Shmuel Rosner
July 17, 2008 - 3:26pm

Can you imagine a J Street poll suggesting that most American Jews oppose a vigorous Israeli-Palestinian peace process? Can you imagine such a poll asserting that American Jews oppose any American pressure on Israel to make compromises?

If you can't, this is your lucky day. J Street just released a public opinion pollwith no such surprises. Not if you read the press releases accompanying it. American Jews, the poll says, want peace, readily support American pressure, and believe that Middle East peace is "a core American interest" (55 percent).

Case closed: American Jews support the J Street agenda.

Or do they?

Let's take a look at a couple of interesting numbers from this poll:


J Street's press release reads the following: "Instead of holding the hawkish, hard-line positions often expressed by many established Jewish organizations and leaders, American Jews actually overwhelmingly support assertive peace efforts and an active U.S. role in helping Israelis and Arabs to resolve their conflict? American elected officials and politicians have for years fundamentally misread the American Jewish community," said Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street?s executive director in the press release.

But here's what the poll says: More people agree that "established" and "traditional" Jewish organizations represent their views than the number of people who say such organizations do not represent them. Even when AIPAC - supposedly the great Satan - is mentioned by name, more people (34 percent) believe it accurately represents their views than those (23 percent) who don't. The 40 percent who do not have an opinion also represent a group that can hardly be considered "fundamentally misread."


J Street opposes military action against Iran, "a terrible option for the U.S., regional stability, and for Israel." But American Jews will be more likely than not to vote for a Congressional candidate who believes that "America must do everything it can to protect Israel's security. This means militarily attacking Iran if they pursue a nuclear weapons program, supporting an Israeli pre-emptive strike against Iran, cutting off aid to the Palestinians if their schools allow textbooks that don't recognize Israel, and letting the Palestinians know where we stand on Jerusalem by moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem."

Indeed, there's still a significant minority (41 percent) of people less likely to vote for such a candidate. Even more people will support someone encouraging talks with Iran. But here comes the funny part: the way this poll was devised - presumably with great care - it's impossible to know whether the "less likely" lot who opposes such a statement do so because they oppose attacking Iran, or because they object to a more firm stance vis-à-vis the Palestinians. By the way, a reliable answer to such question can be found here. It is quite clear: do not attack. But we don't need J Street to tell us that.


My friends at the Orthodox Union (I have friends all around town) were quick to note, that J Street's PR for their poll conveniently omits mention of its findings on an issue we feel is of the utmost importance - the indivisibility of Jerusalem. Even among their respondents - who support 'assertive peace efforts and an active U.S. role' (i.e. pressure) and withdrawal from the West Bank - a majority do NOT believe Jerusalem should be re-divided with its eastern neighborhoods becoming part of a Palestinian state."

While that is correct, it is only half the story. People who support "the United States exerting pressure on both the Israelis and Arabs to make the compromises necessary to achieve peace" - (81 percent) - but oppose the possibility of "neighborhoods in East Jerusalem" becoming part of a Palestinian state just don't know what they're talking about.

Either that, or the "compromises necessary to achieve peace" they envision are totally different from those supported by J Street.


The way this poll was conducted is quite bizarre. I called poll-masters that I trust and read for them some of the questions. It made them laugh. Take this one for example, and imagine the email signaling that someone wants to ask you a question: Do you agree to this very, very, very long statement?

"I am 'pro-Israel,' and believe that America must consistently support our trusted ally Israel. Part of that support should be helping to promote serious efforts to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace because ending the conflict is vital to Israel's future and security. I disagree with American politicians who make statements, such as demanding we move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, that sound supportive of Israel and make vocal activists happy, yet really undermine both peace efforts and America's role as a mediator. I will always work to maintain the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel, and I support policies that help Israel achieve an enduring peace."

Chances are that you:

A. Stopped reading somewhere in the middle and just wrote yes.
B. Stopped reading somewhere in the middle, regained consciousness at the end, read the final sentence ("I support policies that help Israel achieve an enduring peace"), then wrote yes. Of course you support Israel, duh!

In short, this seems like a good way to ask a question if you want 71 percent to respond yes. Look at all the very long statements in this poll and see for yourself. With barely one exception, the longer the statement, the better the chances that people say yes.


"Jews firmly remain a very progressive Democratic constituency," say the good people of J Street, but as my friends at JTA have noted in their story: "American Jews are less supportive of Barack Obama than previous Democratic nominees."

Actually, this is not even new. I thought the more intriguing was the percentage of Jews disapproving of Senator Joe Lieberman, a Jewish American politician that set a historic precedent: 48 percent.


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