Niall Ferguson Niall Ferguson

Students annoyed their elders in the 1930s, too

Credit: Dominic Bugatto

Astriking generation gap in the western world has been revealed by the responses to the 7 October atrocities in Israel. Noting in these pages the surge in pro-Palestinian sentiment among young people on both sides of the Atlantic, my old friend Douglas Murray worries that ‘When it comes to Palestine, the kids aren’t all right’.

Murray is correct to say that something has changed. He is also correct that it is mainly a phenomenon in the English-speaking world. In the UK and the US, young people are far less well-disposed towards Israel than a decade ago.

The Daily Express condemned ‘the woozy-minded communists and sexual indeterminates of Oxford’

According to opinion polls, 42 per cent of Britons aged 18 to 24 say they sympathise more with the Palestinians in the current conflict, compared with just 7 per cent who support Israel. For those aged 65 and over, the proportions are roughly reversed. YouGov data from ten years ago confirms that there has been a swing towards Palestine. In 2014, 25 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds sympathised more with Palestine and 10 per cent with Israel – not radically different percentages from the 65-plus age group.

The picture is similar in the US. ‘Do you sympathise more with Israelis or Palestinians?’ Quinnipiac asked its voter sample last month. Of those aged from 18 to 34, 52 per cent said the Palestinians, and 29 per cent the Israelis. In 2013, however, 55 per cent of millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) sympathised with Israel, and just 12 per cent with Palestine.

Over the past ten years, the issue has become deeply partisan, due in part to the spread of leftist ‘decolonisation’ narratives in higher education – surreptitiously displacing ‘never again’ narratives about the Holocaust – as well as to Donald Trump’s strong support for Israel during his first term in the White House.

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