14 thoughts on “AJC Survey and Jewish Schizophrenia Regarding Israeli-Palestinian Conflict – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. I’m not a Jew, but I would like to thank you for your courageous writings in support of justice and against militarism. So much anti-semitism today is the result of the ascendancy of the far-right wing in Israel and and some of its self-described U.S. supporters. I may be naive, but I think most of the anti-semitism would simply melt away if Israel made a fair peace with its neighbors. Anti-Semitism would probably not disappear for good, but it would be surely be cornered, isolated and ripe for eventual consignment to history’s dustbin.

    I think you could expand your campaign further by making common cause with non-Jews of good will. Some of these people are today on an unfortunate path. Their frustration over mideast issues — and over the harsh attacks they risk when they voice these frustrations to some Jewish acquaintances — is leading some of these people to start blaming Jews collectively. In other words, they are on a path to becoming anti-Semites. If your movement were to make common cause with these folks, they would quickly see that there is no need to adopt such views. They would instead work with you and help you to expand your movement and spread your message, and become partners with you AGAINST injustice and anti-semitism.

    Please let me know if I can assist you in any way.

  2. Richard, even though I disagree with almost everything you say, I have to say “Kol hakavod” to you for this piece. You are acknowledging the reality of the situation that most American Jews don’t agree with your position. I have an ongoing battle with MJ Rosenberg over at his blog because he refuses to admit that he represents a minority position. He keeps railing at American politicians because they see what he doesn’t see, that American Jews more or less support Israeli government policy towards the Palestinians. He attributes to AIPAC some sort of almost Satanic power to convince people of their position (which is generally coordinated with the Israeli gov’t) and he claims that this is because this is because he says that the “Right” contributes far more money to American politicians, something that I believe is debatable. American politicians know where the votes are, and the votes in the US, both Jewish and non-Jewish generally align themselves with Israeli gov’t policy.

    You are quite right that, in spite of years of Israeli gov’t propaganda in favor of establishing a Palestinian state, in addition to support from the US for this, that it is surprising that only 46% of those polled are in favor of this policy. I also think that the finding of over 80% of those polled believe the goal of the Muslim world is the eradication of Israel and not simply finding the resolution of a “border dispute” is credible and in line with Israeli public opinion as well. There is a consensus in Israel that the Palestinians do not want a peace agreement with Israel, and the disagreement (and a deep on it is) in Israel is over what to do about it…either to unilaterally withdraw and force a state on them, whether they want it or not (this is currently out of fashion, but I believe it will come back once the Annapolis process runs into its inevitable impasse over the Palestinian “right of return”) or whether the way forward is maintainance of the status-quo leading to some sort of unofficial modus vivendi which would lead to a relaxation of Israeli security operations in the Arab areas.

    My question to you is what do you attribute this to? You state that some sort of “atavistic
    Jewish impulse kicks in”. What is it that you see that most American Jews don’t see, or vice versa, what do you think they perceive that you don’t?

  3. This is an interesting essay. Thank you. I’ve been puzzling over the AJC poll and think your idea on the differences between synagogue and unaffiliated Jews interesting. I gather you’re saying that, by voting with our feet, unaffiliated Jews leave the debate field to more conservative synagogue attenders.

    My experience may be slightly different. My own sense is that there is significant interest in two-state solutions among many congregants. People I know for whom synagogue life is central sometimes fear expressing their views will isolate them.

  4. Comments on this for Richard:

    “Here Petras creates a progressive Jewish chimera which inhibits criticism of Israel within the anti-war movement:

    …Progressive liberal and radical Jewish peace activists have acted as gate-keepers in the anti-war movement — prohibiting any criticism of Israel and labeling individuals or citizen activists critical of the pro-war Zionist lobby as ‘anti-Semites’.

    It’s hard to know precisely what the author is talking about here since he doesn’t provide either evidence or context to prove his point. But clearly Petras doesn’t accept that there may be some criticism of Israel on the left that crosses the line and that is where I would differ from him.”

    And my comments are general but related. I think liberal and progressive Jews such as Richard are missing part of the equation in this. The Jewish doves don’t have any real mojo on the Isr-Pal issue because they are Jewish.

    There is a difference between how non jews and jews come at this issue. If you notice in the current food fight on Israel , gentiles and etc. question the “entire” premise of US support for Israel…while Jews, even doves, can’t bear to think of the US withdrawing any support or aid for Israel at all.

    So politicans see all “the Jews” as united in supporting Israel and only differing in how they want Israel to behave.

    And as we all know only the small portion of special interest in this country ..all special interest….that pump money to politicans hold any sway on policy and legistation.

    Gentiles on the other hand who are now questioning and ranting on Israel can cause much more of an uproar on this Israel fetish in US ME policy. For instance look at who has caused the most talk among the public about Israel…non jews such Carter, W&M, Tutu, a host of General Zinn’ s, Scott Ritters, Bamfords, Moran’s and etc…..

    I don’t think this was exactly what Petras was talking about but jews collectively “supporting Israel and only differing on how , is not as much of an impact or push back or any kind of political force against the hard core right wing zionist as non jewish gentiles and others who are raising hell about the entire ball of wax , involving special influence for foreign country by US citizens within our country…Palestine occupation , US aid to Israel, all of it.

    What this means is this…..Jews, progressive or not, only want half of the US-Isr-Pal-ME issue discussed or questioned. They can’t get any traction or real political force going because
    they don’t want to and are afraid to have the WHOLE issue of US-Isr discussed or examined for fear of what it would further stir up politically among average Americans and so on their politicans and how that might affect all of our Israel policy.

    While I have followed and contributed to the efforts of the more realistic and dovist Jews and groups to push for peace between Isr and Pal I don’t see the solution coming from strictly Jews in putting on enough pressure to end the conflict becuase of what I described. I think it has to come and is coming eventually from the wider public interest in our foreign policy mess putting pressure on congressional candidates and from the realist in our foreign policy establishment .

    Some wise chinaman said that to know a subject you must first divorce yourself from all love or hate for the subject. Given the taught or ingrained Jewish loyalty toward Israel they can’t be totally objective ,and if israel can’t be considered objectively in relation to the rest of the ME there can’t/won’t be any just and lasting solution for Israel or the region.

  5. Bar Kochba: I want to temper yr assumption about what I believe: this particular poll reflects findings that disagree with my views. Polls are ea. diff. depending on who is polled, questions asked, what news events impacted respondents opinions, etc. Polls are a snapshot of a moment in time. Take a poll a month or yr later & things could be entirely diff. I’ve read AJC national surveys with results far closer to my own political outlook. And I think Amer. Jewish opinion on this issue is fluid to a certain extent. So I don’t see the results as timeless or absolute.

    M.J. is absolutely right in saying that the pro-Israel right wing (in Israeli, thought not necessarily American terms) crowd contributes far more to political coffers than pro-peace Jews. That’s why Clinton & Giuliani’s views are so hardened vis a vis Israel.

    There is a consensus in Israel that the Palestinians do not want a peace agreement with Israel,

    Again, this attitude is more fluid than you make it out to be. Most Israelis also understand there must be some sort of peace agreement for ISRAEL’S sake, if not for the Palestinians. That’s why contrary to their government policy a plurality of Israelis favor direct negotiations with Hamas & Syria to attempt to resolve disputes. I’d call Israeli attitudes hardened but relatively pragmatic. That’s where I & Israelis disagree w. the right which sees Israeli opinion as monolithic & unchanging.

    …Either to unilaterally withdraw and force a state on them, whether they want it or not (this is currently out of fashion, but I believe it will come back once the Annapolis process runs into its inevitable impasse over the Palestinian “right of return”) or whether the way forward is maintainance of the status-quo leading to some sort of unofficial modus vivendi which would lead to a relaxation of Israeli security operations in the Arab areas.

    I totally disagree w. yr view here. First, unilateralism is a dead end as proven by Sharon’s Gaza disengagement. Second, Annapolis may not necessarily founder & the right of return may not prove its death knell. Both the Arab League and Geneva Initiative proposals provide an excellent model for how to resolve the right of return issue that will likely be adopted in a final peace agreement.

    Third, the status quo is even more of a dead end & can never lead to “relaxation of security operations.” It will lead to endless strife violence & bloodshed.

    what do you attribute this to? You state that some sort of “atavistic
    Jewish impulse kicks in”. What is it that you see that most American Jews don’t see, or vice versa, what do you think they perceive that you don’t?

    You’re a nice guy minding your own business walking down a street you’ve traveled 1,000 times before and all of a sudden you think you see in the dark shadows a raging lunatic wielding a knife. Adrenalin kicks in. You go into survival mode. You gain superhuman strength. You consider acts to defend yourself and yr loved ones you never would in a normal mode of existence.

    This is something like what happens when Jews consider Israel. Because of a 1,000 yrs of Jewish suffering when we perceive a threat we go into automatic survival mode. Our perceptions are altered. Our values are altered. Defense & survival become all important. But we don’t consider that the raging lunatic in the shadows may not really BE a raging lunatic. Maybe its just a person dressed in black who appears a threat but isn’t? Maybe it’s someone who can be reasoned with despite the possibility of threat or menace?

    The key for supporters of peace is to persuade Jews not to let those automatic adrenalin boosting responses kick in regarding Israeli survival. But rather to attempt to consider issues rationally & not to react as if one’s life depended on immediate visceral action. We need to reflect on these issues & consider them carefully rather than reacting instinctually.

  6. Daniel: I’m not claiming there are not pro-peace affiliated Jews and unaffiliated Jews who believe in attempting to change the ridgid ideological positions of the mainstream organizations and leadership. Thank God there are lots of people in both categories. But by & large the preponderance of affiliated Jews hold less progressive views & the majority of unaffiliated hold more progressive views but have less interest in lobbying for change among the mainstream groups. I think that we progressives have to try to maximize the numbers in each group & unite them on behalf of a progressive pro-peace position.

  7. Carroll,
    You ought to get out more.
    “Jews, even doves, can’t bear to think of the US withdrawing any support or aid for Israel at all.”

    More and more, Jews are questioning US support for Israel. Some of these Jews, who are apparently not in your field of vision, want to withdraw all support, some want support conditional on a civilized behavior by Israel, such as respect for the Geneva Convention.

    It is the height of ignorance to assume that because one is not conversant with something, it doesn’t exist.


  8. Ellen,

    I think my eyes are pretty wide open on this issue and stand by my description of what I said was “part” of the equation in why Jews alone can’t get more traction with congress on the peace side of Isr-Pal.

    I have been following the Isr-Pal conflict as part of the ME issue like a lot of Americans since 911 made the ME an area of interest for the public and have looked at discussions and positions of a wide range of Jews, Gentiles and particulary those in organizations who work on the US-Israel relations.

    To me Rosenberg is a good example of a dovist approach and a realist approach, who is still ardent in his basic support of Israel. I also see some Jews who are divorced from Israel emotionally and are objective but think they are still in the minority as far as being activist and contributors who could have some influence.

    I have watched the discussion on this in this country evolve over the past 6 years and a lot of it from the realist, both Jews and Gentiles, and both the right and left Israel side of Jewish organizations and indvivduals I think supports my opinion.

    In my personal experience with Jewish friends who aren’t particulary political, or pro or con Israel either way, they are, from peer pressure or conditioning, pretty much keeping their heads down and wishing the whole US Jewish Israel Palestine issue would go away.

  9. Ellen is right. There are Jews who hold a wide range of critical views on Israel. Some as she says support an end of U.S. military aid to Israel. Some pragmatic Israelis support this as well believing that Israel must stand on its own 2 feet & not depend on outsiders. That’s certainly not a moral position. But still fits yr criteria. I’m in favor of doing whatever will have a serious impact in stopping Israel’s bad behavior. That might mean divestment or boycott or reducing military aid. Mainly I want to do something that will work.

    Without Jews supporting the peace movement it doesn’t matter how many non-Jews do–it just won’t work. Contrary to Carroll’s belief we need ea. other in this project.

  10. Well Richard I can understand you and Ellens wanting to believe that the Jewish community can or will be the largest part of bringing about a settlement of the Isr-Pal issue. It is normal for responsible Jews, seeing what the neo or fanaticial wing that speaks in the name of Jews has done, to want to work against this and be the major force in righting what has gone wrong on this issue .

    But for all the reasons I described I don’t believe it will happen that way. Even if those in your camp had the money to get the ear of the politicans it would still be a long drawn out struggle against the more powerful and monied right wing groups. And I think everyone sees time running out on both Israel and Palestine..

    I am not trying to downplay the importance of Jews being involved. I am just looking at where the most pushback has come from on this and particulary lately. And I am not trying to discourage Jewish peace activist from being in this battle. I just think that bottom line the “realist” within the US interest sector who are working within the government agencies are the ones who are going to change policy regarding the Isr-Pal situtation.

    In other words I think they are going to beat the Jewish peaces orgs to the punch on Isr-Pal situtation because they are now seeing the Isr-Pal conflict as bumping up against the US interest in our ME FUBAR. Aand they are in more of a position to actually change policy.

    And I am not trying to insult anyone here but your reply and Ellens also affirms part of my contention that it is hard for Jews to be objective when looking at what is going on “overall”.
    Both your replies went straight to a defensive posture regarding Jews or the Jewish peace movement exclusively. While I am looking at the entire picture of all the various groups and interest involved in the Israel-Palestine problem , in and out of the government and in particular at current changes in US moves in the ME associated with Iraq, Iran and Israel.

    Of course it is important for liberal Jews to be involved. But being a hard core realist myself I understand that peace for Isr-Pal is most likely not going to be settled until the national interest purist in the US see it to the US’s own advantage to impose or pressure, even covertly, some kind of settlement.

    But go for it, every effort helps in the fight for some kind of peace for the region.

  11. If only a disappointingly small plurality of American Jews support the establishment of a Palestinian state now, that should not be taken as a major shift in American Jewish hopes about the future. I think the operative word is “now”. Every credible poll during the last 20 years or so has indicated that vast majority believe that Palestinians deserve a state of their own, and that a 2 state solution is the only way out of this mess. A poll is always a snapshot as a given moment in time, and this is a moment when despair and pessimism abound — with two Palestinian governments in two different territories, and a politically weak Israeli Prime Minister.

    In May, 2007, a Zogby International poll indicated that 72 percent of American Jews “strongly support” and 7 percent “somewhat” support a “peace agreement that included the establishment of an independent, secure Pal. state alongside an independent secure Israeli state, and resolved final status issues of Jersualeam, refugees and borders.” Those people have not disappeared, but in many cases, their sense that an enduring settlement can and therefore should be reached any time soon were dashed after the mini-civil war in Gaza. All this means is that fewer Jews are willing to take a leap of faith about a Palestinian state NOW because of their sense –right or wrong– of the inherent instability of such a state and the danger it would pose to Israelis.

    I don’t think anyone should over-react to the latest poll. It’s a sign of despair, not of the victory of right-wing ideology.

  12. Actually, the poll question was “in the current situation,” do you favor the establishment of t a Palestinian state?. That bolsters what I just noted aboe.

  13. Actually, the poll question was “in the current situation,” do you favor the establishment of a Palestinian state?. That bolsters what I just noted aboe.

  14. Very good pt. Dan. In fact, I had a strong sense that the way the questions were worded might’ve influenced the survey results. In this case, that’s certainly what happened. If you’d asked: “In principle, do you believe in a 2 state solution” the results would’ve been along the lines of the Zogby poll I’m convinced.

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