Polls show young people in the United States are substantially less likely to support Israel then their parents and grandparents. That should be a wake-up call for family conversations that can be more powerful than endless fake news headlines when it comes to dispelling fact from fiction.
Unfortunately, pollsters haven’t asked those young people some key questions that might put their perspectives into better context.
For starters, it would be helpful to know how many of those young people can actually locate Israel on a map. It wouldn’t be surprising if fewer than half of the young people polled could find Israel on an unmarked map of Africa and the Middle East.
Among the likely majority who can’t place Israel on a map, it would be helpful to ask respondents how they believe the size of Israel compares to the United States, as one example. It’s likely a similar majority wouldn’t realize tiny Israel is closer in size to Delaware than it is to Texas, Florida, or New York.
How many young people do you expect would know that from modern Israel’s founding in 1948 until the nation’s stunning victory in the 1967 Six Day War, all of the present-day West Bank and Gaza Strip was ruled by Arabs?
A majority of those young people are unlikely to know that there was no significant discussion of Palestinian independence or statehood during those years of complete Arab rule.
While their parents and grandparents likely know of Israel’s miraculous successes in the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973, a majority of young people have grown up with Israel at peace with two of its largest neighbors. For that generation, the false perception of strong Israel facing off against oppressed Palestinians is more likely to take root.
Related, would anything close to a majority know that Israel fully withdrew from Gaza in 2005, uprooting thousands of Israelis from their homes, and leaving Gazans free to create either a thriving culture, society, and economy or a terror state?
What percentage of those young people do you expect know anything at all about the brutality with which LGBTQ communities are treated in the Arab world, including areas controlled by the Palestinians? It’s likely a similar majority have no idea that members of those communities continuously face the very real threat of beatings, imprisonment, and death because of who they love.
A majority of young Americans likely know little about the status of democracy in Gaza, the West Bank, or for that matter the greater Arab world. Few are likely familiar with the fact that the leader of the Palestinian Authority is approaching 20 years of rule, having refused to have free and fair elections for more than a decade and a half. Even fewer are likely to know that Hamas routinely imprisons, tortures and murders political opponents, ensuring Gazans speak with one voice – the voice of Hamas – unless they want to risk their lives and the incredibly limited freedoms they enjoy under tyrannical authoritarian rule.
Israel and those who recognize Israel as America’s most important ally in the Middle East have their work cut out for them. We must educate multiple generations of young Americans about the realities of the Arab-Israeli conflict, modern Israel’s history, the relatively recent creation of a unique Palestinian Arab people, why America’s greatest friends and allies are those who also stand with Israel, and that in nearly every instance, nations, groups and people that hate Israel hate America even more.