Millennials hold the key to freeing Palestine

Millennials hold the key to freeing Palestine
5 min read
25 May, 2018
Comment: Time is running out for Israel, writes CJ Werleman. Demographics (and international law) are on the Palestinians' side.
Israel's media machine cannot outspin real-time social media coverage of human rights abuses [AFP]

The demographic generation born in the period spanning the late 1980s to late 1990s is identified as the millennial generation, and they've been blamed by older generations for everything from destroying the golf industry to killing the movie business; from bad manners to laziness; from ending marathon-running to ending civilization itself.

If the world sneezes, it's because a millennial threw pepper in your face, apparently.

Needless to say, Millennials have received a bad rap. Negative articles and social media memes about them serve as clickbait for blogs and magazines. When it comes to page views and advertising dollars, bashing Millennials is the gift that keeps on giving.

But while the media is busy disparaging twenty-somethings, like a disgruntled old-timer guarding his porch on a wooden rocking chair, it's Millennials who hold the key to Palestinian liberation and human rights.

A study carried out by the Brand Israel Group, a group of former advertising professionals who promote Israel to American audiences, shows that while Israel enjoys a broad base of support among the US public, it's rapidly losing support among Millennials.

Comment: Israel will not make it to 100

"Shared values are the bedrock of our relationship, and young Americans do not believe Israel shares our values," says Fern Oppenheim, one of the group's co-founders. "That's a huge issue. We have to have a narrative about the heart and soul and humanity of the Israelis."

The Times of Israel described the survey results as "devastating" news for the state of Israel, but even more damaging is the fact the survey found that the more Americans knew about Israel, the more they disliked it. The group found that, while the percentage of Americans who declared they knew a "fair amount" about Israel had increased from 23 percent in 2010 to 37 percent in 2016, support for Israel fell from 76 percent to 62 percent during the same period.

The indifference on the part of this generation to Israel is dangerous

These findings have been compounded by this year's US News & World Report Best Countries survey, which ranks people's perceptions of 80 countries. Israel came in 30th place, the same place it enjoyed in 2017. But among Millennials, Israel dropped nearly 20 places, to 49.

"There is no other country on the entire list - including Iran, Nigeria and Ukraine - for which there is such a stark generation gap when it comes to perception of the country,"observes the Israeli English-language newspaper Haaretz.

"The indifference on the part of this generation to Israel is dangerous, because if we don't do more to change this trend, within a few years we could see Israel ranked 60th or even lower."

Support for Israel is dwindling among America's 'Millennial' generation [Anadolu]

With support among Millennials increasing for the boycott Israel movement, otherwise known as Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS), and with an ever-increasing number of celebrities with whom Millennials identity either condemning Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people or supporting the boycott movement, including Childish Gambino, Natalie Portman, and Lorde, negative attitudes towards Israel by Millennials will soon be reflected in a "decline in foreign tourism, a lack of interests in investment in Israeli companies or consumption of Israeli culture, as well as the genuine difficulties in diplomatic moves that Israel will need to carry out", notes Joanna Landau, a Haaretz contributor.

Adding to Israel's woes is the fact the sympathy and support for Israel is rapidly declining among Democratic Party voters, and given it's the 18-35 demographic that gives the party's base its energy, and given the abandonment of younger and more progressive voters is part of the reason Democrats performed so poorly in 2016, the bipartisan support Israel once enjoyed in the US is fast eroding.

"In Congress, a sidling away from Israel among Democrats may already be underway," observes Shmuel Rosner for The New York Times. "Once, Democratic legislators had to worry about appearing unsupportive of Israel; today some of them - especially those who need to be re-elected by liberal voters - seem to have the opposite concern: They do not want to be seen as too supportive."

Comment: Israel - a radicalised state built on fear and violence

Moreover, protests against Israel's illegitimate and unjustifiable use of deadly force against unarmed Palestinian protesters during the past couple of months have been led by college students around the world. At the University of Houston on Monday, students interrupted US Ambassador Nikki Haley's keynote address by chanting, "Nikki Haley you can't hide, you enable genocide" in response to her praising Israel for showing "restraint" the day after 61 Palestinian protesters were killed by Israeli snipers.

Whereas Israel was able to conceal its crimes in times past, deploying its pundits and talking heads around the globe, it is unable to quash real-time footage on social media

At the University of Geneva, Switzerland, students gathered in a courtyard wearing the Palestinian keffiyeh and flying Palestinian flags, while other students hurled paper airplanes in their direction, used to signify Israeli sniper bullets. When the paper airplanes struck the students, they fell to the ground, pretending to be dead.

While in Scotland, United Kingdom, last week, large sections of the crowd at a Glasgow Celtic football game again stood and chanted pro-Palestinian songs and chants in solidarity with Palestinian Great Return March protesters.

A key feature of the Millennial generation is their familiarity with modern communications and technology, particularly social media. Whereas Israel was able to conceal its crimes against the Palestinian people in times past, typically by deploying its pundits and talking heads to news network studios around the globe, it is unable to quash or deny real-time footage that emerges on social media from those subjected to objective Israeli brutality.

In short, time and changing political realities are catching up with Israel. It'll be unable to sustain the economic cost of growing international isolation. In every growing demographic in the United States - including Hispanics, African Americans, and younger voters - opposition towards Israel's defiance of international law and human rights violations is growing, too.

Time is running out for Israel, and you might have Millennials to thank for that.

CJ Werleman is the author of 'Crucifying America', 'God Hates You, Hate Him Back' and 'Koran Curious', and is the host of Foreign Object.

Follow him on Twitter: @cjwerleman

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.