The results of a recent B’nai B’rith poll (PDF) suggest that, despite the best efforts of the poll’s organizers to throw the results with leading questions, Israelis are of far more than just one mind on how diaspora Jews should lobby foreign governments.
Their press release reads:
Jewish Organizations Need To Support Israeli Government Policies According To B’nai B’rith Survey Of Israeli Attitudes Toward World Jewry
A majority of Jewish residents of Israel (54 percent) believe that Jewish organizations that advocate for Israel with foreign governments and call themselves “pro-Israel” should always support the government’s policies, while 28 percent do not, according to the fifth annual Survey of Contemporary Israeli Attitudes Toward World Jewry. The survey, conducted by KEEVOON Research, on behalf of the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, reported statistics on current issues such as Israeli feelings toward Jews in the Diaspora.
The survey also found that 56 percent of adult Israeli Jews disagree with the “Call for Reason” petition issued by JCall, a European-based nonprofit advocacy group on the Middle East and Israel, stating that unequivocal support of Israeli government policies by the Jewish Diaspora is not in the best interests of the country, while 30 percent agree with it.
Fifty-four-percent of Jewish Israelis responding that Jewish organizations should always support Israeli government policies is far from an overwhelming majority, but a closer examination of the question itself makes the results even more striking.
So, yes. B’nai B’rith got what it sought. When asked to complete the sentence “Should Jewish organizations that advocate before foreign governments and identify themselves as ‘pro-Israel'”… most respondents chose the following formulation: “…Always support the policies of the current Israeli government.” Note the “advocate before foreign governments” – governments, not publics – and the “identify themselves” as quote-unquote “pro-Israel.”
Are you surprised? I am. I am surprised that only 54% chose this leading option. Think about it. If you are an Israeli, and you are asked about Jewish organizations that “advocate before foreign governments,” (and if the Hebrew formulation was what I think it was, the language is even more leading) and the question is asked at a time when the Israeli public is utterly obsessed and extremely supportive of its government’s efforts to control the flotilla fiasco’s damage overseas, how would you respond. I am truly surprised that more than a quarter (28%) chose the equally leading option “…be free to openly oppose the policies of the current Israeli government.” And I am surprised, given the current atmosphere in Israel, that 18% chose “don’t know.”
Leading questions? Consider the following: “Do you think the possibility of being accused of dual loyalty discourages American Jews from criticizing the Obama administration’s policy toward Israel?” Never mind the question. Here are the options: (1) Yes – they are reluctant to criticize the US administration (2) No – it has no effect (3) Don’t know / refuse. Given the question and the answer options, are you surprised that 46% chose the first option? Again, I am very surprised that more than half did not. A full 35% said it has no effect and 18% didn’t know.
The pollsters were also clearly hoping to draw negative responses to J Street and J Call–a European group which calls for greater European and American leadership in bringing about a two-state solution–positions on the importance of a two-state solution.
A striking 55-percent of respondents agreed with the notion that “a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is essential to Israel’s survival as a national home of the Jewish people as a vibrant democracy,” while only 36-percent disagreed.
Furthermore, 48-percent of respondents agreed that, “It is essential that the European Union, along with the United States, put pressure on both parties and help them achieve a reasonable and rapid solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict,” while only 41-percent disagreed.
The last question on the survey found that a whopping 65-percent of respondents agreed that “American Jews should criticize President Obama’s policy towards Israel.”
I’m not sure exactly what this reflects but B’nai B’rith skimmed over this in their press release and said:
Israelis questioned felt strongly that American Jews should criticize President Obama’s policies toward Israel. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of them held this position, while only 12 percent felt American Jews should support their president’s Israeli policies.
One possibility is that respondents think that this president has taken an overly harsh position against settlements, is insufficiently “pro-Israel”, and failed to adequately shield Israel from the international condemnations stemming from Netanyahu’s disastrous attack on the Free Gaza flotilla.
But here’s another possibility: Maybe some of those respondents, in line with their responses to the questions about J Call and J Street positions, think that the Obama administration isn’t applying enough pressure on Netanyahu’s government to end the siege of Gaza, freeze settlement expansion, avoid internationally unpopular attacks on civilian ships in international waters and make a genuine attempt to reach a two-station solution with a viable Palestinian state.
Just a thought.
I’m sure B’nai B’rith would see it differently.