by: David Harris-Gershon on October 15th, 2013 | 2 Comments »
According to a Pew survey, American Jews are becoming increasingly critical of Israel, with nearly 50 percent no longer believing that its leaders are sincerely interested in making peace with Palestinians.
The Pew survey’s findings are particularly significant when one considers what Peter Beinart calls the “American Jewish cocoon.” Within many segments of the American Jewish community, honest looks at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not normative in synagogues or Jewish institutions, and a majority of Jewish leaders tend toward reflexively supporting Israeli policies (such as settlements and the occupation) which are both self-destructive and hurtful to Palestinians.
However, the views of American Jews at large are straying from the institutional norms, particularly, and perhaps most significantly, the 18-29 set.
For example, 48% of American Jews no longer view the Israeli government as making sincere efforts at peace, as opposed to 38% who do, and for those under 30, only one in four (26%) view the Israeli government as sincere brokers.
Additionally, 44% of American Jews now view Israeli settlement construction as hurting Israeli security, as opposed to a mere 17% who think it helps. For those under 30, the numbers skew even further, with 50% finding settlement construction as self-destructive as opposed to 11% who feel that settlements help Israel. (I understand some might find the question offensive, thinking, The settlements are hurting Israel? But please note that the Pew survey attempted to measure American Jews’ connection to, and concern for, Israel.)
Perhaps most significant, one in four (25%) of American Jews under 30 feel the United States is too supportive of Israel considering the country’s policies, compared with just 11% overall.
While the figures also skew along religious/non-religious and liberal/conservative lines, this trend of younger American Jews being more critical of Israel is, in my view, particularly striking. One reason for this trend, perhaps, is due to younger Jews getting their information from increasingly independent sources that stray from mainstream U.S. outlets’ tendency to cast the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one of good vs. evil.
Indeed, the role of progressive and independent media sites, such as this one, in shifting public opinion with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should not be understated. For it is my view that Israel, as a country, is incapable of extricating itself from its settlement enterprise and the occupation, and that only pressure exerted by the United States could compel Israel to abandon such geo-political stances.
And in order for such pressure to be exerted, internal pressure must be exerted upon American politicians by U.S citizens in general, and American Jews in particular. Pressure which will only come when public opinion shifts.
And that shifting appears to be underway.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, now out from Oneworld Publications.
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.