The Forward has done some excellent reporting on the degree to which the new Pew poll demonstrates that the American Jewish organizational leadership is way more supportive of Israel than the Jewish rank and file. And the leaders are defiant about that! Here is Josh Nathan-Kazis’s original report:
American Jews are far more critical of Israel than the Jewish establishment, according to the new Pew survey, but Jewish leaders say the findings won’t change their positions…
“You know who the Jewish establishment represents? Those who care,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League…
According to Steve Bayme, , director of the Contemporary Jewish Life Department at the American Jewish Committee, [the numbers suggest that most Jews] know less about the peace process.
“Those who are most involved in Jewish life are also most knowledgeable, and therefore I tend to think their opinion more closely parallels the opinion of the organized Jewish community,” said Bayme. “Those not involved… they are the ones who are going to be viewing these issues from a lack of adequate knowledge base.”…
In response to nearly all of Pew’s questions about Israel, young Jews were more likely to be critical of Israel and less likely to feel attached to Israel. A quarter of Jews aged 18 to 29 believe that the U.S. is too supportive of Israel, according to Pew.
Nathan-Kazis then followed up with a sharply-critical report showing that Jewish leaders are not democratically-selected.
Who chooses who leads? Mostly wealthy donors and local activists. Below, I identified the electors who picked six of the men heading the core Jewish establishment advocacy groups….
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
Who hired him: The Conference of Presidents didn’t get back to me when I asked how they pick their top professional leader. Maybe they’ve forgotten — there’s been no change in the executive suite there for almost 30 years. I assume that Hoenlein was chosen by the Conference’s member organizations.
Who’s that?: There are 50 organizations that belong to the Conference, some of them more “major” than others. The American Jewish Committee and AIPAC belong to the Conference, massive groups that spend tens of millions a year. So does the America-Israel Friendship League, which got just $750,000 in contributions in 2011.
Who hired him: The ADL didn’t answer my question on this, either. I assume that the national director is chosen by the group’s national commission, though, again, that hasn’t happened in nearly 30 years.
Who’s that?: The national commission’s current chair is Barry Curtiss-Lusher, CEO of Nexus Resources, an oil and gas exploration firm. Other members, as of the group’s last tax filing, include former Conference of Presidents chair Kenneth Bialkin and current Conference of Presidents chair Robert Sugarman.
Go to the link to see the rapsheet on David Harris of the American Jewish Committee (in office 23 years, since corporate bosses helped choose him) and Howard Kohr of AIPAC. American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
The lack of democracy is highly relevant to Mid East politics. Nathan-Kazis reports:
When Secretary of State John Kerry asked American Jews to help push the Israelis to agree to enter negotiations with the Palestinians last June, American Jewish leaders balked.
Only a handful of left-wing groups advocated on Kerry’s behalf. The rest demurred, telling the Forward that it wasn’t the Israelis who needed to be pushed to the table, and that the onus lies entirely on the Palestinians.
American Jews don’t seem to share that view. According to the Pew survey, only 38% of all U.S. Jews believe that the Israeli government is making a “sincere effort” to come to a peace settlement. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, that number is even lower, at just 26%.