Wednesday, March 23, 2005


What American Jews Think of Israel

This isn't exactly breaking news (it made headlines a little over two weeks ago with articles in Ha'aretz , Arab News, the Forward and elsewhere) but I just checked out the actual results of the 2004 National Survey of American Jews (in MS Word document format). The results are very interesting to look through, but one thing that really struck me was that in response to the statement "Israel occupies lands that belong to another people", the responses broke down like this: 2% "strongly agree"; 11% "agree"; 22% are "not sure"; 34% "disagree"; and 31% "strongly disagree". It seems to me that there is a fundamental refusal to acknowledge the reality of the situation here.

I am strongly of the opinion that if there is going to be a change in the foreign policy of the United States toward Israel (e.g., more restrictions on aid, an attention to human rights for Palestinians, etc.) it needs to happen with the American Jewish community on board, and not in defiance of them. However, there can be no successful movement involving people who refuse to acknowledge the fundamentals of the situation. It's not that you have to get every American Jew to reject Zionism or anything like that. But to think that only 13 percent of those surveyed even somewhat agreed that the West Bank and Gaza were occupied territories! This seems to me a rejection of the very basis of a two-state solution. This seems to me a rejection of the basic foundation of the claims of the Palestinians, claims to a sovereign state, to an end to military rule, to an end to occupation! If there is no "occupation" in the minds of at least 65 percent of those polled, how do you convince somebody with that mindset that the occupation is a bad thing. There is no common ground on which to stand.

This is a bit upsetting to me.

Hi Alex,

Sometimes I read your blog and the other day I read this article. As I told you I'm reading the Bible, and yesterday I was reading "Joshua" when I read this thing that can explain why jews don't think that Israel occupies lands that belong to another people:

"So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord handed all their enemies over to them. Not one of all the Lord's promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled."

Of course if Yaveh says that it is their land they are not going to leave it. I don't really understand that part... I'll keep reading... So it's a big religious problem. It won't end...

right, well that's the basis of the problem. but there's a lot more than that. there are no borders proscribed in the passage - so the accepted wisdom now is that the sinai is egyptian; but this was not always the case. so was it ever "occupied"? is the golan heights considered occupied territory. many jews support removing settlers from gaza.

the other thing is that a large percentage of the jews in america, and those surveyed, are not highly religious. they don't adhere to the literal word of the bible. many probably have hardly picked it up. many are married to non-jews.

so i disagree that it's a "big religious problem" that "won't end." there is a religious element, but zionism is largely a nationalist movement that appropriates religious language, etc., but it is not a movement of the ultra-religious.

it's one thing to say "look, we're treating the palestinians like shit, but we can do it because god said so." but that's not the reasoning that is often heard. it's about "terrorism" or "the only democracy in the middle east" or who owned the land or who lied and who's lying about what - justifications that have nothing to do with religion.
OK, I didn't know anything about that. But... if those jews are not religious,live in the USA... They are like every other person in the world. Maybe they don't really know about those problems, maybe they don't even know where is Israel. So maybe their opinion it is not as important. If they have nothing to do with it...
This problem reminds me the problem that we have here with ETA and the Basque Country. It is not as bad as that one but they have points in common. And it won't end. You're optimistic and act :)

Did you get mad with me?

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