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March 22, 2007

Anti-War Jews

Richard Silverstein relays some new poll data showing that war with Iran doesn't garner much support among Jews. What's interesting, though, is the question, which quite broadly asks "Would you support or oppose the United States taking military action against Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons?" Even under that favorable framing, 54% of Jews reject military action, while only 38% support armed intervention.

Meanwhile, Israelis continue to be quite a bit farther to the left than their professed American backers. Ha'aretz, as one might expect, has come out for negotiations with the Hamas, but so too has Yediot Achronot, Israel's largest daily and a traditionally cautious, centrist publication. This isn't brave leadership: 60% of Israelis support negotiations.

This close attention to Israeli public opinion and the political preferences of American Jewry may seem a bit quixotic to readers, but I'm fairly convinced of its importance. As an American Jew, I've long felt fundamentally alienated by the apparently hawkish majority. What I'm finding is that the hawkish majority is no majority at all, but a loud, bullying minority. That the majority position -- negotiations, peaceful foreign policy, etc -- has been painted as borderline heterodox is upsetting, and it's time more attention was paid to widening the perceptions of Jewish public opinion in order to match the reality. I also this that this moment is particularly ripe for counter-organizing. I got a press release yesterday announcing the formation of Jews Against the Iraq War, and more generally, the specter of Iran and the reality of Iraq are forcing Jews to think harder about what sort of foreign policy they actually favor.

March 22, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Hi Ezra,

I'm just a poor pagan but it seems to me you're making sense.

John Bolton has admitted that the US deliberately stalled the Israel/Lebanon ceasefire so that Israel would have more time for attacks. Israel, like the US, seems to be in the political grip of rightwinger leaders who love war-war more than jaw-jaw, despite what their people might want.

It's time that changed. This poor pagan will be happy to support Jews Against The Iraq war in any way he can.

Regards, Cernig

Posted by: Cernig | Mar 22, 2007 11:33:21 AM

As with other groups, opinion among Israelis and Jews shifts quite a bit according to events. This is a relatively good time to find polling data in favor of negotiations with Palestinians and against attacking Iran. We're already foundering in Iraq, Iran's threats are distant, and the Palestinians are looking helpless and pathetic, without any major attacks in Israel lately. Those and related things could change, and opinion would change with them.

Jews Against the Iraq War is a little late.

Posted by: Sanpete | Mar 22, 2007 11:40:32 AM

Ezra,
You cannot underestimate the generational divide among American Jews. It is subtle, but deep.

There are Jewish Likudniks of all ages. But almost all Jewish Likudniks under 50 are Republicans. Jewish Likudniks over 60 tend Democratic, except for Israel and related issues. Dershowitz is an excellent example. (A new wing of the Party: the Alter Kocker Democrats?)

This means that, ten years from now, AIPAC will suffer a legitimacy crisis, even if nothing intervenes. AIPAC is strong because it is bipartisan. Pretty soon, AIPAC's position will be an identifiably partisan one among the Jewish community. And it will have a hard time avoiding clear partisan ID in broader American politics.

Posted by: Joe S. | Mar 22, 2007 11:50:39 AM

Maybe somebody sane for our viewpoint who comes across so very familiar and awfully-American as....
'He seems pretty nice'....Netanyahu?

Anybody.

[And the good 'Raghead' folks too might take this
as a pointer of how to appeal to the Americans,
still mostly disinterested, unconcerned and uninformed,
as it turns out]

Posted by: has_te | Mar 22, 2007 12:27:13 PM

I think this story on what the real Jewish majorities in the US and Israel needs far more promotion - it is counter to what we have been fed by AIPAC, Faux News, and the Christian Right.

However, the proposed counter-pressure group is way to narrowly focused. This isn't just a matter of opposing the Iraq (or Iran) war. It really involves, it seems to me as a non-Jew, a whole world-view of how Israel will relate to the other nations in their region and to the Palestinian people on their doorstep (and under their military control).

I'm saying that a general counter-AIPAC organization is needed here in the US that reflects a willingness to make hard bargains to arrive at a greater and longer lasting state of peace for Israel and its neighbors. The Iraq war is way to narrow a focus, and avoids the other major issues of Jewish/Islamic tensions and conflict.

The left in Israel seems to be pitifully weak politically, even though a substantial segment of the population supports living with the neighbors peacefully. But the American Jewish left-center could not only make a strong case in US policy-formation, but provide needed support for the Israeli left-center to rise again.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Mar 22, 2007 1:06:56 PM

I posted some related thoughts here, as a follow-up to a thread that Nicholas had started here on Sunday. I don't think trying to counter-organize against AIPAC is necessarily the key thing, regarding US-Israel relations. Getting more sensible presidential administrations elected in the US is the most important thing. Not that those things are mutually exclusive, or anything--obviously it's important to try to help sensible ideas to be heard amidst the shouting of the hard-liners--but support for sensible Israel policies implemented by sensible US administrations will be there among American Jews, no matter how much various hardliners try to undermine them.

Jim, I don't think there's all that much to be done between left-center Jewish organizations in the US and the left-center in Israel. There are alrady good things happening out there, like Americans for Peace Now, and those efforts deserve support, but I don't think they can make a huge difference. Even left-leaning people in Israel usually want to be assured of strong American support. My mom told me that on her most recent trips to Israel, when she would talk to people about how Bush sucks and that his policies aren't doing Israel much good, even most of the reliably left-leaning Israelis she talked to were surprised, and even sometimes offended(!), at hearing that point of view.

Posted by: Haggai | Mar 22, 2007 1:36:15 PM

I usually comment and blogwhore on Ezra'b blog on sigle-payer health insurance (Medicare for All), but as another progressive American Jew who supports Israel's right to exist as a democratic & Jewish country, and therefore is pro-real peace and real negotiations, I did want to weigh in.

For more on actual American Jewish public opinion and voting trends vs. the AIPAC/NeoCon minority see:

"Right Wing Christianist Conspiracy to Listen to the Wrong Jews"
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/2/27/13822/2376

For what real peace looks like, see:
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/3/16/15855/6096

Peace & Health!

Posted by: dr.steveb@verizon.net | Mar 22, 2007 1:54:48 PM

Nice diary there, DrB.

Posted by: fiat lux | Mar 22, 2007 3:23:43 PM

How come it's so hard to get actual Israelis to weigh in on this subject? Even accepting the complications that religious-tribal affiliation put in this, all we have is Right-Wing American Jews & Left-Wing American Jews purporting to claim what Israelis really think on any given issue. It's not like Israel is on another planet. Given the U.S. stake in the issue, shouldn't we be hearing a lot more Israeli voices and fewer American Jews?

Posted by: DRR | Mar 22, 2007 3:46:13 PM

A majority of Americans are against Iraq. Period. Iran scary stories have some Israelis spooked : they are attacked with regularity, after all. The Bolton story underlines the U.S. efforts : peace is nowhere in the program.

Posted by: opit | Mar 22, 2007 3:51:49 PM

DRR -- being an American Jew I can't say for sure, but I would think they're doing plenty of speaking, just not in English or on American blogs.

Posted by: fiat lux | Mar 22, 2007 4:40:39 PM

Thanks, Ezra for those 2 links to my blog & your support for the notion that American Jews have to get into the trenches to monitor both Israeli and American Jewish media & public opinion to show support for the notion of Israeli Palestinian peace. That's what my entire Tikun Olam blog is dedicated to doing.

Mazel tov btw on yr favorable mention in Scott McConnell's current American Conservative essay on Bloggers & the Israel Lobby.

I can't tell whether you're blogging fr. Amsterdamn or not. But if you are there's an Israeli-American named Lenny Bruce (no relation) who's also a progressive blogger on I-P peace writing fr. there. Nice guy.

Posted by: Richard Silverstein | Mar 22, 2007 4:43:19 PM

I think The meaning of Likudnik has changed since Sharon founded Kadima. I'm not sure about all of Dershowitz's views, but I imagine that he supported the withdrawal from Gaza, thus placing him in a more centrist, Kadima position rather than a Likud, pro-settler position. In any case, supporting the withdrawal from Gaza must be defined as against Likudnik. The question remains, to what extent to Kadima-style centrists favor more withdrawal and or negotiations in regards to the West Bank?

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Posted by: judy | Sep 27, 2007 3:29:03 AM

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