The Jewish Electorate Institute (JEI) is a Democratic-leaning poll which regularly measures American Jewish views on critical political issues. Though the poll questions clearly skew Democratic and highlight findings favorable to the Party, the results (click through slideshow graphs above) highlight important trends in the thinking of American Jews.
The latest poll shows that:
- Only 7% of Jews say Israel is their top priority among issues facing America. This finding places Israel 10th out of 11 priorities.
- When asked whether right-wing or left-wing anti-Semitism was more dangerous, 61% said right-wing anti-Semitism was more dangerous and 24% said left-wing anti-Semitism was more dangerous
- 39% say they have either little or no emotional attachment to Israel
- Of those who said Israel was not their biggest priority 73% said “other issues affect my life more directly.”
- 68% support renewing the Iran nuclear deal
The low priority Jews attach to Israel flies in the face of the agenda of the Israel Lobby. It gives the lie to its claim to represent American Jewry in any real sense. It indicates how completely out of touch the Lobby, powerful though it is, is from rank-and-file Jews. It is a creature funded by right-wing wealthy male Jews who have no clue what the average Jew thinks, nor do they care. It’s important to remember that their agenda is not ours.
Concerning the Iran nuclear deal: this represents yet another radical disconnect between American Jews and the Israel Lobby. The latter is doing Israel’s bidding because it vehemently opposes an agreement. The Lobby claims proudly that there is no distinction between being pro-Israel and pro-American. But indeed there is a huge distinction. If you oppose the JCPOA, you oppose American Jews. Thus, the Lobby is inimical to American Jewish interests, precisely because it places Israeli interests higher.
Regarding anti-Semitism, studies and media reporting confirm that right-wing anti-Semitism is both more dangerous and lethal than left-wing anti-Semitism. The notion that left-wing anti-Semitism poses any danger to Jews is an invention of the Israel Lobby and Israel itself. It is part of an effort to link criticism of Israel, often identified with the left, with anti-Semitism. The campaign to impose the IHRA faux-definition of anti-Semitism on the world is part of parcel of this phenomenon. Those who, in the poll, said left-wing anti-Semitism is more dangerous have bought into the Lobby’s agenda.
The campaign to eliminate “anti-Semitism”
An aside: this poll consistently uses the term “antisemitism” rather than the traditional “anti-Semitism.” The Israel Lobby and figures like Deborah Lipstadt have championed this, because they seek to sever any connection between Jews and “Semites,” that is, Arabs and Muslims. Her argument reeks of Islamophobia:
“Why do I spell antisemitism without a hyphen?” she asked. “Because anti-Semitism is not hatred of Semitism or Semites – people who speak Semitic languages.
Noted Holocaust historian, Yehuda Bauer, went one step further and implicitly denied any connection between Jews and other Semitic peoples:
“Anti-Semitism is altogether an absurd construction, since there is no such thing as ‘Semitism’ to which it might be opposed.”
In fact, Semitism is an extension of the term Semitic. Any attempt to argue otherwise contradicts the actual historical record. Jews are Semites. Their language is directly related to other Semitic langauges. Ancient Israel itself existed within a region of fellow Semitic peoples. Jews are not unique in this sense. Nor is anti-Semitism unique. Many other peoples have faced genocides similar to the one Jews faced. Many others experience hatred and violence similar to what Jews continue to face. We are not alone. We are part of the Semitic peoples and the human race.
There certainly is room to seprate terms used denoting hatred of Jews from those used to denote hatred of other specific peoples or religions (i.e. Islamophia, Christophobia, xenophobia, etc.). But not the way they are going about it.
The IHRA itself also argues that the term anti-Semitism reeks of Nazism:
The IHRA explains in its position statement that “the hyphenated spelling allows for the possibility of something called ‘Semitism,’ which not only legitimizes a form of pseudo-scientific racial classification that was thoroughly discredited by association with Nazi ideology
This argument ignores the fact that a German anti-Semite devised the term to begin with. Thus, if you truly want to sever the term from its past, you should invent an entirely new term or break out an old one, such as Jew-hatred. But these advocates know that ‘anti-Semitism’ is a word in such common usage that any attempt to banish it would fail. So instead, they attempt a sleight of hand, based on ridiculous claims that it will somehow set Jew-hatred on a more correct path.
Lipstadt and IHRA adherents seek to deny that other Semitic peoples face the same discrimination and oppression as Jews. Further, they seek to singularize anti-Semitism as uniquely Jewish; and to further the claim that Jews face more virulent hate than other groups, especially Muslims and Arabs. Even more ludicrous is the view that eliminating the hyphen, while maintaining the word “Semitism” in the term, will somehow elide or disguise the fact that Jews are Semites.
Many major media outlets like the NY Times, AP and others have adopted the invented term. I reject it because it plays into a pro-Israel agenda.
Growing minority believes Israel is apartheid state, commits genocide
Past JEI polls found that 58% of Jews believe the US should give the same amount of aid to Palestinians that it gives to Israel. This flies in the face of efforts by the Israel Lobby both to increase funding for Israel and block funding for Palestinians. Again, it indicates that the Lobby is deeply out of touch with Amerian Jewish attidues. American Jews may be sympathetic to Israel, but they are also sympathetic to Palestinians and want parity in those funding priorities. This would also mean a massive increase in aid to Palestine, and a radical shift in current funding priorities. Bernie Sanders, who has advocated cutting US aid to Israel for settlements, should also incorporate these new findings into his political message.
20% support a one-state solution. Though I have not examined past polls on this question, this is a significant number and will rise over time as Jews increasingly realize the two-state solution is a dead letter.
22% believe Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians. Despite this being a minority, it is an astonishing figure. It shows that an increasing number of Jews have adopted the hitherto radical notion that Israel’s longstanding policies of violence, murder, and theft fit the definition of genocide (I’ve written about this here). It also indicates this view is gaining traction.
25% believe Israel is an apartheid state (I wrote about this for Jacobin Magazine). This number has undoubtedly been influenced by the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and B’Tselem reports, that find Israel is an apartheid state from “the river to the sea” (both Israel itself and the Occupied Territories). This number too will surely climb as Israel’s policies reinforce this connection.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.