A new CNN/Opinion Research poll shows 38 percent of Americans now have an unfavorable view of Israel, which in recent days has launched a ground operation in Gaza that has resulted in more casualties than its allies would prefer (witness John Kerry’s reaction). The death toll in the current conflict includes more than 500 Palestinians. If you combine CNN and Gallup polling, that’s the most Americans who view Israel in a negative light since 1992. Israel is hardly a pariah on the scale of Russia, and 60 percent of Americans still have a positive view of Israel. But the increase in negative views reinforces an emerging trend in the American electorate: It wants nothing to do with overseas conflict, and would prefer that such conflict didn’t exist.
Keating remarks on the role Twitter has played in leveling the propaganda playing field:
Twitter was not even three years old when Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, its last, and far bloodier, incursion into Gaza, and Twitter was certainly not the indispensible tool for gathering and disseminating news that it has since become. … Despite the Israeli government’s large social media campaign—in constrast to that of Hamas, whose accounts are routinely blocked—it has undoubtedly been losing the online information war. As the New York Times notes the “hashtag #GazaUnderAttack has been used in nearly 4 million Twitter posts, compared with 170,000 for #IsraelUnderFire.”
“On the other hand,” he adds, “it’s not clear how much difference this will make”:
Support for Israel remains extremely high in the United States and is increasingly defined by party affiliation. The coverage may be becoming more balanced, but the audience may not have much interest in nuance.
Emily Shire scans the social media vitriol and wonders if Twitter hasn’t actually made the situation worse for everyone:
Since the recent violence has broken out between Israelis and Palestinians, Twitter and Facebook have become a parallel battleground. Inane and disturbing hashtags have been lobbed by those often far removed from the rocket fire. And it’s not just from random, anonymous civilians. A social media manager for the African National Congress, South Africa’s ruling political party, posted a message on Facebook that featured an image of Adolph Hitler with the text “Yes man, you were right …I could have killed all the Jews, but I left some of them to let you know why I was killing them.”
The conflation of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments is nothing new. The hate behind both have long bled into each other. But the flippant use of extremist hashtags only helps to validate the worst fears that anti-Semitism is alive and well in too many parts of the world (in case the firebombing of a Paris synagogue didn’t already do that). This, in turn, feeds into an outpouring of anti-Arab vitriol on social media. David Sheen reportedly translated tweets by Israeli teens calling for death sentences to Arabs. And just prior to the most recent outbreak of all-out violence, Facebook groups like “The People of Israel Demand Revenge” grew by the tens of thousand in response to the abduction and murder of the three Israeli teenagers.