Can we get a rewrite on “Stuck In the Middle With You”? Something with lyrics like “Fools to left of me, morons to the right, here I am…”? It would be the theme song of the results obtained by Berkeley professor of political science Ron Hassner in his recent survey of students:
When college students who sympathize with Palestinians chant “From the river to the sea,” do they know what they’re talking about? I hired a survey firm to poll 250 students from a variety of backgrounds across the U.S. Most said they supported the chant, some enthusiastically so (32.8%) and others to a lesser extent (53.2%).
But only 47% of the students who embrace the slogan were able to name the river and the sea. Some of the alternative answers were the Nile and the Euphrates, the Caribbean, the Dead Sea (which is a lake) and the Atlantic. Less than a quarter of these students knew who Yasser Arafat was (12 of them, or more than 10%, thought he was the first prime minister of Israel). Asked in what decade Israelis and Palestinians had signed the Oslo Accords, more than a quarter of the chant’s supporters claimed that no such peace agreements had ever been signed. There’s no shame in being ignorant, unless one is screaming for the extermination of millions.
Would learning basic political facts about the conflict moderate students’ opinions? A Latino engineering student from a southern university reported “definitely” supporting “from the river to the sea” because “Palestinians and Israelis should live in two separate countries, side by side.” Shown on a map of the region that a Palestinian state would stretch from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, leaving no room for Israel, he downgraded his enthusiasm for the mantra to “probably not.” Of the 80 students who saw the map, 75% similarly changed their view.
“Stuck In the Middle With You” doesn’t quite capture it, but I am at a loss. It will have to do for the moment.