Australian government out of step with public opinion on Israel/Palestine

My following article appears in today’s edition of Crikey:

Antony Loewenstein writes from New York:

During this year’s Gaza war, Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard was incapable of condemning Israeli brutality against the Palestinians. Her upcoming visit to Israel (and a few spare minutes with the Palestinian Authority) has caused loud protests across the country.

A petition that I signed asked that, “Every parliamentarian ought to think seriously about the moral implications of Australia normalising relations with a state that is still under investigation for war crimes committed during Israel’s Cast Lead operation.” The Australian smeared critics of the propaganda trip as “Israel’s enemies”.

A new study, released last week by Roy Morgan polling, suggests that the Australian government, Murdoch press and Zionist leaders are profoundly out of step with public opinion over the Israel/Palestine conflict. Israel’s own extreme actions are killing its image and chances of long-terms survival.

Commissioned by the Sydney-based Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine (CJPP) and Adelaide’s Australian Friends of Palestine (AFOPA) organisations, the figures reveal public scepticism towards Israeli claims.

When the 636 Australians aged 18 years and over were asked whether they knew about January’s Gaza war, 38 percent said they knew “a lot” or “a fair amount” about the crisis and 61 percent said they did not know much at all or “nothing”. Of those 38 percent informed respondents, a far bigger percentage expressed sympathy for the Palestinians (44.5 percent) over the Israelis (29.5 percent).

When asked which side of the conflict they supported more, 28 percent sided with the Palestinians, 25 percent with neither and 24.5 percent with the Israelis. Twenty-three percent were unsure.

Journalist and academic Peter Manning, the CJPP Convenor, says that, “the national poll shows the federal Labor Government is out of step with public opinion when it cuddles up to Israel. Julia Gillard’s current delegation to Israel is out of step not only with President Obama’s policies but with what Australians think.”

In relation to Gaza… — where Jimmy Carter said this week that the Palestinians there were being treated “like animals” thanks to the Israeli and Western-led blockade… — Manning is even harsher:

“Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard was well out of step with public opinion when she expressed sympathy [in January] for the few Israelis who died from rocket attacks rather than the 1400 Palestinians being slaughtered by Israeli gunfire on schools, hospitals and residential buildings.”

These results shouldn’t be surprising. Consistent polling in the US shows that American Jews are fundamentally opposed to the neo-conservative worldview and believe in engagement with the Palestinians. A 2007 study by the American Jewish Committee found decent support for a Palestinian state and even a majority of American Democrats polled in January this year questioned the necessity of invading Gaza.

Even more ominously for Israel’s supporters, a new study by The Israel Report finds only 49 percent of American voters call themselves supporters of Israel, down from 69 percent last September. Other results from the study are equally startling; a minority of respondents believe the Israelis are serious about reaching an agreement with the Palestinians.

This is significant and represents the gradual decline of support for Israel in the West. Many Americans I am meeting here in New York confirm the polling; Israel is heading towards permanent apartheid. The “special relationship” between Israel and America is being challenged like never before.

The Australian government is still waiting for the press release from the White House.

Antony Loewenstein is a journalist and author of My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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