Half of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders want more US support of Palestinians: poll

Half of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders want more US support of Palestinians: poll
A new poll has shown that 49% of the AAPI community believe Palestinians are not receiving sufficient support by the US government amid the war on Gaza
5 min read
08 February, 2024
AAPI advocacy groups such as The South Asian Network have taken part in rallies to denounce US support for Israel [Getty]

About half of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in the US believe the country is giving too much support to Israel and not enough for Palestinians amid the brutal war on Gaza, a new poll has found.

AAPI Data and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey found that 49 percent of AAPI adults say the US is "not supportive enough" of the Palestinians - significantly higher than the 36 percent of all US adults who said that in a recent AP-NORC poll - and a similar percentage says the US is "too supportive" of Israelis.

The majority of Asian and Pacific Islander adults between the ages of 18 and 34 share these views. Those 35 and older were less likely to express the same opinions.

Derek Pang, 54, of Austin, Texas, is among those who feel strongly that the US is not doing enough to assist Palestinians in the besieged territory.

He said that the scope of Israel's response "has caused unfathomable numbers of civilian casualties in Gaza and more had not been done for the people when they were denied basic necessities — food, water, electricity and goods coming into the Gaza Strip", Pang, who is Chinese American, told the Associated Press (AP).

"I feel like the US government, while their position was one of encouraging restraint, it really didn't amount to much."

Orrie Allen, 62, of Marysville, California, believes the US has given the right amount of support for Palestinians and should actually provide more for Israel, and that going after Hamas should be the priority.

"It's horrible what they (Hamas) did to these innocent people,” Allen, who is Native Hawaiian and a Republican, also told AP. "As far as Israel’s concerned, I think what they’re doing is fair. Their war, their thing. To me, we have no right to tell them what to do."

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The October 7 attack in southern Israel led to some 1,200 people killed and about 250 abducted, according to an AFP tally.

More than 100 captives were released during a weeklong ceasefire in November in exchange for the release of 240 Palestinian women, adolescents and children, who were imprisoned by Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue the war until the return of the remaining hostages.

In the past four months, Israel's military offensive has led to the killing of more than 27,000 Palestinians in Gaza.

 The fallout has also displaced 85 percent of the territory's population of 2.3 million Palestinians and pushed one-quarter of residents to starvation.

Karthick Ramakrishnan, a public policy professor at the University of California, Riverside, and founder of AAPI Data, calls the findings on the Gaza war “eye-opening.”

Ramakrishnan noted that in AAPI populations, there is likely a high number of people who can sympathise based on their own life experiences. Many either know a refugee or migrant who had to abandon their home country under harsh circumstances or they went through it themselves.

“Many Asian Americans come from colonized countries and may find receptive the kinds of statements by activists that Palestinians are living in a colonial situation today,” Ramakrishnan told AP.

Multiple AAPI advocacy groups in recent months have rallied on behalf of Palestinians and called for a ceasefire.

Some Asian Americans see parallels with family members' struggles with colonialism or genocide in Asian countries.

The South Asian Network, a social justice organization uniting South Asians in Los Angeles, issued a statement in support of Palestinians in October and has since participated in several rallies and demonstrations.

Shakeel Syed, the group's executive director, said the organization is reflecting the wishes of numerous South Asian Americans.

“We did receive calls and emails and questions from community members, and also other partners ... to ask, ‘Hey, how come you haven’t guided us or said something to this effect,'" Syed told the news agency.

“So, we thought it would be imperative for us to take a position so that not only we do what’s right, but also inspire others.”

He agreed it is often younger generations who have been voicing opposition to more US aid for the Israeli government. Older immigrants tend to be more apolitical and try to be “neutral on a moving train.”

“This is very difficult to reconcile among the senior people. They privately talk about it, that this is very wrong, ethically, morally and politically, but not necessarily vocalize it in public spaces as much as younger generations.”

The survey also asked about Jewish and Muslim communities in the United States. When it comes to Jewish communities, 44% of AAPI adults say US support is about right, while 26% say it's not supportive enough.

Slightly less than half, or 45 percent, feel the nation is not supportive enough of Muslims. This view was also shared by most AAPI adults under age 35. An additional 38 percent said the US is about right in its support of Muslim communities.

Thomas Lee, 42, of Long Island, New York, finds it difficult to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with anyone. There's nothing you can say where you “don't get yelled at," the Taiwanese American told AP, who switched his political affiliation from Republican to Democrat after the 2020 presidential election.

"For me, it’s hard because I’m very much in the middle and I see both sides. I can’t stand to take any side," Lee said.

He also thinks public officials have not spoken out against anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian hate as much as they have antisemitism. He said his ideal scenario would be more public dialogues where people can ask questions without shame.

"I think with more education, we would have less hate on both sides," he added.

The poll of 1,091 US adults who are Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders was conducted December 4-11, 2023, using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based Amplify AAPI Panel, designed to be representative of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.