PHILADELPHIA, US: A recent headline in the Boston Globe, a leading US paper, which read “US aid to Israel should be a force for peace,” has surprised many readers.
The paper, in its May 19 edition, published it as part of a hard-hitting column by its editorial board, adding: “Ultimately, conditioning aid to Israel should not be controversial.”
Trudy Rubin, a leading columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, meanwhile, put Hamas and the Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu on the same level, saying: “By treating Palestinians as irrelevant, Bibi provoked violence that has killed hundreds of mostly Palestinian civilians and threatened Israeli towns and cities.”
Major TV stations, especially MSNBC and CNN, have had anchors challenge more Israeli guests than ever before. Pro-Palestinian demonstrations in major US cities, meanwhile, have seen huge turnouts.
Sarah Nahar, an African-American activist, told Arab News that since 2015, Black internationalism had seen a resurgence unseen since the late 1960s.
“Since the events in Ferguson (Missouri), there have been many black-led organizations who have traveled to Palestine and have learned firsthand what the situation is like, and have since networked Palestine with the African American community,” she said.
Nahar pointed to the recent book “Except Palestine” by Marc Lemont Hill as shaking American progressives who previously supported all global liberation issues — except Palestine.
Now though, attitudes are changing. US Senator Bernie Sanders has written in support of Palestinian rights in the New York Times, and a group of Congressmen and women, led by New York progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Palestinian-American Democrat Rashida Tlaib and others, have not been shy in their clear support of Palestinians.
Donald Trump’s era created a split within US political forces in regards to Palestine.
Khaled Elgindy, senior fellow and director of the Palestine Program at the Middle East Institute, agrees that there is a shift happening in US public opinion on Palestine, which has filtered into politics as well.
“We see that in the current split inside the Democratic Party; there are progressives who are willing to be more vocal about Palestinian rights and Israeli abuses, and there is (the) more traditional pro-Israel party establishment,” he said, adding: “(President Joe) Biden appears to be on the most conservative end of the latter.”
Elgindy warned, though, that the “shift hasn’t really translated into any real shift in policy. That said, there is now, for the first time in many years, the beginning of a debate on things that were once beyond the pale, like the idea of conditioning aid to Israel.”
Dan Kurtzer, a former US ambassador to Syria, Israel and Egypt, told Arab News that the situation has changed from 2014.
“That conflict was strictly between Israel and Hamas, and occurred as a result of differences of view related to Israel’s blockade and Hamas’ responsibility for maintaining a cease-fire. This time, the conflict is over Jerusalem — Sheikh Jarrah, the ‘status quo,’ and the sanctity of the Haram Al-Sharif. Thus, getting to a cease-fire is only a first step to dealing with those Jerusalem issues,” Kurtzer said.
The change in demographics in the US appears to have made a difference.
James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, told Arab News that the changes in the US have been developing over the last three decades, and are a function of demographics.
“On the Democratic side, we have blacks, Latinos, Asians, young people, and educated women. On the Republican side, it’s white, middle class, high school educated, ‘born again’ Christians. On many issues, foreign and domestic, these two groupings hold views that are mirror reflections of each other. That gap is growing and will continue to grow.”
Some argue, though, that technology has played a greater part.
Jamal Dajani, former head of communications at the Palestinian prime minister’s office, told Arab News that technology made it easier for Palestinians to share images of their suffering in real time, using mobile cameras and social media platforms.
He said: “This comes at a time when most people across the globe, not just in the US, do not rely on corporate or mainstream media outlets for their news anymore; therefore, Israel is no longer able to control the narrative like it used to. The timing of the release of the Human Rights Watch report on April 27 exposing Israel’s apartheid practices has helped shift the sentiment.”
Fadi Elsalameen, formerly a non-resident fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, told Arab News that this was the first time that the pro-Palestinian and anti-Netanyahu camps had merged and agreed on a need for change in the Palestinian-Israeli dynamic.
“The question remains: What happens next, and can this merge lead to actual political change on the ground,” he said.