The results of the AJC’s 2009 annual survey of American Jewish political opinion (full survey) are a mixed bag that shows Jews to be eminently pragmatic on some issues and living in a fantasy world on others. In terms of fantasy land, 81% believe that U.S. relations with Israel are positive. This in the midst of one of the most friction-filled periods in bilateral relations in a decade or more. 59% approve of Bibi Netanyahu’s approach to relations with the U.S. This is the guy who’s stone-walling the American president on a settlement freeze and unwilling to enter into final status negotiations with the Palestinians, all policies advocated by the U.S. president. While 54% of American Jews approve of Obama’s approach to Israel, only 41% approve of the centerpiece of his policy toward Israel, a settlement freeze. I don’t know whether that means Jews are schizoid or refuse to understand clearly the issues.
I note that the survey question about the freeze mischaracterizes U.S. policy, as it asks whether respondents agree with U.S. policy which calls for stopping “new” construction. In reality, our government’s policy calls for stopping ALL construction whether new or existing. It is the Israelis who have proposed only stopping new construction and this issue has not yet been agreed upon mutually.
According to the survey, 58% believe Jerusalem should not be shared with the Palestinians, which of course would mean that there could be no peace agreement. 75% of Jews believe the wacky, racist and inaccurate claim that Palestinians ultimate goal is to destroy Israel. This to me indicates that the propaganda of Israel lobby groups like ZOA and even the AJC itself can be quite effective in distorting the Palestinian reality: polls of Palestinian opinion and statements by most Palestinian leaders totally disprove this statement.
Nearly 80% of Jews believe Israel can never come to an agreement with a Hamas-led government. Which flies in the face of a much more pragmatic approach by Israelis who believe, according to polls, that their government should sit down and talk to Hamas (even though they recognize it is an implacable foe of Israel).
In light of current world affairs, most troubling are the results approving a military attack on Iran: 56% approve a U.S. attack and 66% support an Israeli attack. In this, of course, American Jews have drunk the Kool-Aid offered by the Israel lobby and Israeli government, which has orchestrated an effective full-court press in this country to portray Iran as a nation composed of mad mullahs gunning not just for Israel, but the entire Jewish people (Bibi expressed precisely this claim). This result points out how much work Jewish progressives have to do on this issue.
Which is why a coalition of local Jewish, Iranian-American and peace groups will be hosting a conference in December here in Seattle presenting a pragmatic approach to resolving the U.S.-Israel-Iran conflict. I’m eager to enlist financial support from readers and anyone else interested in preventing military conflict in the Middle East. Please consider a donation (via the Paypal button) to defray the costs of the conference if you haven’t already done so.
One question was thrown in as a sop to Bibi Netanyahu, as it’s one of his signature conditions used against the Palestinians whenever he wants to shirk his responsibility to negotiate. It asks whether Palestinians should be required to recognize Israel as a Jewish state as part of a final peace agreement. This of course is an entirely irrelevant issue since no Palestinian government will ever recognize Israel as a JEWISH state (as opposed to recognizing it as a state, which it will be required to do). 94% agree with this condition, which indicates how completely out of touch the respondents are with Palestinians, and even Israel itself.
By this I mean that American Jews don’t seem to understand what the nature of a Jewish state is. They seem to think it’s akin to motherhood and apple pie. They have no idea what implications this has for the relationship between Israeli Jews and its Palestinian-Arab citizens. I would love to see a question in a future poll asking if there was a conflict between Israel being a democracy or a state in which Jewish religion and values predominate, which one would they prefer. That answer would be instructive.
There were, of course, reassuring responses to polling questions which should be noted. 54% approve of the president’s handling of relations with Israel. A plurality of 49% continues to favor a two-state solution. 60% believe that Israel should dismantle some or all of the settlements in return for peace. 49% approve of Obama’s handling of relations with Iran. These are of course, important results which shouldn’t be minimized.
Fully 30% of Jews feel either fairly or very distant to Israel. In the light of the Gaza war last January, I’d have thought the number would’ve inched up, but it didn’t.