One quarter of American Jews express intensely critical ideas about Israel and Zionism, including that Israel is racist, colonial and apartheid. More than that, 31 percent, would vote for Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar regardless of Israel lobby smears of the two congresswomen as antisemitic. Despite the efforts of Israel lobby organizations to blame the left for antisemitism, American Jews don’t buy it: 51 percent see the right as the source of antisemitism, while only 12 percent see the left as playing an equal or greater part in promoting it.
These are the findings of a survey by a rightwing thinktank, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, titled, “American Jewry in Transition: How Attitudes Toward Israel May Be Shifting. Released in July, I only saw the poll now because J Street liked its conclusion that liberal American Jews can be pro-Israel and alienated by the rightwing Israeli government.
The most interesting discovery is that Palestinian solidarity is increasing inside the Jewish community. And as many as one fourth of the 700 American Jews the JCPA surveyed are anti-Zionist!
“Pro-Israel” liberal Jewish-Americans feel at least some sympathy for Palestinians, with overall mild-to-moderate levels of sympathy. What can be considered a distinct but possibly significant minority (which may be up to 25%) appears to hold beliefs that are intensely critical of Israel and Zionism itself, including attitudes that Zionism may be a colonial and/or racist, apartheid movement as practiced in Israel today.
Palestinian solidarity messaging has worked: “human rights” has gained traction even in the Jewish community to create “negative associations” of Israel:
The language of “human rights” by anti-Israel activists plays an important role in the cognitive assessment of Israeli policy and has worked in general to create doubt toward and legitimize questioning of Israeli policy and to reinforce some negative associations with Israel among some people.
BDS has also gotten traction in the Jewish community! Even though everyone from Barack Obama to Jonathan Greenblatt says it’s antisemitic.
In focus group “tests” of perceived sympathy and approval… When examples critical of Israel were couched in “human rights” language, such as with BDS or the Adalah Arab rights center, there was a distinct minority that identified with and expressed sympathy toward these movements (although most were not sympathetic).
These attitudes carry into voting behavior. Many Jews would vote for congresspeople the Israel lobby has smeared as antisemitic.
Despite overwhelming and robust agreement with statements indicating they would never vote for an anti-Semitic (95/100) or anti-Israel (76/100) candidate, when asked about Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, two Democratic representatives who have histories associated with arguably anti-Semitic/anti-Israel stances, we found a willingness for many in our sample to vote for them over a “moderate” and “pro-Israel” Republican if that opponent did not have other positions they agreed with…While about 18% would be “conflicted and not be sure of what to do,” fully 31% would vote for either Omar or Tlaib outright, with another 23% saying that Israel would not be the deciding factor if they were not in agreement with the candidate on other issues.
Jews overwhelmingly do not see the left as a source of anti-semitism. Despite the ADL’s effort and the AJC’s effort to say that the left is as dangerous as the right. Asked whether antisemitism stems from the right or left, or is not a political ideology, here’s how Jews respond:
Back to anti-Zionism. The JCPA finds that Peter Beinart’s bombshell endorsement of one-state back in July is not “surprising.” Beinart is not an outlier (as I said at the time); he sees the movement:
Since this stage of our research has concluded, an article by Peter Beinart, who once purportedly supported and identified with a “humane, universalistic Zionism,” starkly demonstrates what our data and conclusions have found…. [T]he belief of the once presumably Zionist Beinart, whose article proclaimed, “I no longer believe in a Jewish state,” is not particularly shocking or surprising [in light of the data]…. While his ideas may reflect the feelings of a portion of Jewish America that may not have felt that way in the past, most left-progressive Jewish organizations still do not publicly agree with Beinart.
Typical of Israel lobby organizations, the JCPA blames these critical attitudes on American “ignorance” and misinformation about how bad Palestinians really are. And it notes that a majority of Jews endorse Zionism and the idea of a Jewish state, even as they are not keen on its human rights record. This is consistent with the claim of pro-Israel writer Batya Ungar-Sargon that 95 percent of American Jews are pro-Israel, but we can still criticize Israel.
The survey says that Bernie Sanders and the Black Lives Matter movement are serving to divide the Jewish community, between progressives and the establishment:
Add… the significant number of Jewish-Americans who subscribe to what can be described as a liberal or progressive worldview that also tends to be unsupportive of many Israeli policies, and one can understand how ideological pressure to distance from identification with Israel may increase. Progressive ideology appears to increasingly be more accepted in traditional “liberal” circles, including Jewish liberal circles. The trend of increasingly tepid support for Israel, especially Israeli policies perceived to be at odds with liberal-progressive values, was measurable prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and BLM protests. The subsequent data shows that the trend is still present. The shifting vector of general support may also be responsible for changes in how some (although still a clear minority of) Jewish-Americans, people who would ordinarily appear to have been “pro-Israel,” now view a most fundamental tenet of Zionism, i.e., the right for Jews to have a “Jewish state.”
These attitudes are consistent with sturdily-progressive leanings in the Jewish community: 54 percent would take a knee in attending a protest against systemic racism. 20 percent would not. 22 percent would personally give up a job or school place to a black person for affirmative action– though in that case 45 percent would not.
As for annexation, a huge bloc of the American Jewish community is against annexation– 40 percent — but they’re still just a bloc. The other 60 percent are up in the air, or don’t want to interfere, or support annexation.
“[W]e found that close to 60% of the sample… did not firmly oppose “annexation,” although a solid 40% did oppose it. A minority favored it outright (about 12+%)…”
My big takeaway from these findings is that J Street and other liberal Zionist organizations have to be worried. As Israel shows itself to be rightwing and intolerant again and again, J Street is going to have more and more trouble with its pro-Jewish state/pro-US aid stances inside the liberal Jewish community. More and more Jews will adopt the position of progressive Democrats, for sanctions on Israel. More and more will adopt the Beinart position, of one democratic state. No wonder that liberal Zionists are starting to wobble.