Poll finds a quarter of US Jews think Israel is ‘apartheid state’
Also, 22% of respondents believe ‘Israel is committing genocide’; 67% say denying Jewish state’s right to exist is antisemitic
By Ron Kampeas
13 July 2021, 4:55 pm Edithttps://www.timesofisrael.com/poll-finds-a-quarter-of-us-jews-think-israel-is-apartheid-state/
JTA — A survey of US Jewish voters taken after the Israel-Gaza conflict finds that a sizable minority believes some of the harshest criticisms of Israel, including that it is committing genocide and apartheid.
Among respondents to the survey commissioned by the Jewish Electorate Institute, a group led by prominent Jewish Democrats, 34 percent agreed that “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is similar to racism in the United States,” 25% agreed that “Israel is an apartheid state” and 22% agreed that “Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians.”
Among younger voters included in the survey released Tuesday, agreement with those statements was higher, though still in the minority. The poll found that 9% of voters agreed with the statement “Israel doesn’t have a right to exist.” But among voters under 40, that proportion was 20%. A third of younger voters agreed that Israel is committing genocide, a position that even human rights lawyers who are critical of Israel say is extreme; more than a third agreed that Israel is an apartheid state.
The findings are striking as mainstream pro-Israel organizations struggle to make the case that Israel is central to Jewish identity and that criticism of it often veers into antisemitism. They suggest that many American Jews agree with statements by some of Israel’s harshest critics on the left made during the Gaza-Israel conflict in May, including in some cases by a handful of Democratic members of Congress who were then criticized by their colleagues.
The survey of American Jewish political sentiment was wide-ranging, finding wide approval for President Joe Biden and deep concern about Republican efforts in Georgia and Florida to tighten access to the ballot booth. When it came to measuring criticism of Israel, the poll first asked respondents whether they thought each of the four critical statements was antisemitic; those who said a statement was not antisemitic were then asked if they agreed with it.
Of the four statements, only in one case, did a majority — 67% — agree that it was antisemitic to say, “Israel doesn’t have a right to exist.” For the other three questions, more respondents disagreed that the statement was antisemitic than agreed.
The survey of 800 voters, conducted by GBAO Strategies from June 28 to July 1 online and via texts, has an overall margin of error of 3.5 percentage points; the replies of those under 40 have a margin of error of 6 percentage points. (The margin of error for the Orthodox subgroup was 11.6 percentage points.)
While the proportion of respondents agreeing with critical statements about Israel was higher than many pro-Israel advocates have characterized, at least one finding is in line with that of another recent survey. Asked if they felt emotionally attached to Israel, 62% of respondents to the Jewish Electorate Institute survey said they did and 38% said they did not, numbers that matched those in the Pew study of 4,700 American Jews released in May.
The new survey presents the latest challenge as the new Israeli government endeavors to repair ties with a US Jewish community that to a degree became alienated from Israel during the 12 years Benjamin Netanyahu was prime minister. Surveys have found that Israeli and American Jews know little about one another.
One statement in the survey, echoing a claim by former President Donald Trump, that “Jews who vote Democratic are disloyal to Israel” was also put forward to respondents to assess whether it is antisemitic; mainstream Jewish organizations have suggested that it is. However, while a vast majority of respondents, 77%, disagreed with the statement, only 26% said they believed it is antisemitic.
Asked about the two-state solution, 61% of survey respondents said it was their preferred outcome. But 19% said they preferred annexation of the West Bank that would deny Palestinians the right to vote in national elections, while 20% said they preferred “establishing one state that is neither Jewish nor Palestinian” and encompassing Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Gaza is currently controlled by the Hamas terror group.
The Democratic lawmakers who lashed out at Israel during the conflict, including Representatives Cori Bush, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib, have also raised the prospect of cutting aid to Israel. While a substantial majority of survey respondents, 71%, said it was “important” to provide financial assistance to Israel, a smaller majority, 58%, said it would be appropriate to restrict aid to Israel so it could not spend US money on settlements. A majority, 62%, support Biden’s reversal of Trump’s policy of cutting off aid to the Palestinians.
The survey showed continued support among Jewish voters for Biden and for Democrats, commensurate with an American Jewish Committee poll taken just before the Gaza conflict. In the latest poll, Biden earned 80% job approval, and 74% approval on how he is “handling relations with Israel.” He got 62% approval ratings for how he handled the recent Israel-Gaza conflict.
Among the Orthodox, who largely voted Republican in the 2020 presidential election, Biden had 31% approval overall, but notably a higher number — 44% — for how he handles Israel relations. He earned 37% approval among the Orthodox for how he handled the recent conflict.
Asked whether they would prefer a Democrat to a Republican in a vote for Congress in next year’s midterm elections, 68% favored a generic Democrat and 21% favored a Republican.
Democratic leaders Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer got 54% and 52% favorability ratings respectively and while Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell each got 10%.
On the domestic front, respondents placed high the issues of climate change, voting rights, jobs, and the economy, and the coronavirus pandemic. Strikingly, 83% of respondents said they were concerned about Republican efforts in Georgia and Florida to tighten access to the ballot booth, which Democrats say are aimed at inhibiting minority voters. Some 76% of respondents backed federal legislation backed by Democrats that would block the state efforts to restrict voting rights, and 62% supported eliminating the Senate filibuster to allow the Democratic majority to pass the legislation.
Concern about antisemitism in the United States was high, at 90%, and more voters, 61%, believed the threat came from the right than they did from the left, 22%. Voters who felt said the threat was equal from both sides came in at 12%. Among the Orthodox, 69% said the threat came from the left, 10% from the right, and 18% from both sides.
Genocide, apartheid? A poll Israel cannot allow itself to ignore
Nobody who knows the reality in Israel could possibly believe it is committing genocide against the Palestinians. Yet 22% of US Jews apparently do. Alarm bells should be ringing
By David Horovitz
According to a new poll of US Jewish voters, 25 percent consider Israel to be an apartheid state, and another 22% aren’t certain one way or another. In the same survey, taken two weeks ago and published Tuesday, 22% said “Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians,” and a further 16% weren’t sure if we are or not.
Commissioned by the Jewish Electorate Institute, a group led by prominent Jewish Democrats, the survey was carried out against the background of May’s 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas and other Gaza-based terror groups, which triggered a major spike in incidents of antisemitism in North America and elsewhere.
We can agonize and argue over the value of opinion polls in general and this one in particular, which questioned 800 people with a 3.5% margin of error, and posed what might be termed leading questions: “Israel is an apartheid state,” it stated, for instance, then asked respondents if they agreed or disagreed.
But the findings should not be nitpicked away. That more than a fifth of US Jews in the poll accuse Israel of genocide cannot be shrugged off.
The survey was taken in the aftermath of a conflict against Hamas, an Islamist terrorist organization that is not engaged in a territorial dispute with Israel, but rather avowedly seeks our state’s destruction; that killed its own people in seizing power in Gaza after Israel withdrew from the territory; that has a despicable history of carrying out suicide bombings throughout Israel directed at civilians; that uses Gazans as human shields against Israel’s efforts to thwart its rocket fire and assault tunnels, and that redirects any and every relevant Gaza resource to its war against Israel at the expense of its citizenry.
Weeks after Israel faced off against this blatantly amoral terrorist army, a sizable proportion of the world’s largest Diaspora community, citizens of our closest and most important ally, has nonetheless apparently drawn a radically skewed picture of what is going on here.
Understanding the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does require a little bit of effort. You have to care enough to look deeper than headlines that highlight relative death tolls and maps that display tiny Gaza alongside larger Israel. There’s history and context and dueling narratives and hitherto irreconcilable claims to the same territory.
For all my concerns about where we may be headed if we cannot find a secure means of separating from most of the Palestinians, I find it hard to believe that anyone with genuine intellectual honesty can definitively brand Israel an apartheid state — though I know people who do. And I truly do not see how anybody who has invested the smallest modicum of effort in understanding our realities can determine that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians. Yet that’s what lots of American Jews apparently now consider to be the case.
A multitude of factors, some of them far beyond Israel’s control, have led to poll findings such as these. But self-evidently, Israel would help its standing if it explained itself more effectively. It’s no panacea; there are limits to even the most adept public diplomacy. But Israel appears to have given up even trying, as highlighted by its staggering ineptitude in the course of the latest conflict and its aftermath.
Hobbling Israel’s public diplomacy
Israel’s abiding inability to articulate its own case to the global public is so entrenched, and has been so long a cause of despair to its supporters, that many who agitated over the years to prioritize this second battlefield have long since given up. But the seeming determination by successive governments to undermine Israel’s cause by neglecting and hobbling the country’s public diplomacy, notably but not exclusively in the United States, would appear to have plumbed new depths of late.
The latest conflict found prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu without an experienced English-language spokesperson, indeed without anyone at all willing and able to appear regularly in international media to discuss what, from Israel’s point of view, was unfolding regarding Gaza. Broadly speaking, it was left to the IDF, and its Spokesperson’s Unit, to explain the war.
But the IDF’s prime focus was not on detailing for an international audience the context in which Israel had resorted to a widescale response to Hamas’s initial rocket barrage at Jerusalem and the subsequent barrages of thousands of rockets at much of the country. Rather, it was seeking to deter Hamas and Gaza’s other terror groups, by impressing upon them the IDF’s might and potentially devastating capabilities.
Its fundamental unfitness for the purpose of international outreach was emblemized both by its attempts to deceive world media, and thus Hamas, with false information about a ground offensive early in the conflict, and by its inability to quickly produce compelling public evidence of why it was deemed necessary to destroy an entire Gaza high-rise that it said was a Hamas military asset but where the world’s largest news agency, the Associated Press, also had its offices.
Meanwhile, in the United States, Israel’s two main, immensely demanding diplomatic posts — ambassador to the US and ambassador to the UN — were filled, absurdly, by one man, Gilad Erdan, who avoided almost all of an avalanche of interview requests, apparently because he was concerned that his English, though serviceable, is not entirely up to the task. The office of consul general in New York was unfilled (a new appointment was made in late June). Other major international diplomatic posts, including the ambassadors to Canada, France and Australia, were also vacant.
Netanyahu’s governments for years marginalized the Foreign Ministry as part of the prime minister’s centralization of control and, most recently, were so preoccupied with survival and electioneering as to widely neglect international public diplomacy — ironically so, given Netanyahu’s articulacy and worldliness. Preoccupied with endless domestic bickering, Israel’s political leadership did not internalize and still does not seem to have internalized how problematically the most recent Gaza-Israel conflict played out internationally, notably including the wave of antisemitism it unleashed.
The bickering and point-scoring has, sadly and unsurprisingly, continued into the era of the new, Naftali Bennett-led coalition — with the PM and his predecessor trading blame and accusations over Iran, COVID-19 and just about everything else — and so too, thus far, the neglect of international public diplomacy. A month in office, the prime minister has no English-language spokesperson. Erdan has stepped down as ambassador to the United States but has not been replaced, and other key ambassadorial positions have yet to be filled.
Taking charge of his ministry last month, Foreign Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid lamented that, in recent years, Israel had “abandoned the international arena. And then we woke up one morning to find that our international standing has been weakened.” The Jewish Electorate Institute survey offers alarming evidence of this process, this crisis.
The poll indicates that a substantial proportion of even our own worldwide Jewish nation is reaching false conclusions about the modern Jewish state. The Israeli leadership must urgently help provide the tools for a better understanding of what goes on here — with a properly staffed and resourced public diplomacy establishment. That won’t produce an immediate sea-change in international public sentiment, but it will help. As May’s mini-war dismally showed, currently, in the space where Israel should be setting out its case, there is mainly a vacuum.