Why Millennials Find Israel's Actions Harder to Justify Than Other Generations
Recent polls show a growing divide between a younger generation that’s “over Israel” and their elders who, according to Salon writer David Palumbo-Liu, still view the recent conflict in the context of the Holocaust among other reasons. But can we wait for Generation Y to address the “tremendous humanitarian crisis” taking place in Gaza?
Absolutely not, Palumbo-Liu contends. Although there is hope that those aged 18-29 now, a large portion of whom condemn the current war in Gaza due to their social media fueled perspective of the conflict, will someday stop America from supporting Israel’s military actions, the Salon writer says the time to act and stop this crisis is now, for although “change might be coming … for now action is needed.”
It might seem counterintuitive to make the argument that Israel should no longer count on U.S. support for its policies as assuredly it has in the past. After all, hasn’t the Senate just passed not one but now two resolutions by unanimous consent declaring its backing of Israel’s deadly attacks on and invasion of Gaza?
In the first – Resolution 498 – the Senate “reaffirms its support for Israel’s right to defend its citizens and ensure the survival of the State of Israel; condemns the unprovoked rocket fire at Israel; calls on Hamas to immediately cease all rocket and other attacks against Israel; and calls on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the unity governing arrangement with Hamas and condemn the attacks on Israel.” The second — Resolution 526, passed again by unanimous consent on July 29 — restates the Senate’s support for Israel and adds a criticism of a United Nations report on the violence. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that the U.N. report “was ‘disgusting’ and failed to recognize that Israel is defending itself from attacks started by Hamas, a terrorist organization.”
Yet even with these unambiguous resolutions emanating from the Senate, we find more and more evidence that support for Israel from the American public is slipping. A recent report in the Washington Post noted that “A new Pew Research Center poll is the second in the past week to show a huge generational split on the current conflict in Gaza. While all age groups north of 30 years old clearly blame Hamas more than Israel for the current violence, young adults buck the trend in a big way. Among 18 to 29-year olds, 29 percent blame Israel more for the current wave of violence, while 21 percent blame Hamas.”
Clearly there are a number of possible explanations for this; here are three that come to mind…
Truthdig contributor Juan Cole, whose latest book “The New Arab” discusses how millennials are “changing the Middle East,” has also written about prominent young Americans such as Selena Gomez, whose controversial message “It’s About Humanity: Pray for Gaza” was accompanied by the hashtag “#wearethenextgeneration,” and their shifting perspective regarding the international sociopolitical landscape:
The Millennials are a new generation with their own perspective on world affairs. They’re less interested in organized religion than their elders. In the U.S., they are substantially less Northern European in their heritage and tastes (this is also true in France e.g.) The Millennials have only seen the 2006, 2008-9, 2012, and the current wars, in which Israel is the superpower and its opponents lack tanks, artillery or planes. Palestinians in such an encounter look like the underdogs, not a powerful threat. I don’t think the Israeli leadership has the slightest conception of how the tide is turning against them over their colonial policies and tactics.
As Palumbo-Liu points in the piece quoted earlier, those who wish to “criticize Israel today have already well-established and well-recognized modes of protest available to them,” the biggest and most widespread of which is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that allows millennials and others to find ways to make a real impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as our governments continue to twiddle their thumbs and send more guns.
—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata