The recent Israeli aggression has created opportunities which Arabs should exploit if they wish to change the balance of power in their struggle against their historical enemy.
Here I will outline two significant changes related to the US as well as an opportunity that may seem to be absent from the minds of some opinion-makers in the Arab world.
The first point concerns the axiom that the US offers absolute support for everything that Israel does. The aggression showed a glimmer of hope in the possibility of changing the official US stance and altering the point of view of Americans towards the conflict, which may result in changing the absolute Israeli support formula.
An opinion poll conducted by the Pew Institute, which is one of the most prominent and credible centres of its kind, , mentioned that despite the major support Israel has among Republicans and Democrats, the situation is different to a great extent in American youth circles. Twenty-nine percent of American youth between ages 18–29 blame Israel in this round of aggression, while only 21 percent hold Hamas accountable. The significance of this percentage lies in that only 19 percent of the American people blame Israel, while 40 percent threw blame on Hamas. This means that the youth abandoned the American prearranged script. This indicates that there is an important political opportunity for the Arab side if they provide fine planning, sincere intentions and true will to ensure that this American youthful generation stands behind the Arab cause in years and decades to come.
American youth does not take seriously the notions of the American media, which repeats like parrots phrases like "the American and Israeli interests are identical" or that "Israel has a legitimate right to self-defence."
In addition to the youth, there is a tendency among ethnic and religious minorities and American liberals not to take Israeli claims as facts that are not to be discussed or examined. A previous poll also revealed that 22 percent of white Americans see that Israel has gone too far in using force against the population of Gaza, this same poll revealed that 36 percent of blacks and 35 percent of Hispanics felt the same way.
If we put into account the rapid increase in the numbers of these two demographic groups, by which the blacks reached 12.7 percent or 40 million US citizens and Hispanics, most of whom are Catholics, reached 16.5 percent or 52 million US citizens, we will perceive a future opportunity with the increase in population growth among ethnic minorities. This in turn will have a substantive impact on American foreign policy.
The previous point is coupled with an increase in American celebrities announcing their objection to Israeli policies without being afraid of being accused of anti-Semitism. Stars such as Salma Hayek and Sharon Stone boycotted American companies financing the construction of Israeli settlements. Danny Glover and Jane Fonda boycotted Toronto International Film Festival in protest of it selecting Tel Aviv as the subject of its inaugural City-to-City Spotlight strand. Emma Thompson decided to boycott Israeli theatre. Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem also joined a campaign that condemns Israel's practices in Gaza, stating that they considered these activities "genocide" and demanded that the Israeli army order a ceasefire and lift the blockade imposed for more than a decade.
Albeit at a slower pace the same goes for the American media. For despite the shameful supporting stance towards Israeli policies in most of the newspapers and television stations, this did not prevent papers publishing several articles and analysis which did justice to the Palestinian side and reported the brutality of the aggression and the scenes of killing women and children. The accusation of anti-Semitism does not have the same potency or deterrence that it used to. Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook provided a great service for the Palestinian perspective with the freedom to circulate up-to-the-minute images and live footage covering the aggression.
The previous two points should be correlated with the necessity of taking Arab initiatives to change the comprehension of what's happening in our region. It is possible in this context to launch a similar service to that of the Middle East Media Research Institute project. Such a service should be devoted to presenting and translating everything abusive to Arabs, Palestinians and Muslims, whether it is media material, political statements or social scandals and offering it free of charge to those interested, especially analysts in the USA.
This proposed project may also bear the responsibility of translating everything that comes out of Israel, whether it is ugly racist political and academic statements or what the visual and written media and school books present that is abusive to Arabs and Islam; it should also reveal the societal extremism inside Israel.
To complete the new influence system, a number of specialised and serious research centres should be set up to study American affairs. Despite the assertions made by some people about the existence of several centres of American studies in a number of Arab countries, reality confirms that they have no impact inside the USA.
The continued absence of specialised centres in American affairs is an incomprehensible phenomenon, especially because this constitutes a dangerous gap that does not serve our direct interests. The absence of Arab researchers forms a serious strategic vacuum of which we pay the price every day. Washington is brimful of so-called Arabists, who enjoy a huge influence in drawing up American policies. They also contribute to shaping understanding in America of Arab issues through their repeated appearances in the media.
There should be specialised Arab research centres that include dozens of full-time researchers and specialists in US affairs who can be gathered from numerous locations such as Arab universities and institutes or from the thousands of Arabs who were educated abroad. These researchers are to devote themselves, after being allocated a certain number of the fifty American states, for studying specific American topics such as religion or cinema and minorities or media or technology or congress etc.
These researchers are to conduct their work on a permanent, regular, basis and get into contact with the states in which they will be specialised (yes there should be specialists on the state of California and Oklahoma) and communicate with their universities and acquaint themselves with their media and their most important companies, institutions and politicians. The proposed American studies centres should provide their researchers with opportunities to travel and participate in study programmes in the universities and research centres of these states.
Many are waiting for an essential change in US foreign policy to impose a fair and lasting peace in the Middle East. Such dreams are nothing but illusions if we do not take the initiative and attempt to influence the process of American decision-making ourselves in a way that serves the interests of Arab and Palestinian rights.