Saturday, June 29, 2024

Can Israel Win The War of Public Opinion?

Israel was born in war. In 1947,  the United Nations tried to broker a deal under Resolution 181 (II) which would created two separate states, one Israeli and the other Palestinian in the area where no formal state previously existed. Up to that point the area was only a geographical region which, until then, had been a protectorate of the British Empire which it had rightfully stolen from the Ottoman Empire after WWI.

Under the terms of the plan Israel would have received 14,500 square kilometers  (which is about 10,000 square miles), the equivalent of about 52% of the land while the Palestinians would have 46% of the land amounting to 11,100 square kilometers which would be about 9890 square miles. The key cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem would become international zones under the administration of the United Nations. The plan also stipulated that British Colonial Troops would undertake a gradual withdrawal to be completed no later than August 28, 1948.

The plan sought to mitigate two competing ideologies, that of Palestinian nationalism and that of Zionism, which had come to the forefront following the end of WWII and the Holocaust. It's noteworthy that while various Zionist organizations agreed to work with the United Nation's Special Committee on Palestine (UNSOP), no one from Palestine's leadership attended. This was essentially at the behest of the Arab League, which strongly opposed any large scale Jewish settlements in the region and wasn't too fond of Jews in general being there.

What was the Arab League? The Arab League was formed in the aftermath of WWII on March 22, 1945. It was to serve as the core structure to a Pan-Arab nationalist movement. It comprised the nations of Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and North Yemen, all of which had previously belonged to the Ottoman Empire until the end of WWI when they were dutifully "acquired" and divided up by France and Great Britain under the Sykes-Picot Plan without regard to religious sects, ethnic groups, or traditional borders. which was signed on May 16, 1916.   

It's worth noting that with the exception of Syria these nations had, until recently, been British colonial protectorates. Syria had fallen under French Administration. It also should be noted that many  supported Nazi Germany during the war. Thousands joined the SS to create eight predominately Muslim SS units, including the famous 13th and 22nd Waffen SS Mountain Divisions and also several high ranking former Nazis served as advisors or security consultants for many of these countries.

Fast forward to 1948, the Arab League rejected the plan for a two state solution nominally on behalf of the Palestinians. The result was an all out war just hours after Israel declared its nationhood. Since then Israel has been a state of almost continuous war and asymmetrical war by groups like the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), Black September, terrorist hijackings and bombings, and near constant missile attacks from Hamas and Hezbollah (both puppets of Iran).

Thus far, Israel has been successful in repelling these attacks, although it's come close to losing, and that would mean total and complete annihilation of Israel (the only democracy in the Middle East) and its people. The attack on October 7, 2023 was just another in a long line of unprovoked attacks, this time it was over 1400 men, women, and children enjoying a concert.

Whether Hamas, a international recognized terrorist organization, had the "right" to attack Israelis as part of their ongoing terrorist agenda to "liberate"  a mythical Palestinian homeland from Israel, it did not have the legal or moral right to murder, rape, burn alive, and kidnap innocent civilians.  If Hams considers itself "at war" as claimed, then it should conduct itself accordingly. However, it doesn't. it hides behind the innocent and vulnerable.

But nevertheless, it seems that Hamas and those behind it have learned a very valuable lesson which others have ignored---that of mixing social media and propaganda. They have launched one of the most successful "PR" campaigns in recent history. They have seriously threatened support for Israel which in the past was seen as unshakeable, especially here in the United States.  Support for Israel outside the U.S. is also drawing heavy fire from governments (many whom have been ardent supporters of Israel) and building pressure from their citizens.

We commonly see large groups of mostly college age individuals protesting on campus, in the streets and on highways, as well as massing anywhere people tend to gather. I guess is this their response to my generations anti-Vietnam war protests. The biggest difference is that these individuals don't seem to know much about the history of the region (especially recent) and they are extremely intolerant of opposing opinions to the point of harassment, shouting them down, destruction of property, and openly assaulting anyone who disagrees with them. Their solution appears to be "accept my opinion only".  

An amusing aside is that along with this, we find large numbers of gays, "trans" individuals and other members of the LGBQT community openly supporting Hamas. Apparently they don't realize that homosexuality in any form is a sin and violates the Koran. The punishment is death by stoning but just as often by being throw off of buildings followed by stoning. No reasoning. No exceptions. Just death.

Here in the U.S., despite or perhaps because of the protests, public opinion on our support for Israel seems to be shaky but intact. According to a recent poll by the Associated Press- NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, President Biden's handling of the situation over Gaza is  potentially in serious trouble.  

The poll indicates that about 50% of Democrats approve of Biden's handling of the situation thus far. However, a substantial 46% do not. 44% of Democrats polled said that Israel was getting too much support from the U.S while 45% thinks it's about right with just 9% wanting to see more from Biden.

The same poll also stated that current support for the Palestinians (which by extrapolation would include Hamas too) was too little by 44% compared to 37% saying it's just right and 15% saying it's already too much.

Of the 46% who disapprove of Biden's handing of the Gaza issue, a whopping 65% think that Israel is getting too much support. 58% also that the Palestinians aren't getting near enough support. Those Democrats who approve of Biden's actions thus far, 68% said that Israel was getting about the right amount of support while 51% say the same thing about the Palestinians.

Independents, the nation's largest voting bloc, overwhelming disapprove of Israel's ongoing war against Hamas by 60%. Only 29% approve and 11% had no opinion. The poll asked Democrats, the second largest voting bloc, the same question, whether they supported Israel's military actions in Gaza and found that 75% do not. Only 18% did with the balance having no comment.

While not surprising, the majority of Democrats under age 45 (65%)  and 58% of non-whites Democrats disapprove of Biden's handling of the war and his support for Israel. The same group blames Israel for the war by 56%.  Democrats over age 45% (65%) and white Democrats (62%) support Biden's efforts in the Middle East. This group thinks that Hamas is responsible for the situation by 76%.

According to a March 27, Gallup Poll, the majority of Americans--55%--disapprove of Israel's response to the Hamas attack. Only 36% approve. When looking at party, Republicans still support Israel's actions by 64% with 30% disapproving. It should be pointed out that while former President Donald Trump has been a keen supporter of Israel and a friend of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu, that may be changing.

The former President stated in an interview with Hugh Hewett, a conservative talk radio host, that Netanyahu has made some serious mistakes in the handling of the war, including the unintentional bombing of a Palestinian refugee camp which was allegedly harboring members of Hamas. The bombing killed or wounded dozens of civilians.

It should be pointed out that since exact figures are unavailable or unreliable, it's currently estimated that over 10,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed thus far and thousands more maimed or injured. The food situation has reached  a humanitarian crisis point bordering on what many governments are calling a potential "genocide".

However, Hamas shares much of the blame due to their routine use of civilians as shields (they commonly use schools, hospitals, mosques, and private homes as staging positions for their missile attacks) and  block or hijack shipments of food, water, medical supplies and other forms of aid. Any Israeli response to these attacks is nearly always a automatic PR coup for Hamas. 

Trump also pointed out the obvious, namely that Israel is "losing the PR war.  They're losing it big". Perhaps this isn't such a big surprise since many of Trump's diehard supporters oppose Israel's ongoing response to the war and in a not too surprising partisan response, have been chanting "Genocide Joe" at pro-Biden rallies.

It appears the one of the key issues which will likely affect the outcome of the November Presidential Election will come down to what Biden does next regarding Israel. A large minority of his party oppose his current level of support for the Israelis as does the largest voting bloc, the Independents.  While a majority of Republicans continue their backing of Israel, it appears that many "MAGA" Republicans don't.

The best outcome for both presidential candidates is for Prime Minister Netanyahu bringing this war to quick end before November, even if that means not" wiping out Hamas" as he promised the Israeli people. At the same time, Netanyahu needs to seriously step up his PR game before not just Americans turn against Israel, but so does the rest of the world.


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PBS News: Nearly half of Democrats disapprove of Biden's response to the Israel-Hamas War poll says

Majority in U.S. Now Disapprove of Israeli Action in Gaza

A century on: Why the Arabs resent Sykes-Picot

United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine

Trump used to brag about his support for Israel. Now his criticisms are growing sharper

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