benefit from economic ties with it. The idea that the Arab and Muslim countries must bear the brunt of economic crisis, as if sacrificing for Palestine were their responsibility alone, is self-serving and outrageous. Maybe Saudis with an exaggerated sense of nobility won’t say that, but this writer will.
The Saudi trip to Israel was too public, but it is given at this time that there are going to be overtures, unofficial transactions, and low-level exchanges. That is how the foundation for ties is built, and it’s nothing new despite the particularities of the situation in Palestine. If the world doesn’t want this process to develop in an undesirable way and complicate the two-state solution, it has to support the efforts of countries struggling for the two-state solution in opposition to the united $tates. It has to do so now instead of criticizing the results after failing to act.
The united $tates isn’t reliable. It is the obstacle, as many have said in various contexts.(5) Equating the two-state solution with the Amerikan-led so-called “peace process” serves the Amerikans. It is the Amerikans who stand in the way. That means there needs to be more diplomatic and political efforts with greater independence from the united $tates. The presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders in the untied $tates may have actually played a negative role in this regard by giving people the impression the united $tates could have an atheist, “socialist” president who sympathized with the Palestinians. If that were genuinely the case, with King Salman still going ahead with privatizing Aramco for example, withholding support from Arab diplomacy would be slightly more understandable. In actual fact, Sanders isn’t a socialist; there is no proletariat in the united $tates to support socialism, only a working class prone to supporting fascism; and u.$. public opinion is lacking in terms of what would be necessary to prioritize the Israeli-Palestinian issue in a positive way.
Pew Research Center reported an increase in the percentage of Amerikans agreeing “a way can be found for Israel and an independent Palestinian state to coexist peacefully with each other” – from 46% (April 2014, before the Gaza assault) and 43% (August 2014) to 50% in mid-April, 2016.(6) The Democratic percentage went from 49% in August 2014 to 61% with a margin of error of 4.5 points at the 95% confidence level. The percentages of 18-29-year olds and “liberal Democrats” (6.5 points margin of error) agreeing a way can be found to have peaceful coexistence with a Palestinian state were 60% and 67% respectively. “Blacks” (mostly New Afrikans) and “Hispanics” (mostly Chican@s and Latin@s) agreed with the statement more than whites/Euro-Amerikans did. However, according to the same survey, only about 34% (29 + 5) of Democrats, 47% (40 + 7) of liberal Democrats, 32% (27 + 5) of Clinton supporters, and 44% (39 + 5) of Sanders supporters, said they sympathized more with “the Palestinians,” or both “Israel” and the Palestinians, in “the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.” (At one point in 2001, liberal Democrats sympathized with Palestinians less, and sympathized with Israel more, than moderate/liberal Republicans did.)
It is better to oppose the two-state solution openly and clearly than get in the way. Decades of “supporting” the two-state solution while favoring I$rael haven’t produced the two-state solution. It may be that raising the idea among young Amerikans may actually cause problems down the road. With Clinton likely to win the presidency (odds more than 75% according to electionbettingodds.com at the time of this writing), and Republicans likely to continue contributing to peace effort failures in their own ways, the future has to look extremely bleak to those invested in Amerikan dominance in peace efforts. Sympathy in the united $tates does no good if Amerikans just get in the way.
Another issue is that the Fatah administrators in the West Bank are not now at war with Israel, which may cause some confusion in answering the question about peaceful coexistence of states. Furthermore, admitting that two states could exist with peace is very different from favoring the existence of a sovereign Palestinian state.
Gallup’s February World Affairs survey shows long-term steady Amerikan sympathy with Israelis and a possible downward trend in sympathy for Palestinians.(7) About 18% (15 + 3) of u.$. adults sympathized with the Palestinians more or both Israelis and Palestinians, in early February, 2016. And only 26% (23 + 3) of Democrats did, as did 26% (23 + 3) of 18-29-year olds and 33% (29 + 4) of “no religion.” (“In the Middle East situation, are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?”) 68% (41 + 27) of respondents had a mostly unfavorable or very unfavorable overall opinion of the Palestinian Authority. 44% of Amerikans favored “the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” with a 4-point margin of error. That is more than those who opposed, and it may be an increase from 2015 (42%), but it is less than a majority and less than the 50% who agreed in April (Pew Research Center) that Israel and a Palestinian state could coexist peacefully. This is interesting in suggesting there are Amerikans who consider the two-state solution viable, but still wouldn’t support it. 58% of Democrats favored the establishment of the Palestinian state described. Prior to 2016, though, support for the establishment of a Palestinian state had been in decline among Democrats since as early as 2009 and among all Amerikans since 2003.(8)
The increase in Democrats’ claimed sympathy for Palestine and “support” for the possibility of peaceful coexistence can be explained by distance from the peace talks collapse and assault on Gaza in 2014, and posturing against Clinton and Trump in the Amerikan presidential race. It is likely that the Democratic percentages for both of those Pew Research Center questions, if one were to repeat the survey now, would show a drop after it became clear Sanders wouldn’t be the Democratic Party’s nominee and peace efforts appeared in the media that weren’t led by the Amerikans or in which the Amerikans just took up space. Obama isn’t going to do anything for Palestine before the election, and with Sanders out of the race some feel the need to shit on everyone’s efforts on the two-state solution. Only the white man, an oreo or a coconut can lead, apparently, nevermind the decades of false Amerikan leadership disproving that.
The Arab American Institute (AAI) just released a Zogby Analytics poll providing new data.(9) Respondents were explicitly asked if they weren’t familiar or weren’t sure. 39% of u.$. Democrats had an unfavorable attitude regarding Mahmoud Abbas. Only 17% had a favorable attitude. Contrast that with approval in the mid-90s, low-90s and mid-80s for Obama among liberal Democrats, Democrats, and liberals, respectively.(10) The attitude of many in Amerika and around the world, supposedly supporting the two-state solution or sympathizing with the Palestinians, is that Abbas is an Amerikan or Israeli puppet while Obama is so exceptional.
The combination of “supporting” the two-state solution and supporting the current Amerikan administration and its involvement in the solution has a negative effect at both the domestic and international levels. Idolatrous and servile non-Amerikans welcome Amerikan involvement while ignoring the chief role of the Amerikans in the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” or fail to do what they can to resist the united $tates.
The AAI report also shows 37% of Democrats had an unfavorable attitude regarding Palestinians. Only 26% had a favorable attitude.
45% of Democrats weren’t sure if u.$. policy favored the Israelis or the Palestinians, or struck a balance. 48% of independents, and 51% of 18-29-year olds, weren’t sure.
47% of Amerikans and 53% of Democrats (37% not familiar) agreed “there should be an independent Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.” 43% of young Amerikan adults agreed, with 44% unfamiliar. 48% of Republicans agreed, 28% unfamiliar.
Yet, only 30% of Democrats and 15% of 18-29 agreed the united $tates should “continue to refer to Israeli control of the West Bank as an occupation,” as opposed to “not [using] that word.” 47% of Democrats and 59% of 18-29 weren’t familiar.
53% (11 + 42) of Democrats blamed the Palestinians (“most at fault”), or the Israelis and the Palestinians equally, “for the breakdown in the Middle East Peace Process.” 35% weren’t sure.
Only 43% of Democrats agreed “U.S. policy is correct and we should continue to oppose Israel’s settlement policy” (as if the united $tates were actually doing that) after being told about 600,000 settlers and “every U.S. President has asked Israel to stop constructing settlements . . . since it makes it more difficult to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.” 40% of Democrats were not familiar. 55% of 18-29 weren’t familiar.
In addition, 24% of Democrats said the united $tates should take no action on Israel’s continuing to build settlements. 28% of 18-29 said so, and 47% of 18-29 weren’t familiar. 34% of Democrats weren’t familiar.
These data don’t bode well for progress as long as the united $tates continues to play the role of benevolent/stabilizing hegemon in the Israeli-Palestinian issue and others keep allowing it to. The demographic groups – including liberal Democrats and young Amerikans – on which hypothetical pro-Palestinian Amerikan policy is supposed to be based are full of people who either sympathize with Israel more, favor u.$. presidents over leaders of nations with greater interest in the two-state solution, have an unfavorable attitude about Palestinians, blame Palestinians or Israelis & Palestinians equally, think Arabs and Jews are particularly corrupt, openly and secretly disdain Islam and countries with Muslim majorities, oppose acknowledging any occupation of Palestine, openly tolerate settlement expansion, consider a peaceful two-state outcome impossible, oppose establishment of a Palestinian state, or just don’t know or care.
Contrary to the notion that elites are the main problem in Amerika, if there were to be a positive development in Amerikan policy on Palestine, it would be some elites pushing for it in a situation of opposition, ignorance and apathy among the Amerikan public. But Amerikan elites have no reason – of political or economic interest – to both prioritize the Israeli-Palestinian issue and struggle for a significant change, particularly when they themselves believe or sense the status quo serves Amerikan interests relative to other situations.
Some farsighted elites – concerned about global economic stability and growth, or prioritizing the survival of capitalism or more-sustainable moderated u.$. dominance over short-term Amerikan interests – see a need for progress to take place on Palestine. Yet, they are restricted by populists and “socialists” constantly telling Amerikans they are economic and political victims and economically oppressed by financiers and foreign capitalists trying to bamboozle them or deprioritize their needs. The elites can take up a specific Palestine issue, but end up interfering because of an inability to follow through – while others are displaced by the united $tates’ bloated influence in international politics. The world must take action on the Israeli-Palestinian issue without waiting for Amerikans to catch up. Those who persist in failing to recognize the principal role of the united $tates in the non-realization of the two-state solution must be cast out of the midst of struggle. ◊
• “Palestine: economic ignorance underpinning preference for the one-state solution,” 2016 July. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-07-23-news-Palestine-one-state-solution.md
• “Two states on Palestinian turf: soccer games and economic-political realities,” 2016 July. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-07-27-news-two-state-solution-Iran.md
• “Quartet report: one-state reality versus one-state fantasy,” 2016 July. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-07-30-news-one-state-solution.md
• “Economic relations in a low-growth world: potential convergence of Iranian and Saudi interests, divergence from Americans’,” 2016 August. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-08-04-news-Iranian-Saudi-convergence.md
1. “Ex-general’s Israel visit doesn’t reflect gvt. stance: Riyadh,” 2016 July 28. http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/07/28/477293/Saudi-Arabia-Israel-Eshki-Riyadh
“Saudis launch campaign to oppose normalization of ties with Israel,” 2016 August 1. http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/08/01/477906/Saudi-Arabia-socail-media-campaign-normalization-Israel
“Saudi delegation to Israel: Ending Palestinian conflict critical for ties with Arab states,” 2016 July 24. http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Saudi-delegation-to-Israel-Ending-Palestinian-conflict-critical-for-ties-with-Arab-states-462203
“Former Israeli minister: Israel-Saudi peace ‘in the cards’,” 2016 August 5. http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Former-Israeli-minister-Israel-Saudi-peace-in-the-cards-463348
2. @khamenei_ir, 5:02 AM - 1 Aug 2016. https://twitter.com/khamenei_ir/status/760083300232916993
3. “JCPOA proved necessity of distrust in US promises: Leader,” 2016 August 1. http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/08/01/477946/Iran-US-Leader-Khamenei-JCPOA
@khamenei_ir, 4:11 AM - 1 Aug 2016. https://twitter.com/khamenei_ir/status/760070329641345024 “Americans want to take everything & give nothing. Talks with US on regional issues is a lethal poison & they cannot be trusted in any issue.”
4. “Israeli leftist party Hadash condemns visit by Saudi delegation,” 2016 July 23. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.732889
“Israel is tasking Saudi Arabia with subduing the Palestinians,” 2016 August 8. http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.735672
5. “One year on, U.S. obstacles blunt hopes from Iran nuclear deal,” 2016 July 12. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/07/12/world/one-year-u-s-obstacles-blunt-hopes-iran-nuclear-deal/#.V6k2sDHLfpI ““Iran has done its part. The blockage comes from the Americans – the Europeans should put more pressure on them,” a European diplomat in Tehran said on condition of anonymity.”
6. “5. Views of Israel and Palestinians,” 2016 May 5. http://www.people-press.org/2016/05/05/5-views-of-israel-and-palestinians/
7. “Americans’ views toward Israel remain firmly positive,” 2016 February 29. http://www.gallup.com/poll/189626/americans-views-toward-israel-remain-firmly-positive.aspx
8. “Americans closely split over Palestinian statehood,” 2015 February 24. http://www.gallup.com/poll/181682/americans-closely-split-palestinian-statehood.aspx
“Seven in 10 Americans continue to view Israel favorably,” 2015 February 23. http://www.gallup.com/poll/181652/seven-americans-continue-view-israel-favorably.aspx
9. “American attitudes toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” 2016 July 27. https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/aai/pages/11756/attachments/original/1469628089/FINAL_2016_Israel_Palestine_Poll.pdf?1469628089
10. “Obama weekly job approval by demographic groups.” http://www.gallup.com/poll/121199/Obama-Weekly-Job-Approval-Demographic-Groups.aspx