5 thoughts on “J Street Poll: American Jews Believe Gaza War Failed, Support Hamas in Palestinian Government – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. Thanks very much for this piece Richard.

    The J Street poll is interesting. From my reading of the results there is remarkably little change in opinion from the July polling. I would have expected the Gaza atrocities to have had a greater effect. Perhaps that was a little over optimistic of me. However, I am quite certain that the grip the Israel lobby has hitherto exercised on the media has weakened considerably. The traditional media is a little less myopic and its objectivity discredited after the Iraq debacle. There are other sources where its lack of balance is challenged (which of course further discredits it). Clearly those changes will take longer to have their effect than I might have hoped. My sense is that the atrocities have had a much more pronounced effect on European public opinion.

    Insofar as I can make sense of it, the poll seems to indicate that a solid majority of American Jews are behind Israel, although there is growing discomfort with the effects of Israeli policies. People seem to have great difficulty making the distinction; in realising that it is possible to support Israel without supporting what it is doing. Indeed, that the best way to ensure Israel’s future is to oppose what it is doing. There also seems to be a not insubstantial group who are definitely opposed to the present policies.

    Given the apparent conflict between answers to different questions I would say there is a lot of scope for a more balanced picture to substantially shift opinion. It is remarkable just how opposed American Jews seem to be to a lot of the specifics of Israeli policy, whilst seemingly unable to withdraw support for it. I read something a while ago about the social and cultural impact of Dutch opposition to Apartheid. Obviously American Jews have a long way to go in emulating them, but I see grounds for optimism in the surveys.

    From Steven Zunes report in Foreign Policy Congressional Democrats seem determined to hamstring the administration and to facilitate the Israeli policies designed to forestall any Palestinian “peace offensive”. It is remarkable how closely they have aligned themselves behind such a right wing and reactionary Israeli administration. Given this background there is absolutely zero chance of reaching any enduring settlement in the near future, which in turn means that by the time a settlement can be reached a two state solution will not be viable. The obstacle to the US playing a constructive role is Congressional opposition, not Executive reticence.

    It is frequently asserted that Israel is ‘colonising’ the West Bank. This is inaccurate. Colonisation is what they were doing up to the fall of the Iron Curtain. Since then the influx of new labour has enabled them to squeeze Palestinians (from the OPT) out of the Israeli economy or any other meaningful contact with Israelis. On top of this Israel is effectively preventing trade and development. What is being done now is the slow but relentless segregation and asphyxiation of Palestinians, not exploitation of them. Of course Israel is seizing as much territory as possible as quickly as possible, effectively expelling Palestinians as they go, but they are not ‘colonising’ in the traditional sense.

    I have absolute confidence in George Mitchell’s integrity as an honest broker. However, I think he is going to very quickly run into the same problems as last time, and as Tony Blair has more recently. The US is not an honest broker, or anything even vaguely approaching it. In practice it is fiercely partisan, and as long as that remains the case it will be an insurmountable obstacle to peace, not a facilitator of it. Tony Blair bought his role by shackling European policy to that of the United States. I am sure he was sincere in believing he could bring significant improvements in the conditions of Palestinians, but he has not and is not going to. The best way for Europeans to enhance Palestinian prospects now is to unyoke themselves from US policy. The European Parliament was pretty restive even before the Gaza atrocities. Israel has made a mockery of the human rights conditions of its EU association agreement. It is going to be much harder now for European bureaucrats like Javier Solana to sustain what has become an American, rather than a European policy. The worst thing that could possibly happen is the imposition of a Vichy regime on Palestinians, as was attempted by Bush and Rice and forestalled by Hamas’ takeover in Gaza. It might force quiescence in the short term, but at the cost of a much more explosive conflict later.

    1. Very wise words. I do hope the EU goes its own way esp. if Obama can’t muster the will or suasion to move U.S. policy in the right direction.

      From my reading of the results there is remarkably little change in opinion from the July polling.

      Actually, there is a rise of 4% or so regarding issues related to treatment of the Gazans, lifting the siege, and openness to talking to a Palestinian gov’t including Hamas. It’s not an earth-shattering change, but is noteworthy nonetheless.

      1. I completely agree, 4% might not sound much especially given the sample size but it is a very hopeful sign.

        I’m glad of the survey. It is good to have a concrete measure of opinion, even more so that there is enough consistency between the two to measure shifts in opinion. I hope they maintain this in future.

  2. Richard, the 4 percentage point rise you mention in your reply to Miles is well within the claimed 4.9% ‘margin of error’ for split sample questions like those, so probably not significant.

    When asked whether they ‘approve or disapprove of the way the Israeli government has handled the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon?’, 55% approved. (AJC 2006 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion http://www.ajc.org/site/apps/nl/content2.asp?c=ijITI2PHKoG&b=2174431&ct=3152887)

    My analysis of the poll results: http://bureauofcounterpropaganda.blogspot.com/2009/04/across-potomac.html

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