US public opinion is rapidly turning against Israel's military actions, but political candidates opposed to them are not yet on the menu of alternatives. There is however, a growing boycott and divestiture movement which is worth a look...
Note that in this piece, I'm taking as a given the point of view sketched out in A Not Pro-Israel Primer (second version)
What interests me personally about the Israel-Palestine issue is that there's such a vast gap between reality and officially acceptable Serious opinion. How does collective madness like this develop-- and last for decades!-- and how can we recover from it?
It's always encouraging to hear about Israeli's speaking out against their government's military actions, But I'm afraid we can't expect the people of Israel as a whole to come to their senses on this any time soon: too much blood has been spilled for them to admit to themselves what they've done.
Look at how hard it is for the United States to come to grips with the fact that the rationale for the invasion of Iraq was so weak-- even the people who admit that they called it wrong want to believe they were wrong for the right reasons. In terms of strength of ideological commitment, Israel has it even worse.
There is, however, a very rapid shift in public opinion taking place in the United States:
A story by Aaron Blake, at the Washington Post (Young Americans take a dim view of Israel’s actions, July 29, 2014), discusses two polls, making the point that young people in particular are opposed to Israel's actions:
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. ... Gallup asked Americans whether they thought Israel's recent actions were justified. While older Americans clearly sided with Israel, 18 to 29-year olds said by a two-to-one margin (51-25) that its actions were unjustified.
A few years back, Norman G. Finkelstein discussed a similar trend among young Jewish intellectuals, (from a description of Knowing Too Much (2012), subtitled, "Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel is Coming to an End":
... the support of America Jews for Israel has begun to fray. This erosion has been particularly marked among younger members of the community. A 2010 Brandeis University poll found that only about one quarter of Jews aged under 40 today feel "very much" connected to Israel.
So: the case against Israel's military actions is rapidly being won in the hearts and minds of anyone who has either, but this has not yet penetrated far into what we euphemistically call the "mainstream" media, nor has it translated into a political change. Tim Mak, at "The Daily Beast", (Even Left-Wing Politicians Can't Quit Israel, July 30, 2014) comments:
Much of the American left is critical of Israel, particularly since its incursion into Gaza. But in the halls of Congress, even progressive Democrats beloved by grassroots activists are loath to criticize the Jewish State's ongoing military offensive. ... A Pew Research Center poll released Monday showed that a plurality of Democrats across the country, 35 percent, and liberals, 44 percent, said that Israel had 'gone too far' in its response to its conflict with Hamas. Meanwhile 47 percent of Democrats told Gallup that Israel’s actions during the current conflict were 'unjustified,' compared to just 31 percent who thought the opposite. ... But these opinions are nearly impossible to find in Congress.
He makes the point that even the likes of Bernie Sanders refuses to speak out against Israel, and indeed whenever the subject has come before Congress, they fall over themselves to show support for Israel.
So, we're not going to solve this just with some more Democrats. It may require some better Democrats... and clearly Hillary Clinton does not count as a better Democrat: In that infamous interview in the Atlantic she engaged in some terrible hair-splitting defenses of Israel's actions (they weren't bombing a UN school, it was just the annex).
In the meantime, I suggest that the divestiture movement is an excellent way to attack this issue.
Boycotts are good ways to channel growing public indignation-- the winner-take-all nature of our democratic institutions necessarily dilutes the force of public opinion on an issue until you have at least half (and probably more) of the people on your side.
Even just the discussions that accompany a divestiture movement are extremely important-- it always seemed to me that the divestiture movement against South African Apartheid was most effective as a publicity campaign, even more so than through it's economic effects.
So, some resources on that front:
This is a really fascinating site by the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), with a lot of in-depth coverage of Israel-Palestine, in general:
This site has a nice, easy-to-grasp display of some boycott targets:
And finally a story from Aljazeera, by Patricia Sabga, August 13, 2014:
On July 8, 2014, the day Israel launched its most recent Gaza offensive, “Long Live Palestine boycott Israel”, a Buycott app campaign that helps consumers avoid purchasing products seen to profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands, had attracted a mere 470 supporters. A little over a month later, with the Palestinian death toll creeping toward 2,000, and horrific images of dead and maimed Palestinians filling mainstream and social media platforms, "Long Live Palestine boycott Israel" had surpassed a quarter-million followers, making it the fastest growing campaign on Buycott’s platform.
Launched in 2005 by Palestinian groups frustrated by the failure of Western governments to persuade Israel to tear down the West Bank barrier (deemed illegal by the International Criminal Court), the BDS movement harnesses citizen power to advance its goals. "It's a way to put pressure on the Israeli government, similar to the South African anti-apartheid movement, when governments have been unwilling to do so, like our government has," said Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, a nonprofit that spearheaded the US-based BDS coalition We Divest.
A link to the Buycott mentioned in the story: Buycott