UK Prospect magazine publishes a short piece by Antony Lerman that encourages the British government to be more critical of Israel because that’s what growing numbers of Jews want. Not subservience to the Zionist state:
David Cameron’s description of Gaza as a “prison camp” and his strong condemnation of Israel over the Turkish Gaza flotilla has, predictably, angered some commentators and politicians and pleased others. But if those who attacked his words, like Stuart Polak, director of the Conservative Friends of Israel, believe they are reflecting popular opinion among British Jews, they are wrong—according to the latest survey evidence.
In an online poll of British Jews conducted by the institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) with advice from Ipsos MORI, more than half of the respondents agreed that Israel should negotiate with Hamas. While this alone doesn’t prove that most British Jews would agree with Cameron’s “prison camp” terminology, when taken together with other data from the poll the “signs of considerable disquiet” identified by JPR director Jonathan Boyd are clear. For example, 55 per cent agree that Israel is “an occupying power in the West Bank” and 40 per cent believe controlling the West Bank is not vital to Israel’s security.
It’s true that British Jews also feel a continuing close attachment to Israel—most of the respondents said that Jews have a special responsibility for its survival—and the Jewish Chronicle used the report to declare the British Jewish bond with Israel “as strong as ever.” But when the majority of respondents (67 per cent) also see Israeli politics as corrupt, and three quarters think that orthodox Judaism has too much influence in Israeli society, British Jews are sending a strong signal to Israel’s government.
Do the opinions of British Jews matter? Not nearly as much as the views of American Jews, of course. But support from the Jewish community worldwide has always been vital for providing Israel with legitimacy for its actions. And with traditional Israeli political circles and think tanks in a virtual panic today about left-wing “delegitimisation” of Israel—most effectively orchestrated from London, or so it’s claimed by Israel’s Reut Institute—hanging on to that support has become increasingly important. The data from the JPR survey is only the latest reinforcement to an existing picture revealing how difficult the shoring up of Jewish solidarity has become.