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American Jews Favor Israel-Syria Talks, Secure Independent Palestinian State

Americans for Peace Now and the Arab American Institute released a Zogby poll (full results–pdf) of American Jews and Arab Americans which provides some interesting new data on attitudes toward Mideast peace. One of the most important findings is that both groups track very closely on almost every question asked (with a few exceptions). This indicates there are no significant gaps between American Jews or Arabs on questions of war and peace which both hold vital.

The poll also confirms what many of us have known for years–that American Jews diverge strongly from the views of their leaders and the Israeli government when it comes to Israeli-Palestinian peace.

90% of American Jews support a “secure, independent” Palestinian state.
88% of Arab Americans support a “secure, independent” state of Israel.

34% of Jews believe that Arab Americans support a secure independent Israel.
60% of Arabs believe that Jews support a secure independent Palestine.

87% of Jews and 94% of Arabs support a negotiated two-state solution.

68% of Jews and 64% of Arabs would be more likely to vote for a Presidential candidate who advocated strong engagement in the Mideast peace process.

20% of Jews and 21% of Arabs found George Bush’s policy “effective” in “handling the Arab-Israeli peace process.”

73% of Jews and 79% of Arabs feel it is vital to engage in diplomacy to resolve the Iran nuclear standoff.

21% of Jews and 30% of Arabs feel “optimistic” about Middle East peace.

40% of Jews and 66% of Arabs feel the U.S. should “steer a middle course” between Israel and the Palestinians.

58% of Jews and 59% of Arabs said they would be more likely to support a Presidential candidate who supported peace negotiations between Israel and Syria.

81% of Jews and 84% of Arabs support Israeli-Syrian negotiations.

89% of Jews and 92% of Arabs believe it is important for both communities to work together for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

65% of Jews and 89% of Arabs believe it is imperative to end the Israeli Occupation.

63% of Jews and 77% of Arabs believe in a settlement freeze.

70% of Jews and 82% of Arabs support the Arab League initiative.

80% of both Jews and Arabs agree with the Iraq Study Group report that finding a comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is necessary for advancing U.S. Mideast policy goals.

This poll tells us a number of interesting things. It reinforces the absolute divorce between the views of average American Jews and their leadership and the leadership of the State of Israel. AIPAC and other other groups constituting the Israel lobby do not support Syrian-Israel negotiations, are highly suspicious of pursuing a diplomatic strategy regarding Iran, oppose the end of the Occupation, oppose a settlement freeze, and are dubious about the Arab League Initiative.

One somewhat distressing finding was that only 34% of Jews believe that Arabs support a secure Israel, while in fact 88% do. This, of course, indicates the sorry, violent state of affairs in the Middle East today and also the drumbeat of negativity that is inculcated into American Jews by the local Jewish media and the Israel lobby.

A hopeful finding also was that fully 40% of American Jews believe that a “middle course” is the best road for American policy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I recall the Republican Jewish Coalition attempting to excoriate the Democrats in the last election because they allegedly are in favor of such a “middle course.” Little did the Repubs know that an equal number of American Jews favor a middle course (40% + 1% who favor tilting toward Palestine) to those who favor a tilt toward Israel (44%). Despite the enormous efforts of AIPAC to drive a stridently pro-Israel agenda the effort has failed, at least at the grassroots level.

I hope that the Democratic Presidential candidates will also wake and realize that the majority of American Jews don’t want a candidate who will kowtow to AIPAC’s hardline, no compromise agenda. The vast majority, in fact, want a candidate who strongly supports a peace process with both the Palestinians and Syrians. You wouldn’t know this from everything coming out of the mouths of Clinton, Obama and the rest.

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  • imjudy June 6, 2007, 5:00 AM

    I fail to see the significance of any of this. Most American Jews have absolutely no idea what is going on in Israel and so their opinion is not important, in regards to Israel defining its security policy. As regards their attitude to AIPAC, I have to ask why , if AIPAC is supposedly out of tune with a supposedly “dovish” American Jewish opinion, why hasn’t this doving opinion been pressed on it, and if it is not response to this, then why haven’t they set up an alternative lobby? There was talk of this a few months ago, but it was dropped quickly. The fact is that American Jews who are more knowledgable about Israel and more involved directly in Israel’s life (e.g. travelling frequently to Israel, having children study for an extended period there, donating significant amounts of money to Israseli institutions) are more to the right, and they would be the ones who would be most involved with AIPAC.

  • Richard Silverstein June 6, 2007, 10:19 AM

    Most American Jews have absolutely no idea what is going on in Israel and so their opinion is not important, in regards to Israel defining its security policy.

    Well now, isn’t that interesting. The views of 6 million Jews living in the world’s most powerful country can be discounted entirely when they’re not convenient to yr particular political viewpt., but you sure do accept the largess that same country showers on you in terms of military & economic aid; and you sure do willingly accept the lobbying done by AIPAC to ensure that Congress maintains its retrograde positions when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    Besides, yr view is flat out wrong as proven by the respondents themselves: a whopping 94% of American Jews said they follow the I-P conflict either “very closely” (55%) or “somewhat closely.”

    why hasn’t this doving opinion been pressed on it, and if it is not response to this, then why haven’t they set up an alternative lobby?

    Because AIPAC is not a democratic organization. It is an organization largely by & for a select group of fatcat right wing donors who control its policy & activities. See Michael Massing’s terrific profile of AIPAC in the NY Review of Books for further info.

    There IS an alternative lobby being planned as covered in last wk’s Forward. It was certainly not “dropped” & yr information is inaccurate.

  • Akiva June 6, 2007, 11:17 AM

    This is the partner you want to work with???

    THIS is the partner you want to work with?

    I think you’re very unfair thinking the right wing doesn’t want peace. The question is the means, so far every single concession hasn’t brought any improvement. And, given the links above, it would seem the future is already lined up to be pretty bad, especially dealing with it from a position of ‘niceness’.

  • imjudy June 6, 2007, 12:45 PM

    Further reflection on this poll makes me doubt the veracity of the results they give. Don’t forget that this was a poll commissioned by a lobby that has a particular agenda. I distinctly recall polls asking similar questions some months ago commissioned by another lobby I am sure you don’t approve of, Mort Klein’s Zionist Organization of America. The results were VERY different…majority opposing a Palestinian state, strong support for Israeli security policies, etc. People who commission polls usually want a particular outcome and the pollster supplies this. It is not hard to get a particular response to any question.
    For example: This is supposedly a poll of Jewish Americans. How does Zogby define a “Jew” and how does he find the Jews to poll? Does he get lists of synagogue members? Doubtful that synagogues would give lists of their membership to an Arab organization.
    Does he take “Jewish”-sounding names from the phone book? I don’t have a typical Jewish-sounding last name, so I wouldn’t be polled, if that is indeed the criterion. I know a right-wing Orthodox Jew name “Smith”. Would Zogby have called him?
    Was Zogby’s sample truly represenatative of American Jewry, including both Orthodox and non-Orthodox, Zionist and non-Zionist?

    What does the figure that a “whopping” 94% of American Jews follow the I-A conflict closely mean? That they read newspaper articles about Israel? That they visit Israel? Do you know that they polled Israeli high-school students and only a minority knew how Israel came to control the Golan Heights. Do you think American Jews are better informed? The poll says that a majority supports a “settlement freeze”. How many of those polled even know what the word “settlement” means in the context that you and I are using here? How many have ever visited a settlement or know people who live in one? How many American Jews know that Jews have been living continuously in Hebron for 4000 years and Gaza for over 2000 years. If you informed them of this before you asked the question about their attitude towards the settlements, you will get a different answer than if you simply pop the question on them unprepared.
    I am CERTAIN that a majority, probably a large majority, of American Jews more or less support the Israeli goverment’s security policies (even if they really don’t know what they are) and oppose the creation of a Palestinian state, if having such a state would be a recipe for continued attacks on Israel.
    Finally, I am sure your description of AIPAC as an undemocratic group of fat-cats would equally apply to American’s for Peace Now and numerous other Jewish organizations. American Leftists Jews have immense resources (e.g. the Hollywood Jewish crowd, for example) and they could easily set up a counter organization. George Soros is a multi-billionaire, is very hostile to Israeli gov’t policy, and could single-handedly support such an organization. If they all were so opposed to AIPAC all these years, why haven’t they done anything. I heard that Soros was indeed asked to participate in founding this group and he backed out. The fact is that the Jewish masses in the US would not support such an organization, even if they are uncomfortable with Israeli gov’t policy.

  • Richard Silverstein June 6, 2007, 8:14 PM

    Further reflection on this poll makes me doubt the veracity of the results they give. Don’t forget that this was a poll commissioned by a lobby that has a particular agenda.

    The poll was conducted by a respected national pollster who was independent of the 2 sponsoring organizations. Groups do polls all the time. Steven Cohen does a similar poll for AJC & the results are remarkably similar to these (I’ve written a post about them which you can find here). Do you doubt those results as well.

    I don’t believe the ZOA produced any national polls of American Jewish opinion. I’ve never heard of such a poll & I read all the Jewish media I can find. If you have a link pls. provide it as I’d like to see the results.

    People who commission polls usually want a particular outcome and the pollster supplies this.

    Bad pollsters supply results the commissioning group wants. But they don’t last & don’t get more business. The pollsters that last are the ones who are honest. There are many ways to skew results toward what you want to see. That’s why I examined the full poll results AND the questions asked. Except for one question which I thought was a bit leading, the rest were straightforward.

    How does Zogby define a “Jew” and how does he find the Jews to poll? Does he get lists of synagogue members? Doubtful that synagogues would give lists of their membership to an Arab organization.

    Why don’t you read the full poll results which I’ve linked to above before doubting the results & methodology? Also, if you were being fair you’d do some research yrself on these subjects before questioning the results. Why don’t you call Americans for Peace Now & ask them how they got the information to poll the Jewish respondents? I don’t know why you say an Arab organization got the Jews to interview. You do realize that APN was the Jewish partner in this exercise? And the data that pollsters use in Jewish polls is publicly available through various avenues. There’s no magic to this. And if you only relied on synagogue or Jewish organizations lists you’d be missing half of the Jewish population which isn’t affiliated.

    What does the figure that a “whopping” 94% of American Jews follow the I-A conflict closely mean?

    It means precisely what it says it means. People were asked whether they follow the conflict closely & they said “Yes” (or No). The respondent defined the terms themselves. You’re really reaching for straws here to discredit this poll. And if you have so many questions you need to answer them yourself through yr own independent research which you may report back here if you’d like.

    How many of those polled even know what the word “settlement” means in the context that you and I are using here?

    That’s a rather peculiar statement. You don’t think that American Jews know what a Jewish settlement is? I think you give them too little credit. If you’re trying to say that American Jews might not know the subtle distinctions involved in the I-P conflict that may be true. But they’re aware of the major issues & settlements is one.

    How many have ever visited a settlement or know people who live in one?

    Are you saying that anyone who has an opinion on the settlements MUST visit one before having a valid opinion on the settlement issue? That too is a rather peculiar argument. It is always useful to have first hand information available in making political judgments; but it is not a necessity.

    How many American Jews know that Jews have been living continuously in Hebron for 4000 years and Gaza for over 2000 years. If you informed them of this before you asked the question about their attitude towards the settlements, you will get a different answer than if you simply pop the question on them unprepared.

    As you & I have both said, you can achieve virtually any result you wish if you shade the question too emphatically. And yr version of the question would indeed be unfair & lead precisely to the result you wish. BTW, I know the history of Biblical Jewish settlement as do most Israelis. Yet they & I both reject the settler enterprise, saying that giving up most of the West Bank for peace is a worthwhile compromise.

    I am CERTAIN that a majority, probably a large majority, of American Jews more or less support the Israeli goverment’s security policies

    That’s not the case. The vast majority of Amer. Jews support a secure Israel. But that’s not the same as supporting the Occupation or targeted assassinations or the Separation Wall or home demolition or torture and so on. If Amer. Jews were polled on these issues in detail you & I both know what the results would be. They might be willing to give Israel some leeway and the benefit of the doubt. But they wouldn’t go nearly as far as you would in supporting such policies.

    I am CERTAIN that a majority, probably a large majority, of American Jews…oppose the creation of a Palestinian state, if having such a state would be a recipe for continued attacks on Israel.

    Again, a question worded in this way would be a leading question & guaranteed to get the result you want. But it would not be a fair or professionally phrased poll question. The majority of Amer. Jews support a Pal. state, period. You don’t like the result. But those are the facts.

    AIPAC as an undemocratic group of fat-cats would equally apply to American’s for Peace Now

    There is a major diff. bet. AIPAC & APN. APN doesn’t claim to democratically represent the entire Jewish community as AIPAC does.

    American Leftists Jews have immense resources (e.g. the Hollywood Jewish crowd, for example) and they could easily set up a counter organization.

    As I wrote above, they ARE.

    The fact is that the Jewish masses in the US would not support such an organization, even if they are uncomfortable with Israeli gov’t policy.

    You are dead wrong as the new lobbying group will be far more representative of REAL Jewish opinion than the self-appointed fatcats of the Israel lobby.

  • Richard Silverstein June 6, 2007, 10:27 PM

    Akiva: You have chosen to quote 2 sources which I do not find realiable or trustworthy. Michael Totten is a journalist with a pronounced bias. He blogs for Pajamas Media owned by Roger Simon & Charles Johnson, hardline ultra-Zionist bloggers. Your video source is MEMRI which just was exposed for its false translation of a similar type of Palestinian media clip.

    But in answer to yr argument. If we don’t make peace with Assad who should we make peace with? Do you propose waiting till Syria becomes a democracy or has an exemplary ruler? Do you think the Arab governments which reached peace agreements with Israel looked upon those Israeli governments favorably? No. You have to be pragmatic about these things. If I were Palestinian I could argue thousands of points that would prove Israeli perfidy. But I would be doing myself & my people a disservice because Israel is the only partner possible. There is no other.

    Argue till you’re blue in the face about how horrible Syria or the Palestinians are. There is evidence to support yr pt of view. But convincing yrself that this means peace is impossible would again be doing yrself & Israel a deep disservice.

    I don’t see my position as “niceness.” Rather, I see it as pragmatic.

  • Akiva June 7, 2007, 8:53 AM

    Regarding Memri, don’t translate a word, just watch the video. Oh, this video link isn’t from Memri, it’s posted by a Hizbollah you-tuber.

    I’m sorry, I don’t believe your position is pragmatic, for that would require looking at the results of all the peace steps so far. More of the same, or the same in some bigger form, is not pragmatic, for what has failed to work over 10 times just isn’t practical. (And if it had worked, the right wing would be shut down completely.

    It would be hard to argue with, say, “look at Gaza, no attacks, no threats, no infiltration attempts, and smooth flowing of trade through the crossings. Now they want to open their airport, I guess we can’t say no.” and with a little international pressure, they’d step by step get an operational territory. Instead we have missile barrages for no discernible reason, constant infiltration attempts (some successful with kidnappings and murder), multiple suicide attacks on the trade crossing [what the h is with that?]. Oh I know, lets open the airport, seaport, and give them an unchecked crossing to the West Bank, that makes a lot of sense given their responses so far.

    Israel has not done many of the things well, but NO step taken with the Palestinians has improved the situation, EVERY step taken has made it worse. Am I wrong?

  • Richard Silverstein June 7, 2007, 10:58 AM

    what has failed to work over 10 times just isn’t practical.

    I don’t know what you’re referring to.

    Of course there are attacks in Gaza. That’s because there is a brutal Occupation. End the Occupation, return to 67 borders & there will be no attacks. It’s really quite simple & this is in the end what will end up happening though you might not wish it so. The only question is how long it takes to get there & how many more Israelis & Palestinians have to die before we do.

    we have missile barrages for no discernible reason

    You’re looking at proximate causes when you should be focussing on ultimate causes i.e. the Occupation.

    NO step taken with the Palestinians has improved the situation

    What steps has Israel taken to improve the situation??

  • Akiva June 8, 2007, 5:57 AM

    Allowing import of the PLO. Turning over local administration of over 90% of towns, villages, and population centers. Moving Jewish traffic that passed through or abutted towns (a damned if you do or don’t situation, complaints as provocation because it was there, complaints of land grabs for the new road). Turning over regional administrative control. Turning over control of local water resources. Allowing designation of police force, arming of police force, increase in police force, increase in police force, increase in police force, increased arming, upgrading of arms, providing the arms! Paying the “PLO” a huge monthly stipend (under the guise of remitting taxes collected from PA workers). Joint security patrols to reduce spot conflicts.

    Evacuating Gaza, turning over fully prepared Gazan industry, preparing and opening wide trade checkpoints,

    You will probably note that many of these things aren’t happening anymore, such as joint security patrols which ended after 2 Jews were killed by their PA patrol partners. And the trade checkpoints, which have been suicide bombed over 5 times.

  • Richard Silverstein June 8, 2007, 10:28 AM

    Gazans hardly have any control over their lives. YOu say Israel turned over control of local water resources? Yet Israel refuses to allow Gaza to maintain those water resources and the result was a sewage overflow that killed a Gazan in a torrential overflow.

    Let us say that when the Venetians created the first Jewish ghetto in the 16th century the they gave internal control of said ghetto to the Jewish residents. Would we still claim that Jews actually had control over the most important aspects of their lives? Every aspect of their lives that related to the external world would be controlled by those outside the ghetto. Is that true freedom? No.

    The “huge monthly stipend” you complain about is nothing of the sort. It is VAT taxes paid by Palestinians to Israeli companies to which Israel has absolutely no right. It withholds these funds illegally & against international agreements it has signed. These funds are Palestinian, not Israeli.

    Does the fact that there have been suicide bombings at border crossings justify closing these crossing virtually permanently except for intermittent, short-lived exceptions?