Twenty-one percent of Democrats liken conditions in Israel and the Occupied Territories to apartheid, according to a new survey by the University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll conducted with Ipsos.

Why it matters: The findings are the latest indication the bipartisan pro-Israel consensus is coming to an end. In a Gallup poll conducted earlier this year, more Democrats said they felt greater sympathy for Palestinians than for Israelis.

There are also growing calls by Democratic politicians to condition aid to Israel.

What the data says:

  • Democrats (72 percent) overwhelmingly believe the United States should play the role of neutral mediator between the Israelis and Palestinians. Republicans are split: roughly half support neutrality while 47 percent say the U.S. should lean toward Israel.
  • A plurality of Americans across the political spectrum are unfamiliar with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. But more Democrats say they support BDS (13 percent) than oppose it (6 percent).
  • Most Americans say they don’t know enough to describe the political system in Israel. But 21 percent of Democrats say Israels looks like “a state with segregation similar to apartheid.” Only 3 percent of Democrats and 14 percent of Republicans describe Israel as a “vibrant democracy.” Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institution argues that the high “don’t know” responses signals “a level of discomfort among respondents in answering this question.”

The bottom line, Telhami writes, is that “public attitudes about Israel are shifting.” Use of the word “apartheid” to describe Israel is no longer as taboo as it once was among Democrats. (Congressional Republicans, however, appear to be aligning with Israel’s far-right, rejecting the two-state solution as an imperative.) While there may be a lag effect among Congressional Democrats — House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries visited Israel this week and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — the times, they are a-changin’.


Arif Rafiq is the editor of Globely News. Rafiq has contributed commentary and analysis on global issues for publications such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New Republic, the New York Times, and POLITICO Magazine.

He has appeared on numerous broadcast outlets, including Al Jazeera English, the BBC World Service, CNN International, and National Public Radio.


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