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8415U.S. Jewish Community Still Hawkish on Israel

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  • World View
    Jan 1, 2008
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      U.S. Jewish Community Still Hawkish on Israel
      http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/?p=86


      I wish I could take as much comfort in the results of the American
      Jewish Committee's (AJC) 2007 Annual Survey of American Jewish opinion
      as Glenn Greenwald, but, unfortunately, I considered some of the
      findings quite disappointing, particularly when viewed in the context
      of the AJC's previous polling.

      In his article in `Salon' yesterday, Greenwald argued that the poll
      results demonstrated how unrepresentative neo-conservative groups are
      of the U.S. Jewish community as a whole. (I wrote a news article about
      the poll yesterday, which you can find here.) I don't disagree with
      him in general terms, as well as his main conclusion — that a
      relatively small minority of U.S. Jews hold neo-conservative views.

      Particularly notable, of course, was the lack of support among
      American Jews for U.S. military action against Iran `'to prevent it
      from developing nuclear weapons." Only 35 percent of respondents said
      they would support such action, while 57 percent said they would
      oppose it. What Greenwald neglected to note is the remarkable erosion
      in support for military action against Iran over the last two years.
      In the `06 survey, the margin was 38-54; and in the `05 survey, a
      plurality of 49 percent of respondents said they supported an attack
      to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons, compared to only 46
      percent who opposed it. And, remember, the latest poll was carried out
      in November, before publication of the NIE last week.

      Of course, Greenwald is also right to point out Jewish disillusionment
      with the decision to go to war in Iraq (67 percent said Washington
      should have stayed out, as opposed to 27 percent who said it was the
      right thing to do), as well as its pessimism over how things will turn
      out there (despite the ongoing best and expensive efforts of the
      Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) leaders who are behind Freedom's
      Watch). This, too, represents a remarkable erosion of support —
      although not so different from the American public as a whole — for
      the Iraq adventure, particularly when you consider that 59 percent of
      respondents in the `02 AJC poll supported an attack on Iran.

      That said, there are still some very disturbing findings in the most
      recent poll that suggest that neo-conservatives have made some gains
      in framing how many Jews see the Middle East and recent events there.

      One particularly remarkable result, for example, is how much U.S. Jews
      have bought into the "clash of civilizations" frame which
      neo-conservatives have worked so fervently to propagate since 9/11 and
      before. Sixty-three percent of respondents said they agreed "with
      those who claim that the West and the Muslim world are engaged in a
      clash of civilizations." Only 26 percent said they disagreed. Last
      year's survey found a 64-29 percent split, so this year's result
      wasn't just some blip. (Unfortunately, the question had not been asked
      before, although it's worth noting in a BBC-PIPA poll taken one year
      ago 49 percent of U.S. respondents said they viewed the cause of
      tensions between the Islamic world and the West more about "political
      power and interests" than "differences of religion and culture" (29
      percent) — a stand-in for the "clash of civilizations" thesis.)
      Sixty-eight percent of respondents in the latest poll also said they
      considered anti-Semitism in the Muslim world to be a "very serious
      problem," although that was down from a high of 77 percent in the `03
      survey.

      As for prospects for peace, U.S. Jews, as Greenwald himself notes in
      passing, seem ever more sceptical about a two-state solution.
      Respondents were were asked if, "in the current situation, do you
      favor or oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state?" A bare
      plurality of 46 percent in the most recent poll said they favored it,
      versus 43 percent who said they were opposed. Despite intensified pace
      of bilateral exchanges this fall between Olmert and Abbas, this was
      the lowest level of support for a Palestinian state since the question
      was first asked in 2001! In 2006, 54 percent of respondents said they
      supported a Palestinian state against 38 percent who opposed. In 2005,
      the margin was 56-38; in 2004, 57-37; in 2003, 54-41; in 2002 (the
      year in which the second intifada reached its height), 49-47; and in
      2001 (after the collapse of Camp David), it was 53-49. Thus, at the
      moment when peace efforts are most in need of support, particularly
      from the U.S. Jewish community, American Jews are least supporting of
      the establishment of a Palestinian state.

      Even more gratifying to U.S. Likudists are the latest responses to the
      question, "In the framework of a permanent peace with the
      Palestinians, should Israel be willing to compromise on the status of
      Jerusalem as a united city under Israeli jurisdiction?" Here again,
      support for such an outcome is the lowest since the question was first
      asked in AJC's 2000 survey. While a majority of AJC's respondents have
      always opposed such a concession, that majority reached 58 percent
      this year, compared to only 36 percent who supported such a move. Last
      year, the margin was 52-40; in 2004, it was 53-42; in 2003, 54-42; in
      2002, 55-41; in 2001, 50-44; and in 2000, just after Camp David, 57-36
      — roughly the same as today.

      Finally, the answers to this question — "Do you agree or disagree with
      the following statement? `The goal of the Arabs is not the return of
      occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel'" — are
      demoralizing, to say the least. In the latest poll, 82 percent agreed
      with the statement; only 12 percent disagreed — a finding that is more
      or less consistent with findings since 2002 but quite a remarkable
      increase from 2001, when the margin was 73-23, and 2000, when it was
      69-23. The fact that distrust of the Arabs has remained so high over
      such a relatively long period of time (despite the Arab League
      Initiative and Condi's efforts to sell an Israeli-Arab strategic
      consensus against Iran) marks a real triumph of neo-conservative thought.

      One might add that, given the high identification of the survey's
      respondents with the Democratic Party, this profound and sustained
      distrust by U.S. Jews of Palestinians and Arabs, as well as their
      opposition to territorial concessions in Jerusalem, is clearly
      bipartisan and bodes ill for peace efforts even under a Democratic
      administration.

      Still, Greenwald is right to stress that most U.S. Jews are focused in
      this political season much more on domestic issues than on Middle East
      politics. And there is one other interesting finding noted by
      Greenwald — that 69 percent of respondents agreed with the statement,
      "Caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew."

      While that's an impressive number, it is significantly less than the
      80 percent who agreed with that statement in the 2000 survey.
      Moreover, 28 percent of respondents disagreed with that statement,
      compared to 19 percent as recently as in the 2005 survey. That
      decrease must be cause for real concern to the leadership of the
      so-called "Israel Lobby."

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