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Why Israel is losing the Students and the Left

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Why Israel is losing the Students and the Left or
Tomorrow belongs to whom?

August 23, 2005

A recent poll shows that US university students have an increasingly negative image of Israel and Zionism and racist images of "the Jews." It may be tempting to write these off as the views of "leftists" but in fact, these students are the future of America.  These frightening findings are not very surprising, and the conclusions to be drawn from them should be action items for everyone who supports Israel, democracy in the USA and the Middle East,  and the fight against racist ideologies.

According to Joel Kotkin, A recent survey by pollster Frank Luntz for the  Israel Project  found that "the left" is no longer pro-Israel, . It may even be anti-Semitic:

For years, American Jews, including liberals, have watched in astonishment as Europe’s left-wing media, academic and political elites have turned decisively against Israel and, to some extent, Jews, as well.

Now it may well be America’s turn, at least according to a recent survey by pollster Frank Luntz for the Washington-based Israel Project. In a shocking review of the largely left-leaning opinion leaders from America’s top colleges, Luntz found that Israel was clearly “losing the battle for the hearts and minds of America’s future leaders.”

For the most part, Luntz found the bulk of these young people — 150 randomly selected products of elite Ivy League colleges, as well as such West Coast wannabes as UCLA — viewed Israel as the unquestioned aggressor and villain of the Mideast crisis. In contrast, Palestinians were seen sympathetically as victims.

Luntz goes even further, suggesting that anti-Israel feelings are “also having a negative impact on attitudes to Jews right here in America.” Such sentiments also tend to spill over into negative views about Jewish Americans, in part due to their sympathy for the Zionist cause.

Overall, Luntz concludes, Jews are being categorized as a wealthy minority unsympathetic to the needs of poor people, particularly those of nonwhite and Third World backgrounds. The Ivy League-level graduate students surveyed also considered Jews to be overly politically powerful, “over-represented” on their campuses and a clannish people, many of whom inexplicably insist on associating with and marrying each other.

That is not exactly an earth-shaking discovery for anyone who follows Middle East commentary. What is remarkable about this article is  that it was written about 5 or 10 years (or 20?) too late. There seems to be a wall of indifference to the problem among Zionist and Jewish organizations, and a willing lack of awareness - a suppression of the problem. That may account for the fact that these findings can be presented as "news." What is also remarkable is that Kotkin has somehow automatically made a transposition between "Ivy League students" and "leftists." This was a survey of "Ivy-League level graduate students" in the USA, not Democrats, or members of the Comintern or self-identified "leftists." Let's rephrase the findings then, so we understand their true significance: Israel is losing the support of young, educated people who are the leaders of tomorrow.  This is clear from a more objective report.

The antipathy of "the left" to Israel and Zionism is surely not news in itself, since the Soviet anti-Zionist campaign of the 60s and the "Zionism is Racism" UN resolution of 1975. The Nation and the Village Voice, Counterpunch and a few other publications that support liberal,  left and far left opinion, have been around for a while, and they have been anti-Israel and in the case of counterpunch, probably anti-Semitic, for quite a while.

Noam Chomsky has been a fixture of the far left for a long time. Since about 2000 if not before, he has been moved from a totally marginal position in debate to a fairly central one, thanks to the Internet, a wide academic support group and acolytes like Norman Finkelstein.

What is new is that these views, some of which are frankly racist,  have begun to penetrate into the bastions of liberal respectability, including the Democratic party, and have gained a wide following on campuses. 

In fact, many Zionists with right wing views now insist, wrongly in my view,  that only the US right can be pro-Israel. Those who hold this view have very short memories, it seems. They forgot James Baker III and his famous, "F-- the Jews, they didn't vote for us." They forgot the anti-Israel, pro-Saudi policies of the Eisenhower administration, and they forgot that George Bush's father tried to ram a "peace settlement" down Israel's throat by threatening to withhold loan guarantees for Soviet immigrants to Israel, and insisting that Operation Desert Storm was fought for the benefit of the ungrateful Jews. "Freedom" for the US right and fighting "communism" have always been secondary to the need for Saudi oil and protection of US business interests. The current love affair between George Bush and Ariel Sharon is a marriage of convenience. Those Zionists who place their faith in the continued support of the Bush administration for Israel will be sorely disappointed.

The reasons why students and the left have become anti-Israel are myriad:

Getting the Word Out

 The article quotes Fred Siegel of Cooper Union as saying:

“Liberalism is increasingly the politics of ignorance — it’s amazing what these kids don’t know about the Middle East or about Jewish history,” he suggests. “This is real trouble for Israel.”

Furthermore, the article quotes Frank Luntz as saying:

“Someone is educating these kids, and it is not the pro-Israel community,”

Whose fault is that? Is it the fault of anti-Zionists that they are so effective in spreading their propaganda or is it the fault of Zionists, for not getting the facts out there. Is it really "Liberalism" that is the politics of ignorance, or just "anti-Zionism?" Are Lyndon Larouche and Pat Buchanan supporters really better informed than liberals, or more pro-Israel? Or perhaps it is implied that Pat Buchanan and David Dukes are "liberals" just because they are anti-Israel. Who was it who decided to smear "Liberalism" in general and without reservations as "the politics of ignorance." Is that likely to attract liberal thought to the cause of Zionism?

Kotkin writes:

The left-leaning British Guardian famously ran a cartoon of Ariel Sharon eating a Palestinian child — it won first prize in the Political Cartoon Society’s contest for 2003.

Actually, it was the Independent that ran the cartoon, not the Guardian. It is a very shocking cartoon. Amazingly, most people have not seen this cartoon, which is reproduced below and speaks for itself. If you never saw this cartoon before, ask yourself why. Ask yourself why this bit of racist infamy, reminiscent of the worst blood libels of the Middle Ages, is so obscure that even Kotkin couldn't be bothered to find out where the cartoon actually appeared.

If people don't have the information, it would seem that the obvious thing that must be done is to get the information to the people. Instead, Zionist groups concentrate their efforts on attacking each other, attacking Israeli government policy, putting any and all critics of Israel in the same basket as racists, who are then considered equivalent to  "leftists,"  "liberals" and "students," and vain attempts to shut up anti-Zionists and anti-Semites as well as legitimate critics of Israel.

Democracy means that the people who disagree with you have a right to disseminate their opinions, however distasteful. It is your responsibility to get your views and information out there.

Ami Isseroff


See also - The Occupation, Palestinians, Israel and Zionism  Disengagement in Gaza: The unsettling end of orange?

History of Zionism and the Creation of Israel

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