The recent escalation of tensions between Israel and Hamas has not only captured global attention but has also prompted diverse reactions within the Black American community. A series of surveys conducted in October shed light on the nuanced opinions held by Black Americans regarding U.S. involvement, support for Israel, and the broader implications for domestic politics.
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s American Statecraft Program conducted a comprehensive survey involving 1,600 adults, comprising 800 Black, non-Hispanic Americans, and 800 white, non-Hispanic.
Only 40 percent of Black Americans supported the Biden administration’s proposal to provide Israel with an additional $14 billion in military assistance. A whopping 95 percent of Black Americans rejected the idea of showing “unwavering support” for Israel, compared to 77 percent of white Americans. Some 43 percent of Black Americans supported some form of ceasefire in Gaza. While 24 percent believed the U.S. should not be involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Black Americans’ feelings toward President Joe Biden remained relatively stable after Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
Independent voters and young voters showed a slight decrease in approval for Biden.
Nearly half of Black respondents reported not feeling connected to the plight of Israelis or Palestinians.
A higher number of Black Americans felt connected to Israelis than Palestinians, though that is changing, according to other polls.
The survey brings attention to the historical context through which Black Americans perceive the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Throughout the years, like Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Jesse Jackson, and others have expressed solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, drawing parallels with the Black American experience of state violence, dispossession, and underdevelopment.
The survey highlights generational and racial disparities in opinions. Younger voters and voters of color are less likely to support Biden’s stance on Israel, with significant variations across demographic lines.
An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that just 51 percent of voters of color said the U.S. should take a public stance supporting Israel, while 72 percent of whites thought the opposite.
According to Edward Ahmed Mitchell, national deputy executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), young Black voters might be turned off by President Joe Biden’s response to the Middle East conflict.
“And not just because he’s so supportive of Israel, which we all kind of expect,” Mitchell told theGrio, “but President Biden went above and beyond in not only supporting Israel but ignoring the suffering of the Palestinian people.”
He added, “We recognize the dehumanizing language that downplays people of color when they are victims of injustice, while only recognizing white people when they are victims of injustice.”
Mitchell, who is Black and Muslim, continued, “Black Americans can certainly see the difference between how our government and the media responded when white-haired, blue-eyed Ukrainians started suffering violence under an illegal occupation compared to the reaction that we’ve seen from the media and politicians when Palestinians, who are people of color, have suffered violence under Israeli occupation.”
Palestinians walk amid the rubble following Israeli airstrikes that razed swaths of a neighborhood in Gaza City, Oct. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)