As Israel’s war against the Hamas terrorists intensifies, a deep generational divide is emerging between supporters of Israelis and Palestinians.
Recent polling confirms older populations tend to side with Israel, while younger generations stand with Palestine.
This past weekend, large-scale pro-Palestinian demonstrations happened in major cities worldwide, including Washington, D.C. where from 20,000 to 30,000 people were expected to march, according to a permit issued by the National Park Service. The A.N.S.W.E.R Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), a major arm behind the protest, estimated 300,000 people actually attended.
“We are an opponent of the political ideology of Zionism. A racist ideology that aims to justify the expulsion of indigenous people from their land – in this case, the Palestinian people,” said Walter Smolarek, media coordinator with A.N.S.W.E.R.
A Harvard CAPS/Harris poll led by pollster Mark Penn shows a strong 84% majority of Americans support Israel over Hamas.
“I think you have to always be concerned about what your country’s youth believes,” Penn said.
Penn found a growing divide of support between generations: 95% of those over the age of 65 supported Israel. While 62% of those aged 18-24 supported Israel.
“I think the younger generation, 18 to 24, is likely to not have been to Israel,” Penn said. “They weren’t even here for 9/11 – note having a set of personal experiences related to terrorism, and to be more susceptible to information that they hear online instead.”
Social media experts go as far as describing younger generations as “digital natives” because they get most of their news on social media – which has few safeguards against misinformation and bad actors manipulating public opinion. Caleb Kinchlow, a CBN digital lifestyle contributor believes social media’s influence on the next generation is undeniable.
“Media shapes consciousness and consciousness shapes culture,” Kinchlow said. “What I mean by that is whatever you’re consuming on social media – begins to shape how you function and act and believe in real life.”
Kinchlow sees platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and especially TikTok as digital battlegrounds vying for public opinion. This can lead to questionable methods, especially as influencers pay to promote their message or agenda on your news feed.
Jake Denton, research associate in the Technology Policy Center at The Heritage Foundation believes TikTok is the biggest offender and joins a growing call to ban the Chinese-owned platform – alleging it pushes pro-Palestinian content contrary to U.S. foreign policies.
“They’re rewarding content that keeps you on the platform,” said Denton. “So, videos that are resulting in users staying on the app or continuing to scroll, that’s what is promoted. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true.”
He points out recent hashtag data indicates #standwithpalestine received more than four times as many views compared to #standwithIsrael on TikTok. Whether those numbers are real and not fabricated still remains to be determined.
“Now you have this whole generation of kids, that’s what they’re used to when it comes to taking the news,” said Denton. “And so, users are seeing those videos, oftentimes no more than 60 seconds – they scroll past it and take it as fact.”
“They don’t fact check, and don’t take another person’s opinion,” he noted.
Another major concern is Penn’s polling data shows that 16% of Americans side with Hamas terrorists. When asked about this at the recent D.C. march, one protestor said it’s not fair to bring up Hamas when talking about Palestinians.
“I think it’s unjust and unfair to make this about Hamas every single time,” said Saba Saed, who drove from Michigan State University to protest.
Another protestor said, “I’m Lebanese. I don’t have family there but they’re getting bombed too. It’s not just Palestine, they’re bombing Egypt, they’re bombing Syria.”
The Anti-Defamation League says antisemitic incidents are up almost 400 percent in the U.S., compared to a year ago. This is why Penn sees the greatest threat to America from this great divide being the antisemitism and violence that follows on both sides.
“You would have thought that a terrorist attack against innocent civilians would engender sympathy for this. But somehow, it seems to have weirdly stirred up a pot of antisemitism, at least in some areas with some communities,” Penn concluded.