While Washington has vigorously supported Israel’s occupation of Palestine for decades, current US leadership is perhaps the most extreme ever. Since his inauguration in 2017, Donald Trump has cancelled aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA), deprived Palestinian refugees of crucial support though savage cuts in US donations to the UN Relief and Works Agency, closed down the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington, and recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights (annexed from Syria). 

Perhaps the most brazen episode of Trump’s tenure was his 2017 declaration that Jerusalem (a holy city for all three Abrahamic religions) is Israel’s “undivided” capital, which accompanied a vow to relocate the US embassy to the city. Trump is joined in this commitment by the likes of Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil and fellow right-wing demagogue. 

The latest chapter in the surreal history of the US defense of Israeli expansion is Trump’s so-called “Peace Plan,” unveiled on January 28. The plan (aka “Deal of the Century”) consists of the most extreme right-wing Israeli negotiating positions on every issue, all of which are supported by Israel’s current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. 

More than any of his predecessors, Trump makes little or no attempt to hide his government’s blatant partisanship in the Middle East.

It is a silver-lining of Trump’s presidency that his naked extremism and crass rhetoric shed light on the absurdity of the status quo he is tasked with defending. More than any of his predecessors, Trump makes little or no attempt to hide his government’s blatant partisanship in the Middle East. At the event where the supposed “Deal of the Century” was unveiled, only Netanyahu and Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz were in attendance. The Palestinian leadership was not even invited to take part in the process.

For decades the US has officially claimed to be an impartial broker between Israel and Palestinians, while its actions have demonstrated overwhelming bias in favor of Israel. To give one example among many, President Obama vetoed a 2011 Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank, despite the fact that ending settlement expansion was official US policy at the time. 

In other words, Trump’s actions are nothing new. What is new, however, is the significant drop in support for the American government’s position on Israel among the American public. 

Support for Israel in the US used to be overwhelming. In recent decades, this support could be counted on across generations, income brackets, religious affiliations, and party loyalties. The Israeli government has also traditionally enjoyed blanket support from the US establishment media, a trend that generally continues. 

The coverage of Trump’s “peace plan” in the mainstream media has been little more than thinly veiled propaganda that reflects a culture in which pro-Palestinian voices are systematically excluded.

The coverage of Trump’s “peace plan” in the mainstream media has been little more than thinly veiled propaganda that reflects a culture in which pro-Palestinian voices are systematically excluded. As recently as 2018, CNN fired one of its contributors, Professor Marc Lamont Hill, for appearing at an event and referring to a “free Palestine from the river to the sea.” 

Yet, despite all of this, the public’s view has changed dramatically in recent years, particularly among young people and Democrats. 

For Democrats, one reason is that the Israeli government is perceived by many Americans to have aligned itself increasingly with the Republican party. Many Democrats felt insulted by stunts such as Netanyahu’s infamous 2015 speech to congress on Iran, which he gave without the permission of President Obama. 

In September 2018, a University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll found that 55% of Democrats, compared with 44% of Republicans, said they thought the Israeli government has too much influence on US politics. 

Furthermore, many Democrats are strongly opposed to Israeli legislation such as the Nation State Basic Law, which defined Israel as a Jewish state without reference to democracy, granting more rights to Israel’s Jewish citizens than to non-Jews. Many American-Jewish leaders spoke out against this worrying development.

The same poll found that 82% of Democrats believe the US government should be even-handed between Israel and Palestine, while 57% of Republicans said they want the US to lean towards Israel outright. In elite circles, the even handedness called for by Democratic voters is often said to demonstrate a rising tide of anti-Israel sentiment, or even antisemitism. 

But this does not appear to be borne out by data. 

A November 2015 poll showed that 81% of Americans said they had a favorable view of the Jewish religion, with 89% expressing favorable opinions of Jewish people. As a point of comparison, the same poll found that 37% of Americans had a favorable view of Islam. 

As Foreign Policy points out, “These results indicate neither a rise in anti-Semitism nor even a rise in hostility toward Israel as such. As analysis of previous polls has shown, many who espouse these opinions base them on a principled worldview that emphasizes human rights and international law.”

“These results indicate neither a rise in anti-Semitism nor even a rise in hostility toward Israel as such. As analysis of previous polls has shown, many who espouse these opinions base them on a principled worldview that emphasizes human rights and international law.”

It is mainly young Americans driving this trend. 

Americans under 30 are now significantly more likely to express solidarity with the Palestinians than with the state of Israel. During Operation Protective Edge – the assault on Gaza by the Israeli military (IDF) in 2014 – 51% of people aged 18 to 29 told Gallup that they thought the IDF’s actions were unjustified. African Americans and Hispanic Americans expressed similar views in a number of polls.

The only groups that still reliably support the Israeli government are older, white Republican voters and Christian Evangelicals. In other words, while support for Israel still dominates US public opinion, it is gradually becoming a far-right issue. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 42% of Jewish Americans say that the Trump administration is favoring Israel too much. This is considerably higher than the overall percentage of Christians who expressed that view (26%) and far higher than Evangelicals (15%).

Furthermore, the rate of this change has increased substantially in recent years. Economist/YouGov polling reported in 2015 that 47% of Americans described Israel as “an ally.” By 2019, that figure had dropped to 37%, including only 25% of self-described liberals. The partisan divide on this issue is the widest it has been in decades.

However, even among Republicans, support for the Israeli government is not what it once was. A 2019 survey found that over-65s are the only age group in which a majority have a favorable view of the Israeli government, with only 27% of Republicans under 30 expressing those same opinions.

In the age of information, it was inevitable that with an increased number of sources, the American public would become more informed about the situation in Palestine. As conventional media continues to lose control over the news people consume, it is becoming harder to maintain a narrative that deviates from the facts on any issue. 

Young people in particular are increasingly getting their news online, often bypassing traditional media sources. At the same time, more and more young people, from all over the world, are visiting the occupied Palestinian territories for work, study, and travel. 

While the situation in Palestine is often presented as a “conflict,” implying a dispute between two, roughly equal powers, those who visit the occupied territories see with their own eyes what is really going on—a brutal occupation. 

While the situation in Palestine is often presented as a “conflict,” implying a dispute between two, roughly equal powers, those who visit the occupied territories see with their own eyes what is really going on—a brutal occupation. 

“If you visit the separation wall, for instance, you will come out with the certainty that there’s an abyss between the power each nation holds,” Brazilian student Pedro Drummand told Inside Arabia in Bethlehem. 

“This is something I did not understand at its fullest before I came here…much of the world still remains ignorant about what is happening here,” he added. Pedro is just one of millions of young people who have seen the harsh reality of the Israeli occupation. And it is a truth that cannot be unlearned. 

As the Israeli government shifts further and further to the right, distaste for its policies among the world public, including in the US, will continue to grow. At some point soon, this distaste may reach a critical mass and governments that support Israel’s actions will have to pay attention. 

Israel’s ongoing control over Palestine is essentially kept alive by US support, and if Washington is forced by the American population to change its position in a significant way, the occupation as we know it will end. 

While the hour may seem dark, this moment is a historic opportunity for the Palestinian people and their allies.