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Ruben Navarrette

Columnist, host & author

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Opinion

Why Americans sympathize with both Palestinians and Israelis

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Ruben Navarrette

Columnist, host & author

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The Israeli-Palestinian conflict again grabbed hold of the world’s attention following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in southern Israel. While American public support for Israel increased in the wake of that attack, a majority of Americans today say they empathize with the people of both Israel and Palestine.

Straight Arrow News contributor Ruben Navarrette explains why this makes perfect sense. The American political mind, Navarrette argues, is predisposed to root for “the little guy” against a more powerful enemy. Navarrette says this is exactly why Americans sympathize with both sides — because in Israel and Palestine, both sides see themselves as a David against the other’s Goliath.

A slim majority of Americans appear to be more sympathetic to the people of Israel than to the Palestinians. But there is also a substantial reservoir of sympathy for what the Palestinians have endured since Israel was founded in 1948. For Americans, it seems it’s sympathy all around.

In a recent CNN poll, nearly all Americans, a combined 96%, said that they feel some level of sympathy for the Israeli people after the vicious Oct. 7 attack by Hamas. A full 71% said they currently feel “a lot of sympathy” for the Israeli people. Another 25% said they feel “some sympathy.”

Yet, the sympathy numbers for Palestinians were almost as high. A total of 41% of Americans said they felt “a lot of sympathy” for Palestinians, with an additional 46% saying they feel “some sympathy.” That’s a total of 87%. Wow, I didn’t see that coming.

And yet, the more I think about those numbers, the more sense they make. You see, America is the land of redemption, where people are always pulling for the little guy against the big guy. There are countries out there that take care of the wealthy at the expense of the poor, or autocrats rule at the pleasure of the top 1%, and the little guy never catches a break.

America’s not that kind of place. We root for the underdog. We bet on long shots. It’s our natural instinct. Well then, you might ask, who’s the little guy in the Middle East? Is it Israel or the Palestinians? The answer is both.

Americans are divided on the Middle East. Same as always, you would think that a horrific attack on Israel by Hamas terrorists that killed at least 30 Americans, along with more than 1400 Israelis, while injuring more than 3000. Others would focus the mind and resolve any mixed feelings that Americans might have about a nearly 80 year old conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. Public opinion polls taken here in the United States, after the attack on Israel have found what they always tend to find whenever there’s a violent clash in the Middle East. A slim majority of Americans appear to be more sympathetic to the people of Israel than to the Palestinians. But there is also a substantial reservoir of sympathy for what the Palestinians have endured since Israel was founded in 1948. For Americans, it seems it’s sympathy all around. And a recent CNN poll, nearly all Americans a combined 96% said that they feel some level of sympathy for the Israeli people after the vicious October 7 attack by Hamas, a full 71% said they currently feel a quote, a lot of sympathy for the Israeli people, another 25% said they feel some sympathy. Yet, the sympathy numbers for Palestinians were almost as high. A total of 41% of Americans said they felt quote, a lot of sympathy for Palestinians, with an additional 46% saying they feel some sympathy. That’s a total of 87%. Wow, I didn’t see that coming. And yet, the more I think about those numbers, the more sense they make. You see, America is the land of redemption, where people are always pulling for the little guy against the big guy. There are countries out there that take care of the wealthy at the expense of the poor, or autocrats rule at the pleasure of the top 1%. And the little guy never catches a break. America’s not that kind of place. we root for the underdog. We bet on long shots. It’s our natural instinct. Well, then you might ask, who’s the little guy in the Middle East? Is it Israel or the Palestinians? The answer is both. You see, it all depends on what you mean by the phrase little guy. In the Middle East, both the Israelis and the Palestinians can lay claim to the title. At first glance, it would seem that when compared to Israel with all its military might, the Palestinians are clearly the low guy. They’re the David to Israel’s Goliath. Whereas Israel has tanks and fighter jets. terrorist groups like Hamas have to use crude weapons like well, terror. They have rifles and rockets, whereas Israel has nuclear weapons. But if you back up a few 100 miles and think back in time to the formation of Israel, in 1948, which sparked the first Arab Israeli war, the Suez Crisis in 1956, the Six Day War in 1967, the Yom Kippur War in 1973, and so on, you see that a slew of Arab States spent the better part of the last 30 years battling their neighbor over land, religion, politics, and finally, just plain hate. In that context. The little guys are really the Israelis, who, as Bob Dylan wrote in his brilliant song neighborhood bully, are, quote, outnumbered about a million to one. It’s no wonder there’s such a division between Americans almost right down the middle. It seems like half the country wants to defend Israel and the other half the Palestinians who Israel’s about to go to war against. We could have called this as Americans. It’s our natural instinct to support the little guy. Unfortunately, in the Israeli Palestinian conflict, every combatant on the field looks like the low guy

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