Millennials from Israel, Palestinian territories fear never-ending conflict: Survey

Syrians were the most adamantly opposed to the use of nuclear or chemical weapons, the survey stated.
Friday 24/01/2020
Israeli security forces speak to Hebron residents as they patrol the streets on September 4, 2019, prior to the arrival of the Israeli prime minister to attend a state memorial ceremony at the Tomb of the Patriarchs. (AFP)
Israeli security forces speak to Hebron residents as they patrol the streets on September 4, 2019, prior to the arrival of the Israeli prime minister to attend a state memorial ceremony at the Tomb of the Patriarchs. (AFP)

TUNIS - Most Israeli and Palestinian youth said they expect the decades-long conflict between their two sides to “never end,” stated a survey commissioned by the International Committee of the Red Cross, highlighting millennials’ increased fears of prolonged conflict around the world.

The pessimistic outlook was in step with that of most millennials, who largely expressed deep concern about the prospect of a world war within their lifetime and the use of nuclear weapons, the survey report said.

The results, based on a survey of millennials (aged 20-35) from 16 countries on war and conflict, “indicate a significant level of fear that, in the future, there will be more, not fewer, wars,” said International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President Peter Maurer in the report’s foreword.

“If millennials are right about more wars or even a third world war in their lifetime, the rules of war will be essential to limiting the carnage,” he said.

Respondents from Syria, who were the most likely to have personally experienced conflict, were the most adamantly opposed to the use of nuclear or chemical weapons and largely said enemy combatants should be shown respect in times of war, including being able to contact relatives and never subjected to torture.

Maurer said it was natural for citizens from conflict-torn countries, such as Syria, to be most critical of war and rights abuses. "When you see your friends and family suffer the horrors of warfare, you want absolutely nothing to do with the weapons of war,” he said.

Since civil war erupted in 2011, Syrian President Bashar Assad has often been accused of using chemical weapons against civilian populations and "indiscriminate and disproportionate aerial bombardment and shelling.”

A 2015 UN report stated that Syria’s civil war has been “characterised by a complete lack of adherence to the norms of international law.”

Generally, millennials gave mixed views on the relevance of international humanitarian law during conflict. While youth overwhelmingly said they oppose the use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and a large majority said rules of engagement should be respected, a significant minority (40%) said torture is sometimes justified and 15% stated that fighters should do whatever they can to achieve victory, irrespective of civilian casualties.

The trend, Maurer said, revealed “a worrying acceptance of dehumanising language or actions towards perceived or real ‘enemies’ that is prevailing in an era of fake news, disinformation and polarised viewpoints.”

While the survey results indicate millennials were optimistic that wars can be avoided -- some 74% stated that view -- they were not confident that peace would be achieved anytime soon, especially in areas embroiled in a long-term conflict.

In both Israel and the Palestinian territories, a majority of respondents -- 65% and 52%, respectively -- said the conflict between them will continue perpetually.

Divisions between Israelis and Palestinians have deepened since the administration of US President Donald Trump announced a peace plan that would take the Israeli-occupied city of Jerusalem off the negotiating table, as Israel expands illegal settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.

There are no direct peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, who have denounced the US peace effort as a “conspiracy.”

Syrians, who have seen hundreds of thousands killed and their infrastructure devastated in nearly a decade of war, were more optimistic about the future: 60% said war is likely to end in their country in the next five years.

ICRC officials noted that, as future world leaders and policymakers, millennials’ views on war and human rights would help determine how conflict proceeds in the years ahead.

"Millennials and youth are fighters in current and future conflicts. The future is in their hands," said ICRC Director Yves Daccord. "It's vital for us to reinforce their belief in the norms of humanity and to encourage values, which help us to protect and assist victims of war and armed violence."