While Americans overwhelmingly condemn the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel and largely back Jerusalem in the ongoing conflict with the Gaza-based terror group, young Americans are bucking the trend and a majority believe the brutal attack may be justified by the “grievance of Palestinians.”
The Oct. 7 raid saw Hamas terrorists storm Israeli border towns, seize 199 hostages, and kill roughly 1,200 civilians. The attack stunned the Israel Defense Forces, which have since maintained a steady bombardment of the Gaza Strip in preparation for a possible land invasion.
While 76% of Americans believed the recent terror attack was not justified, according to a recent Harvard CAPS-Harris survey, 24% believed the attack “can be justified by the grievance of Palestinians.” By age, the majority of almost every age bracket said the attack could not be justified except for respondents aged 18-24. Of those 51% felt Palestinian grievances could justify the Hamas attack, while 49% said they could not. Among those 25-34, the numbers were only slightly less understanding of the Hamas attack, with 48% saying it could be justified to 52% saying it could not.
The 18-24 bloc stood apart from other brackets on other questions as well. It backed Israel over Hamas 52% to 48%, with the closest group, those aged 25-34, doing so 71% to 29%. The youngest bracket was also the most inclined to term Hamas fighters “militants” rather than “terrorists,” with 41% opting for the former term to 59% opting for the latter.
Young Americans also took the most charitable attitudes toward the Hamas raid, with 47% expressing the belief that the group focused its efforts on the Israeli military and 53% saying the group “indiscriminately targeted civilians.” Curiously 68% of young people believe “it’s true that Hamas terrorists killed 1,200 Israeli civilians by shooting them, raping and beheading people including whole families, kids and babies.” Thirty-two percent deemed that account a “false story.”
They further were least inclined to believe the Hamas raid was intended to spark a wider war. Though 57% of the bloc affirmed that belief, 43% said the attack was not intended to trigger a bigger conflict. Of the nearest group, again those 25-34, 76% said Hamas wanted to start a war while 24% said the terrorists did not.
Conducted October 18-19, the survey questioned 2,116 registered voters and has a margin of error of +/- 2%.
The latest Hamas raid has highlighted changing generational attitudes toward the Israel-Palestine conflict, with younger people increasingly supportive of the latter faction. Young people in elite institutions have ranked among the most vocal and a Harvard University student group’s open letter attracted national scrutiny for its claim to hold “the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.”
Thirty-three other Harvard student groups signed on to the open letter, which the the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee published. Harvard President Claudine Gay subsequently distanced the school from the student letter, saying “while our students have the right to speak for themselves, no student group — not even 30 student groups — speaks for Harvard University or its leadership.”