The new J Street poll has some fascinating findings re the complexity of Jewish attitudes re Israel.
First the good news. 60 percent of American Jews are against expanding the settlements and the same number say the Gaza war didn't gain anything. When you break out the subgroup of "political donors," i.e., influential Jews, the number who oppose settlement expansion rises to 72 percent. Jews are well-informed. Avigdor Lieberman has a shocking 62 percent name recognition–I think he could give Jon Stewart a run for his money–and
about 1/3 say that Lieberman having a cabinet portfolio would weaken
their personal connection to Israel. As I noted earlier, 40 percent of those under 30 say that Lieberman in the cabinet would weaken their connection to Israel.
These Jews are for peace. 72 percent are for the U.S. putting pressure on Israel and the Palestinians to bring about a peace. 69 percent are for the U.S. talking to a unity government that includes Hamas. 76 percent are for a peace deal along the Clinton parameters.
So far so good. J Street's doing good work, and it can work with those numbers. (Richard Silverstein echoes my view here.)
But the poll also underscores my feeling that we're not going to make progress till we form a coalition that includes Jews and non-Jews. There's evidence of some obdurate attitudes among J Street's Jews. Look at my headline. It's just "settlement expansion." A good start, but we're not talking about occupation. Or consider Gaza. Yes, 60 percent said Gaza gained nothing. But most of that number are people who said the slaughter had "no impact" on Israel's security. If you compare those Jews who think Gaza helped Israel's security to those who say it hurt Israel's security, the hardliners win 41 to 18 percent. That's what we're up against: 41 percent who approve a massacre.
Consider, too, that 75 percent of American Jews approved of Israel going in there. Well by 45 to 29, American Democrats were against Israel's actions. That's a real cleavage between Jewish American attitudes and progressive attitudes. Today on the phone pollster Jim Gerstein said that Jews are still "progressive Democrats." I don't know, Jim. Jews really separate from the progressive family on this issue.
Why do they? Based on the data, I'd say because Jews make an identification with Israel out of concerns about anti-Semitism, that's why. More than half of Jews haven't even been to Israel (54 percent), but when the polled were asked about why they feel a connection to the place, 35 percent said it is because "I'm Jewish and Israel is the Jewish homeland." After that, because it's an American ally (31 percent), and We share their democratic values (19 percent). Only 6 percent said, I have friends and family there.
Finally, the assimilation numbers. American Jews are assimilating, notwithstanding the fears of antisemitism. My own degree of observance is extremely conventional. 58 percent are not affiliated with a synagogue or temple, and when asked about attendance at a synagogue, the largest bloc of Jews (a third) say "Hardly ever." Add up Hardly ever, never, or a few times a year: 77 percent. Jews are like other privileged people I know: religious observance just isn't that important to them.
Finally, my subset. How many Jews say "I don't support Israel"? 3 percent.