In recent events within the United States of America, Congresswoman Alexandria Occasio-Cortez had backed down from speaking at an event commemorating late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. 15 years ago, this would have been unheard of. Attacks against the young congresswoman from Brooklyn, nicknamed AOC by her supporters, would have been unrelenting with accusations of anti-Semitism never ending. Her decision was applauded by Palestinian activists and their supporters in the US, while slammed and attacked by Israeli and Zionist organizations.
Discourse on the Question of Palestine in the past few years has expanded in the US. With more Palestinian voices like Noura Erekat, Linda Sarsour and others being acknowledged by the American media outlets, and brought to speak on certain events such as the relocation of the American embassy to Jerusalem to other events covered by the American news casters. 20 years ago this wouldn’t have been the case. But Palestinian and pro-Palestinian rights voices have also found a stepping stone in the house of representatives. With the rise of Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American immigrant, and Ilhan Omar opening a new space where the Question of Palestine is now discussed and presented openly.
For the larger part of seventy seven years, the narrative on the events in the Middle East have been mostly one sided; especially in the United States. A country that focused its view on the Middle East through a constant religious lens. For example in 1956, Bosley Crowther, a New York Times reporter wrote a film review for the film “The Ten Commandments”. The plot of the film followed Moses and the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt. In his writing, Crowther drew parallels between the Pharaohs who enslaved the Hebrews and the modern day Egyptians who were fighting back an attack from Israel, France and the United Kingdom. He opened his film review with “against the raw news of modern conflict between Egypt and Israel – a conflict that has its preamble in the Book of Exodus.”
America’s first visits to historical Palestine was after the American civil war, in the form of American Christians arriving in the holy land for pilgrimage in Jerusalem. These visits by deeply religious former slave owners formed the main image of the indigenous people of the region for decades. Forming what Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, calls the “Myth-Narrative” theory, which states that “Westerners” viewed history through the lens of Orientalism, creating a different narrative for historical events in the Middle East.
For years after that American evangelists defended Israel, and its narrative of God’s chosen returning to the promised land. The Israelis themselves also adopted to change their narrative with the times. In the post 9/11 world, as American president George W. Bush declared his war on terror the “saboteurs” that Israel was hunting down became “terrorists”, and Israel which was disputing land and borders with the Palestinians became a front in the War on Terror. But as Arab and Muslim Americans began to mobilize for civil rights against American domestic security policy, Palestinian Americans also mobilized bringing their own issues and causes with them. These youth and organizations were born and raised in the United States, looking at the Middle East as their land of origin. Approaching the Question of Palestine through issues like Human Rights and equality.
Then a great shift happened in 2016, the United States under American president Barack Obama decided to abstain their vote in the United Nations Security Council on UNSC Resolution 2334. This in of itself was a change from the United States’ guaranteed veto on any UN resolution that targets Israel. While not a radical change concerning foreign policy in the Middle East, still it constitutes as a change from America’s adamant position towards UN policy regarding Palestine. Another shift came during the 2019 AIPAC conference, where Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and other American Democrats withdrew their participation in the event.
Today, the narrative of events in the Middle East is no longer one-sided. The effects of that are becoming more obvious, as support for Palestinian rights is on the rise. Rashida Tlaib’s re-election to the house of representatives, AOC’s withdrawal from a commemoration event for the former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, and a 2020 Gallup poll that showed 55% of Americans supporting Palestinian statehood. While this does not mean an end to all the issues at hand in the Middle East, but this does signify that the times will change.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Jerusalem24