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Nearly half of Americans support sanctions on Israel, poll finds

As the Democratic party regroups ahead of the next election cycle, it would be wise for its leadership to examine areas where the Clinton campaign diverged from the party’s base. Israel-Palestine is one of those issues.

Two Palestinian women walk along Israel’s separation wall in the West Bank village of Abu Dis. (Anna Kaplan/Flash90)

Two Palestinian women walk along Israel’s separation wall in the West Bank village of Abu Dis. (Anna Kaplan/Flash90)

The number of Americans who support imposing sanctions on Israel over its defiant settlement policies has shot up to 46 percent, the same percentage of Americans who voted for Donald Trump in the presidential election.

That number has shot up nearly 10 percentage points over the past year, according to a national poll published by the Brookings Institute on Friday, on the sidelines of this week’s Saban Forum, “an annual dialogue between American and Israeli leaders.”

Among Democrats, a 60-percent majority “supported imposing some economic sanctions or taking more serious action” in response to Israeli settlements, the poll found. A much smaller number of Republican respondents (31 percent) support sanctions.

The United States, like most countries in the world, opposes the existence and expansion of Israeli settlements — both in the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Golan Heights. Despite that opposition, however, Washington has rarely set any consequences for Israel’s settlement policies or actions.

Out of step with the people

One of the three demands in the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), is an end to Israel’s military occupation, a step many believe would require the dismantling of the West Bank settlements.

The Brookings poll seems to indicate that nearly half of Americans, enough to elect a president, support that Palestinian demand and want their government to take action along those lines, at least with the “S” part of BDS.

Perhaps demonstrating how out of touch decision makers are with the electorate on the matter of Palestine and Palestinian rights, momentum in American government — local and national — seems to be toward limiting the tools Americans have to leverage their own economic and political power to end the occupation.

At least 22 U.S. states have legislation that punishes companies for answering the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Just this past week, the United States Senate passed a bill that includes in its definition of anti-Semitism, “[a]pplying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

Those legislative measures, meant to limit the public’s legitimate protests and discourse on Israeli human rights violations and breaches of international law, would seem to be at odds with the American public’s growing support for holding Israel accountable for its actions.

The poll also showed a stark political divide between Democrats and Republicans with regards to UN Security Council intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Whereas a majority of Democrats (51 percent) said the United States should vote in favor of Security Council resolution endorsing Palestinian statehood, an equal percentage of Republicans (51 percent) said the U.S. should veto such a resolution. Among independents, the majority (59 percent) said Washington should abstain in a vote on Palestinian statehood.

Over the past several months, observers — and stakeholders — of Israel-Palestine had entertained the possibility that during his final months in office, President Obama might support a Security Council resolution either: a) codifying a framework for Palestinian-Israeli peace, defining the contours of a two-state solution and its basic building blocks, or; b) condemning Israeli settlements as illegal under international law, and calling for an end to their expansion.

A liability for Democrats?

In recent days, American Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro insinuated to Israeli news outlets that President Obama will do no such thing in his final 47 days in office. Perhaps the administration’s calculus was changed by Donald Trump’s election victory, or maybe a final Security Council push was never being seriously considered. But the new Brookings poll, along with trends that Democrats have been quietly discussing for months if not years, indicate that that brand of blind allegiance to Israel might be harmful to the Democratic party in the long run.

Leaked internal Clinton campaign emails from last year revealed discussions among senior staffers who thought Clinton should avoid talking about Israel at public campaign events, particularly at events with Democratic activists. Bernie Sanders’s willingness to criticize Israel during a presidential campaign was refreshing for many Democrats who support Palestinian rights, and he created a contrast with Clinton and others’ seeming kowtowing to AIPAC and its blind support for Israel at the expense of Palestinians.

As the Democratic party regroups ahead of the midterm elections and the next presidential campaign, it would only be natural for Democratic leaders to examine areas of policy where Clinton’s campaign diverged from the party’s base. Blind support for Israel and the out-of-hand rejection of holding the Israeli government accountable, even when it openly defies long-standing American policy, is one of those issues. Israel-Palestine is not the most important issue for most voters, including Jewish voters, but it does have the capacity to galvanize supporters, an area where Clinton appears to have failed.

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    1. Bruce Gould

      In my opinion it is directly relevant to the content of this article that Trumps selection for Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, has said in the past that Israel is approaching apartheid:


      Unlike Trumps other appointments, Mattis is neither crazy, incompetent, nor a billionare, and today the New York Times endorsed him in their editorial page.

      Reply to Comment
      • David

        Regrettably, it seems General James Mattis is not aware that Israel is already an apartheid state.

        “Former Foreign Ministry director-general invokes South Africa comparisons. ‘Joint Israel-West Bank’ reality is an apartheid state”
        EXCERPT: “Similarities between the ‘original apartheid’ as it was practiced in South Africa and the situation in ISRAEL [my emphasis] and the West Bank today ‘scream to the heavens,’ added [Alon] Liel, who was Israel’s ambassador in Pretoria from 1992 to 1994. There can be little doubt that the suffering of Palestinians is not less intense than that of blacks during apartheid-era South Africa, he asserted.” (Times of Israel, February 21, 2013)

        In its 2015 Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, the U.S. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor acknowledges the “institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel.” (U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015 Israel and The Occupied Territories, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2015&dlid=252927#wrapper)

        “…EU broadside over plight of Israel’s Arabs”
        EXCERPT: “The confidential 27-page draft prepared by European diplomats… [shows] that Israeli Arabs suffer ‘economic disparities… unequal access to land and housing… discriminatory draft legislation and a political climate in which discriminatory rhetoric and practice go unsanctioned.'” (The Independent, Dec. 27/2011)

        The U.S. State Department’s report on International Religious Freedom: “Arabs in Israel…are subject to various forms of discrimination [and the government] does not provide Israeli Arabs…with the same quality of education, housing, employment opportunities as Jews.”

        Haaretz, Dec. 14/09: “Jewish town won’t let Arab build home on his own land ”
        Excerpt: “Aadel Suad first came to the planning and construction committee of the Misgav Local Council in 1997. Suad, an educator, was seeking a construction permit to build a home on a plot of land he owns in the community of Mitzpeh Kamon. The reply he got, from a senior official on the committee, was a memorable one. ‘Don’t waste your time,’ he reportedly told Suad. ‘We’ll keep you waiting for 30 years.’”

        Reply to Comment
        • tbenton62

          Already a aparthied state? In South Africa, the only nation to ever have this as their national policy stripped the South African Blacks of the right to representation, they could not vote, could not serve in the government or have any government job, had to live were they were told. Here lies the problem, in the Israeli Knesset the third largest political party is the Joint List, a Arab unity party, in Gaza they people freely voted to keep Hamas in power, the fact that Hamas refuses to allow votes has nothing to do with Israel. Arabs are able to live as they please, you have Arab Knesset members, Arabs in the IDF filling all ranks, you have on the Israeli Supreme Court a Arab sitting on the Bench, the head of Israel’s national police is a Arab, there are Arab mayors, police Chiefs, fire marshals, attorney, in fact Arabs equally have the same access to the jobs that Israeli’s have.
          Seems the FACTS and your rhetoric sure do not match up very well.

          Reply to Comment
    2. R5

      If you’re dumb enough to rely on pollsters after Trump’s election, nobody should waste their time reading your articles. 47% of Americans couldn’t find Palestine on a map.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @R5: By what percentage were the polls off in the election? Apply the same number to the Brookings poll. I’ll accept that.(Incidentally, although the polls were off about Trump, he still lost the popular vote by over 2 million).

        Reply to Comment
    3. AJew

      This poll was conducted by professor Shibley Telhami. Telhami was born into an Arab family in Israel and has spoken on his experience as an Arab Israeli at the Palestine Center.[3].

      Polls can be designed to prove any opinion, right or wrong. If in doubt, check out the pre BREXIT polls and the polls about the recent American elections.

      I am not losing sleep about this poll either. Especially since it was designed by a person who clearly has an axe of his own to grind. And especially since there are many other polls which show a diametrically opposite picture which says that the majority of Americans support Israel and don’t side with the Palestinian Arabs.

      Reply to Comment
      • Baladi Akka 1948

        You forgot to omit that [3] when you copy-pasted wiki on Telhami.
        According to Pew (and other polls) the support for the Palestinians are rising though still a minority (no wonder when you know how biased US media are), in the latest Pew poll, a majority of young and progressive Democrats/Sanders-voters sided more with the Palestinians. Anyway, the US is not the center of the world, hopefully in a couple of decades it’ll be just another State in the periphery. In Europe, no population is siding in majority with Israel (cf annual BBC-polls and internal EU polls), that’s why the Lobby here has to work overtime.

        Reply to Comment
        • Carmen

          “Anyway, the US is not the center of the world, hopefully in a couple of decades it’ll be just another State in the periphery”.

          That’s for sure. I have a feeling though that it’ll be a lot sooner than a couple decades.

          Reply to Comment
    4. i_like_ike52

      This is meaningless. This was a “made-to-order” poll sponsored by the left-wing Brookings Institute and the pollsters knew in advance what results were desired and fashioned the questions in order to get the results they wanted. Everyone with an ax to grind does this. As
      R5 pointed out, most of those polled couldn’t find Israel/Palestine on a map and don’t know anything about the issues involved.
      However, let us say, for the sake of argument that the polls IS accurate. It still is meaningless in the political/policy realm. Devotees of sites like 972 may spend most of their waking hours worrying about the Palestinians and settlements, but few people in the world do, including the Arab world. In the US, Bernie Sanders took a much more critical position on Israel than Hillary did, but he lost anyway. How many Democratic voters base their choice on whether the candidate supports sanctions against Israel, EVEN IF THEY SUPPORT THEM? The number is negligible.
      I can give other example. Take Germany, for instance. Polls shows the large majority of Germans are quite hostile to Israel (no doubt for historical reasons) but, again, it has not effect on government policy. No large party exists whose main platform is BDS. German voters don’t consider it an imporant issue. The same can be said for other Eastern European countries, all of whom have close relations with Israel although their populations, like the German, don’t have much love for Jews or Israel.
      Actually, the same applies to the Arab world. Arab hatred of Israel has nothing to do with the Palestinians (who are not popular in the Arab world). They view the existence of Israel as a abomination and an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-67 lines and making peace with the Palestinians would do nothing to change it…it would possibly even increase it.
      Bottom line, this poll is meaningless.

      Reply to Comment
      • Jan

        Hey, the Republicans and the Evangelical Christians love you so what is your problem?

        Reply to Comment
    5. Lewis from Afula

      Another far-Leftist Cuckoo Poll?
      As unbiased as all the polls published about Trump / Brexit / UK and Israeli 2015 elections !
      How did those work out?

      Reply to Comment
    6. Carmen

      I don’t know how trustworthy any poll is these days. I do know there is a lot of angry discussion wrt to the ‘israeli’ occupation, BDS, Palestinian rights and the like and more and more people are no longer willing to continue to support the zionist regime. Education is the key. I’m waiting for the arrival of this:
      State of Terror: THOMAS SUAREZ: 9781911072034: Telegraph …

      “A tour de force, based on diligent archival research that looks boldly at the impact of Zionism on Palestine and its people in the first part of the 20th century.

      The book is the first comprehensive and structured analysis of the violence and terror employed by the Zionist movement and later the state of Israel against the people of Palestine.

      Much of the suffering we witness today can be explained by, and connected to, this formative period covered thoroughly in this book.”

      -Ilan Pappé, Israeli historian, author, and professor

      “Why has the Israel-Palestine ‘conflict’ endured for so long, with no resolution in sight? In this meticulously researched book, Thomas Suárez demonstrates that its cause is not the commonly depicted clash between two ethnic groups—Arabs and Jews—but the violent takeover of Palestine by Zionism, a European settler movement hailing from the era of ethnic nationalism.

      Tapping a trove of declassified British documents, much of which has never before been published, the book details a shocking campaign of Zionist terrorism in 1940s and 1950s Palestine that targeted anyone who challenged its messianic settler goals, whether the British government, the indigenous Palestinians, or Jews.

      Today’s seemingly intractable quagmire is that terror campaign’s unfinished business, an Israeli state driven by unrequited territorial designs and the dream of ethnic ‘purity’. The role of Zionist terrorism in establishing the Israeli state and perpetuating today’s conflict is laid bare in Suárez’s groundbreaking narrating of the unbroken historical record.”

      This doesn’t sound anything at all like the propaganda/lies posted with regularity on this site. One of the most recurring lies is how the “Arabs started this war”. Followed by the ‘if only’, i.e., if only the Arabs would recognize the ‘nation-state of the Jewish people’ everything would be copacetic. As if he would ever do what he expects the indigenous people of Palestine to do. Even arch criminal ben gurion wouldn’t. How’s that for irony? Or is it simply arrogance and stupidity? Can’t wait for the book.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Barry Meridian

      1carmen did you forget to talk about Palestinian leader Haj Amin Al Hussein’s alliance to Hitler in WW2

      Reply to Comment
      • David

        Barry. It seems you are unaware of the following:

        After WWII, a memorandum dated January 11, 1941, was discovered in Ankara. Prepared by the German Naval Attaché in Turkey, it revealed that Naftali Lubentschik, a
        representative of the Stern Gang (one of the Yishuv’s terrorist organizations) led by Avraham Stern, had met with German Nazis, Otto Von Hentig and Rudolph Rosen in Vichy controlled Beirut and proposed that in exchange for military aid and freedom to recruit European Jews for Palestine, the Sternists were prepared “…to take an active part in the war on Germany’s side…and [this cooperation] would also be in line with one [of Hitler’s recent speeches which] stressed that any alliance would be entered into in order to isolate England and defeat it.”

        The proposition presented to the Nazis pointed out that “the establishment of the historical Jewish state on a national and totalitarian basis and bound by a treaty with the German Reich would be in the interest of maintaining and strengthening the future German position of power in the Near East.” (Quoted by Klaus Polkehn, “The Secret Contacts: Zionist-Nazi Relations, 1933-1941” as well as Lenny Brenner, Zionism in the Age of Dictators, Westport, Conn., Lawrence Hill & Co., 1983, p. 267 and Yediot Aharnot, February 4/1983). Fortunately, the Nazis considered the Sternist proposal to be sheer lunacy and rejected it out of hand.

        Following Stern’s death at the hands of the British in 1942, three of his lieutenants (one of whom was Yitzhak Shamir) took over leadership of the Gang. It is revealing to note that despite Avraham Stern’s ignominious record and his flirtation with the Nazis, Ben-Gurion later referred to him as “one of the finest and most outstanding figures of the era.”

        For the record:
        “Adolf Hitler, who took his racism seriously, applied it to all Semites. He could not stand Arabs either. Contrary to legend, he disliked the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who had fled to Germany. After meeting him once for a photo-opportunity arranged by the Nazi propaganda machine, he never agreed to meet him again.” (Uri Avnery – http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1424446157)

        Reply to Comment
        • Larry Hart

          I would like to know what percentage of Americans that support sanctioning Israel and forcing it to do what everyone knows it will never do, believes that Israel is an apartheid state. That would be interesting considering Israel is a democracy and non Jews, non whites, non everything has just as many rights as anyone else in that society. Is there racism, sure. What western style democracy doesn’t include some racists among their populations. But, Israel is not apartheid and can prove it with just a little research. Therefore, it would not surprise me that Americans through their ignorance of the Jewish state, or outright anti semitism would continue to believe that Israel is a racist country and should be sanctioned. I’d be willing to wager that the percentage of Americans that believe Israel is apartheid is proportional to those who want to sanction it.

          Reply to Comment
    8. Barry Meridian

      Carmen, some facts for you about Ilan Pappe.
      Ilan Pappe shown to be a fraud and a liar.
      From Steven Plaut.
      About 14 years ago a middle aged MA student named Teddy Katz, submitted a masters thesis to the University of Haifa that had been prepared under the supervision of Israels most extremist and anti-Zionist academic, Ilan Pappe. Pappe likes to describe himself as Israels most hated person and I suspect he may be on to something there.

      He spends his days addressing anti-Israel and anti-Jewish rallies and conferences around the globe and likes to write Israel-bashing pieces in the PLOs journal. He appears in al-Ahram. He has openly called for Israel’s destruction – to be replaced by a Palestinian state with Arafat as its dictator.

      He ran for the Knesset on the slate of the Arab Stalinist party HADASH.

      The MA thesis in question claimed that a platoon of the Alexandroni brigade of the Hagana had in 1948 conducted a massacre of Arabs at the town of Tantora near Haifa when the town was conquered in Israels war of independence.
      It was of course, as it turned out, a complete fabrication based on some Arabs suddenly recovering from repressed memory syndrome after 50 years and claiming there had been a massacre when they were infants. Except when the tapes of interviews with these folks were checked out, it turned out even these Arabs had never said there was any massacre but rather that the Hagana had been very nice about helping the civilians.

      Katz and Pappe had simply invented the story. When word hit the press, the Hagana vets organization sued Katz and the University of Haifa for libel. Eventually the matter reached a court settlement in which Katz agreed to admit publicly he had lied, publish a retraction at his own expense, and apologize to the vets. Katz was represented in all this by ultras-leftist lawyer Avigdor Feldman, who took time off from his usual passion for representing Arabs who have murdered Jewish children.
      Feldman was present when Katz signed the court settlement.

      But a few days after that, Katz tried to back out of the settlement, probably under encouragement to do so by Pappe, who continues to insist the massacre really took place even though not a shred of evidence has ever been discovered by anyone that there had been one. (Even Arab journalists and reporters who had been present at the battle never claimed there had been any massacre.) The judge refused to allow Katz to back out of the deal. When Katz refused to publish the retraction, the vets successfully sued Katz to recover their costs. Pappe and the communists then organized a campaign to try to raise cash to help out Katz with this.

      Meanwhile, the University of Haifa looked ridiculous in all of this and demanded that Katz submit a revised version of the thesis if he wanted a degree. The original version had been awarded a grade of 97 by Pappe and his collaborators.
      Katz ultimately did resubmit a revised thesis. The University of Haifa rejected it, after five independent reviewers had read it and dismissed it as garbage. Pappe and his comrades are running about now insisting that these five were lackeys of Ariel Sharon and George Bush or some similar sort of academically scrupulous argument. The University agreed to kick Katz out by granting him a MA degree without a thesis, an act of cowardice by the campus authorities. Katz should have been simply expelled permanently and Pappe fired for his role in the fabrication and charlatanism.

      Anyway, I have decided to make an alternative proposal about how the university could better resolve things. Why not just let Katz write a completely NEW thesis on a different topic under Pappes supervision? This time the thesis should be on one of these topics:

      – An oral history proving the Germans never killed any Jews in Auschwitz.
      – An oral history proving that Lincoln actually shot John Wilkes Booth at that theater.
      – Proof that the Mossad was really behind the attack on the WTC on September 11.
      – An oral history that proves that Jews, and especially settlers, drink the blood of gentile children on Passover after all.

      I bet Pappe would give the new thesis a grade of 98!!

      Reply to Comment
      • Carmen

        Among other things Barry, you sure sound desperate.

        Reply to Comment
      • Baladi Akka 1948

        No sane person would rely on Steve Plaut, he showed up here a couple of years ago for a couple of weeks, and I think even average Zionists were embarrassed.
        Concerning the Teddy Katz-case, you or rather Steve Plaut don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Katz didn’t write his MA thesis under the supervision of Ilan Pappe at all ! Pappe only intervened after the affair was complicated by soldiers from the Alexandroni Brigade protested the theses – which I remind got a very good rating initially, and Pappe was not involved.
        We know the hasbara stick: here instead of critizing the Katz-thesis (that you haven’t read, and whose findings have been confirmed by other testimonies and Palestinian survivors) you invent Pappe’s central role in it, and then you invent things about Pappe, and here we go, the massacre in Tantura has been become the trial of Pappe….. Move on to Hasbara 102

        Reply to Comment
    9. Ben

      You can nay say all you want, but Bruce’s point above about margin of error is substantial; and also, these are serial measures, and survey measures like this poll are always more meaningful when done serially, and the fact is that from 2015 to 2016, significant change occurred:

      “Over the past year, the support for imposing economic sanctions and taking more serious measures has gone up overall. In November 2015, 37% of Americans supported this compared to 46% November 2016.”

      Telhami is a respected researcher with decades of experience. He cannot maintain his reputation among his peers by turning out garbage. Nor is the Brookings Institution a lightweight organization that signs its name to propaganda. It is downright cheesy to say that basically polling while Arab or liberal is not allowed. You should look to see if other respected researchers can replicate this or not before you mouth off about how “designed” and “made to order” this poll is.

      Shibley Telhami:

      Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development, University of Maryland
      Member, Council on Foreign Relations

      Associate Professor, Cornell University
      Assistant Professor, Ohio State University
      Lecturer, Princeton University, Columbia University, Swarthmore College, University of Southern California, University of California at Berkeley
      Advisor, U.S. Mission to the United Nations
      Advisor, Congressman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.)

      Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 1986
      M.A., Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, 1978
      B.A., Queens College of the City University of New York, 1974

      Shibley Telhami is an expert on U.S. policy in the Middle East, on Arab politics, and on shifting political identities in the Arab world. He regularly conducts public opinion polls in the Arab world, Israel, and the United States. Among his many publications are “The World Through Arab Eyes: Arab Public Opinion and the Reshaping of the Middle East” (Basic Books, 2013), “The Peace Puzzle: America’s Quest for Arab-Israeli Peace 1989-2011” (Cornell University Press, 2013), and the best-selling “The Stakes: America in the Middle East” (Basic Books, 2003), selected by Foreign Affairs as one of the top five books for that year. In addition, he was selected by the Carnegie Corporation of New York with the New York Times as one of the “Great Immigrants” for 2013.

      Reply to Comment
      • AJew

        “He cannot maintain his reputation among his peers by turning out garbage”

        He can if his peers espouse the same ideology as he does and they wink at him when he spews out propaganda. But hey, it won’t do them any good.

        Reply to Comment
      • AJew

        Ok then, how does the Brookings poll reconcile with the Gallup poll?

        “PRINCETON, N.J. — Americans’ views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remained steady over the past year, with 62% of Americans saying their sympathies lie more with the Israelis and 15% favoring the Palestinians. About one in four continue to be neutral, including 9% who sympathize with neither side, 3% who sympathize with both, and 11% expressing no opinion.”


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