Let’s say that again: a clear majority of Israelis oppose the occupation and want the settlements dismantled.
It’s a secret that Ariel Sharon and his hawkish allies, both in the US and Israel, don’t want you to know. It’s a secret they’ve managed to cover up not only from the American public, but even from most of the Israeli public. It’s a dirty little secret that, even in these dark days, ought to give us some hope for the longer term. As harrowing as the daily news coming out of Israel is, 2/3 call for unilateral withdrawal from the occupied territories. 2/3 call for evacuation of all or most of the settlements. 60% believe that Israel should agree to the creation of a Palestinian state.
Now, let’s not get too optimistic here: clear majorities of Israelis also call for strong military measures. 74% say that Sharon is doing a good job, and 60% say that the Israeli army should be allowed to attack the refugee camps in Gaza. But they are short-term hawks and long term doves. The long-term measures they support–ending the occupation–will pull the bottom out of the vicious circle of violent escalation and vengeance that the occupation has sustained. They are quickly growing war-weary (much as America did as the Vietnam war rolled on), and are in no mood for the bloody escalation that will be needed to sustain or expand the occupation for much longer.
Why hasn’t this been heard? Why does Likud continue to pretend as though it had a blank check from the Israeli populace to continue and expand the occupation and ethnic cleansing indefinitely? Why don’t we know that the vast majority of the Israeli populace wants a peaceful, two-state solution?
Well, part of the reason is the well known fact that the Israeli press allows for a much greater range of debate than the American press over controversies such as the occupation. In America we tend to be blinded to the huge presence of moderates and the burgeoning peace movement within Israel. Instead we get fed infantile formulas, as if there were only Sharon’s side and Hamas’s side, and if you are not with Sharon you are with the attacks on civilians. Positions such as those taken by, say, Ha’aretz in Israel, are marginalized and confined to the Left-wing
alternative media in the US.
That’s part of the reason we haven’t heard about the pro-peace supermajority in Israel. The other reason is that many Israelis themselves don’t know about it. Policymakers, as they often do, have ignored majority views, and opinion-shapers in the media follow along with this distorted picture of reality (the same thing happens in the United States on issues such as drug prohibition, where government drug warriors and their media lackeys are far to the Right of the American public). The power of the settler lobby in the Knesset, and Sharon’s refusal to actually discuss settlement issues head-on, have aided and abetted the misperceptions. As a consequence, in polls, Israelis significantly overestimate pro-settlement and pro-occupation opinion in their own country, even though they themselves predominantly believe in withdrawal and evacuation.
So let’s spread the secret, and say it as much as we can. Let’s bust up the lie that the Right-wing elites have tried to push down our throats.
Next time tells you that we have to stand with the Israelis, tell him where the Israelis really stand. Next time someone calls you an anti-Semite for opposing the occupation, tell her what the voice of Israeli Jews is calling for. Say it again: most Israelis oppose the occupation.