Time for Jews to stand up and be counted

There are an increasing number of Jews trying to challenge the militaristic, neo-conservative fantasy of radical Jews who believe in the concept of endless war in the Middle East. Tragically, many Diaspora communities have allowed these Zionist lobbies to represent and speak for them, pushing war in Iraq, a strike against Iran and brutality against the Palestinians. It’s a dead-end position and only increases hatred towards Jews themselves. Yes, it directly causes anti-Semitism.

Some new figures, released by the American Jewish Committee, offers both hope and despair:

American Jews are losing interest in Israel, according to figures released Tuesday in the American Jewish Committee 2007 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion. Figures showed that 69 percent of Jewish Americans agreed with the statement “Caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew” in 2007, compared to 74 percent last year and 79 percent in 2005.

The survey illustrated continued opposition to the war in Iraq by U.S. Jews, although a third recognized that increased military activity known as “the surge” had a positive effect. In 2006, 66 percent agreed with the statement that “Iraq will never become a stable democracy.” This year 76 percent maintain this view.

Decreasing support for Israel is healthy, a possible realisation that continued occupation can achieve nothing but suffering, though the figures also show this:

American Jewish opposition to the Iraq war, concern over anti-Semitism and support for the Democrats has remained steady — but support for a Palestinian state has dropped.

Those were among the findings of this year’s annual survey of Jewish opinion released by the American Jewish Committee.

The AJC poll found that 46 percent of American Jews answered affirmatively when asked, “In the current situation, do you favor or oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state?” Forty-three percent said they were opposed and 12 percent were not sure. Last year, the findings were 54 percent in favor, 38 percent against and 9 percent not sure.

What makes the drop more striking is the telephone survey of 1,000 Jewish Americans took place Nov. 6-25, in the lead-up to the U.S.-convened Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Annapolis, Md.

The issue was receiving more attention in the news, though reporting at the time predicted a much less substantive outcome than the agreement to renew negotiations that emerged from the talks.

“There is this current of pessimism” on Arab-Israel peace, said David Singer, the AJC’s director of research.

The decline in support reported in the annual AJC poll is considerably at odds with an earlier survey that asked the same question — in a strikingly different context.

A survey in May conducted jointly by the Arab American Institute and Americans for Peace Now found that 87 percent of U.S. Jews supported the following formulation: “a negotiated peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians that included the establishment of an independent, secure Palestinian state alongside an independent, secure Israeli state, and resolved final status issues of Jerusalem, refugees, and borders.”

There is no doubt that even acknowledging the rights of Palestinians remains taboo in many Jewish circles. We have a long way to go. But positives remain:

A new survey of American Jewish opinion, released by the American Jewish Committee, demonstrates several important propositions: (1) right-wing neocons (the Bill Kristol/Commentary/ AIPAC/Marty Peretz faction) who relentlessly claim to speak for Israel and for Jews generally hold views that are shared only by a small minority of American Jews; (2) viewpoints that are routinely demonized as reflective of animus towards Israel or even anti-Semitism are ones that are held by large majorities of American Jews; and (3) most American Jews oppose U.S. military action in the Middle East — including both in Iraq and against Iran.

It is beyond dispute that American Jews overwhelmingly oppose core neoconservative foreign policy principles. Hence, in large numbers, they disapprove of the way the U.S. is handling its “campaign against terrorism” (59-31); overwhelmingly believe the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq (67-27); believe that things are going “somewhat badly” or “very badly” in Iraq (76-23); and believe that the “surge” has either made things worse or has had no impact (68-30).

Until mainstream Jews stand up and challenge the dictates of the Zionist lobby, contemporary Judaism will remain mired in justified accusations that it believes in nothing but war and occupation.