The new alternative Jewish lobby is proving its worth. Yesterday J Street released a detailed survey of American Jewish political opinion. J Street interprets this data in a favorable way to its own efforts, saying that overwhelmingly Jews vote Democratic, oppose Bush’s actions in the Middle East, and want a two-state solution– by 3 to 1. But you know me, I’m skeptical about progressive claims about Jewish opinion with respect to the Middle East, and I find support here. What the study shows is that when you get to brass tacks about Israel, American Jews are hawkish.
Yes, they have an unfavorable view of Joe Lieberman (by 48 to 37 favorable). Yes they will support Obama (but only 60-34 over McCain; bad news for Obama, who wants to get to 70 or 80). Yes they are for talking to Iran, not attacking it (Great!). Yes they are for an aggressive U.S. peacemaking role in the Middle East. Yes they call for sacrifices by Israel to achieve peace. Yes they disavow the neocons! Memo to Doug Feith: 13 percent of American Jews have a favorable view of neocons, 58 percent an unfavorable view, man you are in deep doo-doo. But under that is a hard core of hawkishness.
Consider these data points. By 60-28 Jews are more-likely-than-less likely to support a candidate who says that Israel is America’s greatest ally and we must let the world know that and we must never publicly disagree with Israel. When you make the statement more hawkish–America must do everything it can to protect Israel’s security, even if that means attacking Iran if it pursues nuclear weapons, and cutting off aid to Palestinians if their text books don’t recognize Israel, there is still a 48 more-likely to 41 less-likely split. Jews are tough when it comes to Israel! If a candidate were to say, Israel has repeatedly extended her hand to her enemies and been rejected year after year, and we must work with Israel to eliminate her enemies, Jews will love you– 65/23.
Oh and sadly, there is only one question in the survey expressing the mildest empathy for Palestinian suffering. J Street can’t really go there.
The same hawkishness shows up in attitudes about a peace deal. J Street didn’t really put this data out in its public statements, and I know why: they’re obdurate attitudes. Should Israel give up “most of the West Bank and dismantle many of the Israeli settlements” for a full peace–59/41 in favor. Well, that language is very weak–”Most of the West Bank”, “many of the settlements”–and still you have 41 percent against it! The same obduracy with respect to Jerusalem. Should Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem be “part of the new Palestinian state” –very vague language indeed, and no mention of the Old City–American Jews are against that 56 to 44 percent! Just what the far-more-conservative American Jewish Committee said in its survey a little while ago. The U.S. should tell Israel to “end settlement expansion.” Yes, 52. No, 48. No wonder Bush and Obama are afraid of their own shadows on the issue.
Oh, how many American Jews who express these hawkish attitudes have been to Israel? 42 percent. 3 out of 5 have never been.
The figures demonstrate the difficulty J Street is in. Even AIPAC gets favorable ratings here (by about 2 to 1) because it backs a hawkish program for Israel. So J Street can’t be too dovish. It will not get numbers. As I have written before, J Street is here to lobby the lobby. To put pressure on AIPAC from the left. Good for J Street! And J Street is trying to grow the differences with AIPAC, by hammering away in this survey on how much Jews dislike Rev. John Hagee of the Christian Zionists, AIPAC’s buddy.
Hagee is window dressing. The real issues are Jerusalem and the West Bank, and J Street reveals: obduracy. Compare those Jewish numbers to American attitudes generally. If all Americans knew, they’d be overwhelmingly against the settlements, and for an international Jerusalem. Which U.N. Partition called for in ’47. These numbers show why J Street buttoned its lip when Obama shamelessly called for an undivided Jerusalem at AIPAC last month. J Street knows, Jews are behind Obama on that one.
I think J Street is a great thing. It will move things, but it will take years. The most important data here in the end may be the age data. Jews are older than other segments of the population. 52 percent of respondents are 50 and older. Only 36 percent are under 44. It’s the young Jews I’m looking to, and J Street is too. Let those older Jews die off a little, and you may be surprised. Jerusalem may one day be internationalized. But don’t hold your breath. And before that happens, something else is going to happen: there will be open war in the American Jewish community over the meaning of Zionism. I’m counting on the kids.