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Monday, November 01, 2010

Fact-free debate

An outrageous article in Haaretz (where else) from Hebrew University Political Science professor Gabi Sheffer.
According to polls not cited in Israel, most Jews who have completely integrated into American society display total apathy for events that unfold in Israel. Only 30 percent of American Jews care deeply about what happens here.

Most Jews who do care clearly support a solution involving two states for two peoples. What's more, an increasing number of Jews back the division of Jerusalem and turning half of it into the capital of Palestine (not only Jews in the United States, but also in Canada, France, Britain and even Australia, which was considered the Diaspora group most closely tied to Israel ).

Not only are more and more individual Jews coming to hold such views, but the number of organizations pushing these positions is also growing. J Street, which has come under harsh criticism from the Israeli political establishment, is not the only group with such a stance. Many people in the Reform Jewish community support its views, and similar organizations are being established, and not only in the United States.

It can be cautiously stated that many Diaspora Jews do not support the policy of the Israeli government. Put more bluntly, they oppose most aspects of Israeli government policy, not only in the political-military sphere, but in many other areas, including policy connected to defining the national Jewish-Israeli identity. Undoubtedly, more than half of American Jews who identify as such will not support a religious definition of the Jewish nation and the State of Israel.

In terms of American Jews' attitude toward the Obama administration, it is vital to understand that few of them will stop supporting their president solely because of his positions on the Middle East peace process. The positions of a great many American Jews are and will be determined by the social, political and economic situation in the United States, since American Jews feel they are an integral part of the country in which they live.
Shmuel Rosner does a nice job of ripping Sheffer some new body parts here.

I would add to what Shmuel wrote that most of the criticism of J Street has come from the United States - both within and without the Jewish community - and not from the Israeli political establishment (unless Sheffer is defining Lenny Ben David as being the Israeli political establishment). Eli Lake, Noah Pollak and many other J Street critics all live in the US.

I also don't know where Sheffer gets the idea that most American Jews oppose Israeli government policies. In every survey I have seen, Prime Minister Netanyahu has higher approval ratings than President Obama among American Jews. In fact, if anything, most American Jews are more hawkish about Israel than the current Israeli government.
Less than half of American Jews favor (48%), while 45% oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state.

· Contrary to the Obama Administration, a majority of 60% of American Jews support a united Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, while only 35% say Israel should compromise on the city’s status in the framework of a permanent peace with the Palestinians.

· Less than half (49%) of American Jews approve, while 45% disapprove, of the Obama Administration’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations, signaling a drop from the March 2010 AJC Survey in which 55% approved and 37% percent disapproved. (In AJC’s 2009 survey, 54% approved, and 32% disapproved).

· More Jews disapprove (46%) than approve (43%) of the Obama Administration’s handling of the Iran nuclear issue, Only a minority of 43% of American Jews approves of the Obama administration’s handling of the Iran nuclear issue, while 46% disapprove, a drop in approval from the March 2010 AJC survey, in which 47% approved and 42% disapproved. (In 2009, 49% approved and 35% disapproved).

· Among U.S. Jews, 72% believe there is “little” or “no” chance that a combination of diplomacy and sanctions can stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, while only 23% believe these approaches could work. In March 2010, 68% said there was “little” or “no” chance, and 32% said there is a chance they will succeed.

· Support for the military option again Iran, if sanctions and diplomacy fail, continues to rise, with 59% supporting, and 35% opposing, U.S. military action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. In March 2010, 53% and 42% opposed possible American military action.
But as Rosner points out, Sheffer ignores those facts. Read the whole thing.


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