Among millennials in 16 countries, Israelis least opposed to torture — poll
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Among millennials in 16 countries, Israelis least opposed to torture — poll

Red Cross survey of 16,000 young people finds most expect nuclear war in coming decade; 77% of Israelis oppose any use of atomic weapons, 82% back warfare restrictions

Illustrative: A right-wing Jewish activist holds a sign reading, "Do not torture me" outside the Duma terror attack trial in Petah Tikva on December 28, 2015. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Illustrative: A right-wing Jewish activist holds a sign reading, "Do not torture me" outside the Duma terror attack trial in Petah Tikva on December 28, 2015. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Fewer than one-quarter of Israeli millennials maintain that torture of enemy combatants is never permissible, marking the lowest level of opposition to the practice among young people in 16 countries, according to a Red Cross report released on Thursday.

The survey also found a slight majority of young Israelis think the Geneva Conventions are ineffective. At the same time, the vast majority of young Israelis said there was still a need to impose limits on the ways wars are fought, and most opposed any use of nuclear weapons.

Sixteen thousand people aged between 20 and 35 took part in the survey, both in war-torn countries such as Afghanistan and Syria and largely peaceful ones like Britain and France.

The Red Cross used online panels, face-to-face interviews and telephone interviews to reach people in 16 countries and territories.

The report found that 55 percent of all respondents said torture was never acceptable, but among Israelis the figure was just 23%, the lowest of all countries surveyed.

This was compared to states such as Syria and Colombia, where 71% opposed it entirely.

View of the nuclear reactor in Dimona, southern Israel, August 13, 2016. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Some 12% of all those surveyed said the use of nuclear weapons was acceptable under some circumstances. Among Israelis, 18% agreed, while 77% said it’s never allowed. Nigeria and the United States topped the list of responses saying nuclear weapons use is acceptable in some cases, with 23% and 22%, respectively.

The Red Cross report also signaled young Israelis and Palestinians are deeply pessimistic about the prospect of the end of conflict, with 65% and 52%, respectively, saying the “fighting in their home areas will never end.”

But fully 60% of Syrians polled said they believed the current civil conflict would end within the next five years.

Many more Israelis (69%) than Palestinians (40%) believed wars and fighting could be avoided. And while Israeli young people overwhelmingly (82%) maintained “there still a need to impose limits on the way wars and armed conflicts may be fought,” just over half of Palestinians (51%) agreed.

An IDF soldier and a tank during a military drill near the Gaza Strip, late July 2019. (IDF)

Despite this, most Israelis (53%) believe the Geneva Conventions, agreed on in 1949 to protect prisoners of war and civilians in wartime in response to the horrors of  World War II, are ineffective at reducing suffering in war. It was only one of two countries in which the majority felt this way — the other was war-torn Syria (56%).

The survey also found that more than half of millennials fear there will be a nuclear attack somewhere in the world within the next decade.

Some 47% of respondents to the poll also believed it was more likely than not that there would be a third world war in their lifetime.

The most striking result came in reply to the question: “In your opinion, how likely or unlikely is it that nuclear weapons will be used in wars or armed conflicts anywhere in the world within the next 10 years?”

Some 54% said they felt it was likely such weapons would be used.

“Millennials appear to see cataclysmic war as a real likelihood in their lifetime,” Peter Maurer, president of the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross, said in a foreword to the report.

The mushroom cloud from Ivy Mike (codename given to the test) rises above the Pacific Ocean over the Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands on November 1, 1952 at 7:15 am (local time). It was the world’s first test of a full-scale thermonuclear device, in which part of the explosive yield comes from nuclear fusion. (AP Photo/Los Alamos National Laboratory)

The ICRC said the survey also revealed some “worrying trends,” such as the answers they received to the question: “In your opinion, is torturing captured enemy combatants acceptable under some circumstances, or is it never acceptable?”

Some 41% said they would support torture in some circumstances.

And just 54% had heard of the Geneva Conventions

Syrians had the highest support among respondents for showing humanity in war, with 85% saying captured combatants should be allowed to contact relatives and 70% saying torture was never acceptable.

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