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First Poll on US Opinion on Gaza: Democratic Politicians Ignore Public Opinion

In one of the more interesting analytical writings on the American (non-)debate on the Israeli assault on Gaza, Glenn Greenwald considers how alarmingly out-of-step Democratic politicians are with their party’s rank-and-file views. He cites the first poll on American public views of Israel’s attack. While there is a general tie between those supportive and opposed, Democrats are against Israel’s onslaught in Gaza by a significant margin:

This Rasmussen Reports poll — the first to survey American public opinion specifically regarding the Israeli attack on Gaza — strongly bolsters the severe disconnect I documented the other day between (a) American public opinion on U.S. policy towards Israel and (b) the consensus views expressed by America’s political leadership. Not only does Rasmussen find that Americans generally “are closely divided over whether the Jewish state should be taking military action against militants in the Gaza Strip” (44-41%, with 15% undecided), but Democratic voters overwhelmingly oppose the Israeli offensive — by a 24-point margin (31-55%). By stark constrast, Republicans, as one would expect (in light of their history of supporting virtually any proposed attack on Arabs and Muslims), overwhelmingly support the Israeli bombing campaign (62-27%).

Republicans, without surprise, like seeing Arabs blown up.

Greenwald goes on to make several important points. He points out how similar the rhetoric and coalitions were to the 2003 Iraq war buildup. The exception he notes is key: Democratic politicians were much more willing to oppose American actions in Iraq.

This is connected to his observation that the debate is entirely driven by the question of Israeli interests. There is almost no discussion of American interests even though many have noted the growing divergence between the two. They are simply assumed to overlap perfectly, resulting in “virtually no debate over whether the U.S. should continue to play such an active, one-sided role in this dispute.” That is why debate on US-Israel relations is relegated mostly to the corners of the new media. The mainstream media follow the political elite, not public opinion.

This only furthers the erosion of “America’s reputation and credibility,” he writes. When it comes to the Middle East, there surely is little left.

This leads to his strongest point, a riposte to the Obama administration that challenges them to turn its campaign slogan into useful policy reformation:

The “change” that many anticipate (or, more accurately, hope) that Obama will bring about is often invoked as a substance-free mantra, a feel-good political slogan. But to the extent it means anything specific, at the very least it has to entail that there will be a substantial shift in how America is perceived in the world, the role that we in fact play, the civil-liberties-erosions and militarized culture that inevitably arise from endlessly involving ourselves in numerous, hate-fueled military conflicts around the world. Our blind support for Israel, our eagerness to make all of its disputes our own disputes, our refusal to acknowledge any divergence of interests between us and that other country, our active impeding rather than facilitating of diplomatic resolutions between it and its neighbors are major impediments to any meaningful progress in those areas.

While I hope for this too, I doubt it will happen until the decent public opinion mobilizes politically. It must mature from simple opinion to organized action. There will not be change without work. An opinion reported to a pollster is just an expression and does not say anything about the extent of one’s commitment to act on that view. We need action.

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Discussion

19 Responses to “First Poll on US Opinion on Gaza: Democratic Politicians Ignore Public Opinion”

  1. Ya Muslimoon (muslimeen?) ATTACK! with kindness insha’ allah wa salam.

    Posted by American Muslim Girl | January 2, 2009, 8:18 am
  2. Good post, Will. It is interesting that, despite the media onslaught in favor of the Israeli position, the majority of Americans don’t buy into it. What this means is that good organizing has a chance to make some inroads, especially among liberals.

    On the other hand, as someone who has a long experience with this issue, this has been the case for at least three decades. Opinion polls have shown, at least since the late ’70s, that the American public is much less knee-jerk pro-Israel than politicians and the media. Soooo…ORGANIZERS have failed to take advantage of that opening for 30 years. Time for some different approaches?

    Posted by Ted Swedenburg | January 2, 2009, 9:23 am
  3. different approach: overthrow the politicians. down with the corporate media. it is up to us.

    Posted by Salma | January 2, 2009, 10:46 am
  4. ya A M G – the grammatical rules for the case of what follows the vocative particle, ya, are really complicated, and have everything to do with what follows who is being addressed. if you are a grammar freak who really wants to know, I can direct you to a lengthly discussion on this subject in Wright.

    Now, about organizers taking advantage of this opening, I would love some input on what, where, who to address, join, donate etc., in order to do such. While I do write to my elected reps, we all know that this is especially limited, given their long-held position in this matter.
    So, please, Kabobers, let’s hear what you think are the best organizations to join, actions to take, etc. I am ready to work.

    Posted by alfannaan | January 2, 2009, 11:08 am
  5. Al fanaan yes please insha’ allah wa jazak allah khairun.

    Insha’ allah I will read later when there is time. I am trying to help people, converts, second gen’rs learn arabic better so I appreciate thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I will get any responses as email replies, thank you.

    Posted by American Muslim Girl | January 2, 2009, 11:12 am
  6. alfannaan, the best organization to get yourself involved with is your local gun shop and firing range. Get a gun, practice weekly, and wait.

    Posted by abraham | January 2, 2009, 11:24 am
  7. Ted and Alfannaan,

    Excellent points about moving to practical steps… I’m grappling with these issues and have yet to really come up with anything really useful. I just know we need to get organized. Any real input on this from anyone is welcome.

    Will

    Posted by Will | January 2, 2009, 2:47 pm
  8. you guys are a**es sometimes. like, condescending in the extreme. its ok though.

    i will continue to fight for you, just send me your info if you can

    ya istifurullah wa salam

    Posted by American Muslim Girl | January 2, 2009, 2:52 pm
  9. ya bint amrikiya muslimiya – if you indeed have a copy of Wright (A Grammar of the Arabic Language) the discussion is at page ii85, and goes on for a few pages.
    in many instances, however, with modern Arabic, these case ending rules are not followed at all closely. of course, all depends on how formal the context in which you are speaking/writing. the accusative case (…een, for male/mixed human plural)would be heard more likely in your original comment.

    As for activism – Will, your blog is an awesome service, so go ahead and feel like you are really making a difference. I have used information/links form here to send along ‘alternative’ news to many friends and colleagues. The posts from Muhammad in the West Bank are invaluable. Educating each other is a good and necessary part of activism, so I encourage everyone to email links to articles/posts that you find especially insightful/newsworthy. And have some courage and don’t only communicate with those you already agree with. (I have been sending along various articles to a Jewish-American friend who only just a few years ago admitted to me he’d been told and had always believed that there had never been Palestinians in the Holy Land – they’d only been sent there from Jordan to oppose the Zionists!)

    Posted by alfannaan | January 2, 2009, 4:08 pm
  10. Thanks Ted! I’ve been wondering about this for a while. I’ve only been keeping up with Palestine for less than a decade, so I never know if I should feel optimistic that a change in public opinion is really coming, or if it’s been this way for a long time — and for nothing.

    We definitely need to continue the discussion and the action on new ways of moving forward. Ways that don’t include depending on our useless politicians. We are far more powerful than they are, but we transfer too much of that power in hopes they’ll do the work for us.

    We also need to make inroads across intersecting struggles. The Third World (which includes the Third World living inside the First World) has no problem identifying with Palestine, and it’s time Arabs started getting into their camp, too.

    Making social revolution isn’t pretty. It’s not a glamorous job, the lighting sucks, and the pay isn’t very good. We have to accept that, and many of us — especially those who are often vilified, threatened, and taunted for our political views — are already in the position accept it. And I defer to Cesar Chavez to finish the rest of my point:

    “If you’re outraged at conditions, then you can’t possibly be free or happy until you devote all your time to changing them and do nothing but that. But you can’t change anything if you want to hold onto a good job, a good way of life and avoid sacrifice.”

    [Tarboush Tip for the quote: Marcy]

    Posted by QuiQui | January 2, 2009, 6:01 pm
  11. “We definitely need to continue the discussion and the action on new ways of moving forward. Ways that don’t include depending on our useless politicians. We are far more powerful than they are, but we transfer too much of that power in hopes they’ll do the work for us.”

    I must respectfully disagree here. ‘Our useless politicians’ are exactly who are enabling the Israeli regime. They are in fact very, very useful to AIPAC and the like. We need to work towards having more influence on them in order to have an outcome on the issues/policies that interest us.

    I am all for ways of being effective without them – sending direct aid, cultural exchanges, etc. – but when it comes to what it is that really keeps this whole debacle going you’ve got to follow the money. The Israelis have no incentive to change behavior as long as the gravy train keeps rolling along. That money comes from our pols. And we won’t get anywhere without exerting pressure on our political classes.

    Posted by alfannaan | January 2, 2009, 11:08 pm
  12. Alfannaan and QuiQui, et al,

    I agree that the blog can be a useful resource and offer perspectives that are absent in mainstream media, and that we can help motivate activism and even influence some people to change their minds.

    We are still short politically; we lack a proper politics of organizing. Arab-Americans have many individual voices, but lack useful coordinated action. Spreading the word is not good enough I think.

    I share with QuiQui the sense that we need to do more visionary politics, outside the traditional power structures. I think there is the DC game and people will always play it (and benefit from grassroots and other activism). But I would like to see what a veteran like Ted thinks about this.

    Will

    Posted by Will | January 3, 2009, 1:44 am
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  16. I must respectfully disagree here. 'Our useless politicians' are exactly who are enabling the Israeli regime. They are in fact very, very useful to AIPAC and the like. We need to work towards having more influence on them in order to have an outcome on the issues/policies that interest us bestessays au reviews

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