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Media Analyses





Kristof Out to Tea on American Jewry


For New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, first there were Three Cups of Tea. Then came Three Polls of American Jews.

When philanthropist and Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson was found to have lavishly fabricated events and personal accomplishments, his friend and one-time champion Kristof fretted about throwing the baby out with the bath water.

And now that three different recent polls have disproven claims promoted by Peter Beinart and Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street that the American Jewish community is increasingly alienated from Israel and that the traditional pro-Israel organizational establishment does not represent mainstream American Jewry, Kristof is simply in denial.

In his Aug. 3 column, entitled "Seeking Balance on the Mideast," Kristof tenaciously grasps at Beinart/Ben-Ami's sinking ship of American Jewish diminishing support for Israel, writing:

American Jews have long trended liberal, and President Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008. Yet major Jewish organizations, like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, embrace hawkish positions.

That's because those Jews who vote and donate based on Israel are disproportionately conservative (the same is true of Christians who are most passionate about Israel issues). Ben-Ami argues that "the loudest eight percent" have hijacked Jewish groups to press for policies that represent neither the Jewish mainstream nor the best interests of Israel. . .

There's also some evidence that young American Jews are growing disenchanted as Israeli society turns rightward. . . .

"What happens as Israel continues to become more religious and conservative, more isolated internationally and less democratic domestically?" Ben-Ami writes. "What happens to the relationship between American Jews and Israel as the face of Israel shifts from that of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres to that of the national religious settlers and the ultra-Orthodox rabbis?"

Is it true, as Beinart, Ben-Ami and Kristof claim, that American Jews, mostly liberal, are better represented by J Street than by AIPAC? Is it true that the population is increasingly distanced from the Jewish state? Not according to three recent polls.

A May 16-17, 2011 poll of more than 1,000 American Jews conducted by Luntz Global on behalf of CAMERA found continuing, deep support for the Israel. CAMERA Executive Director Andrea Levin noted that the poll found: "The overwhelming majority of American Jews are cognizant of threats to Israel, protective of the country, cautious about risks and strongly opposed to such measures as boycotts, including boycotts of settlements."

Specifically, as detailed in CAMERA's press release:

American Jews expressed strong belief the Israeli government (84 percent) and its people (85 percent) are committed to establishing genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinian people. At the same time, respondents were far more skeptical of the Palestinian commitment and consider Palestinian incitement against Israel -- its "culture of hatred" -- to be a major obstacle to peace (77 percent), far more so than settlements (12 percent) or "occupation" (12 percent).

Fully 78 percent of respondents consider it "very to 100 percent" necessary for Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, with an additional 12 percent considering it "somewhat necessary." This mirrors the position of the Israeli government that such acknowledgment is important as a measure of Palestinian willingness to coexist with a sovereign Jewish nation. . . .

On matters having to do with congressional support for Israel, 81 percent of American Jews say they would be more likely to vote for a representative who signed a letter deploring Palestinian incitement.

In contrast, there is strong opposition, nearly 3 out of 4 Jews, to actions such as promoting appearances in Congress by Judge Richard Goldstone, head of the U.N. panel that falsely accused Israeli forces of targeting civilians in the Gaza Strip. A fringe of only 5 percent would support such activity.

Such activity — promoting Goldstone in Congress and lobbying against a Congressional letter deploring Palestinian incitement — were not limited to hypothetical questions in a poll. J Street actually did both, despite the disapproval of the vast majority of American Jewry. So while Kristof shouts that "'the loudest eight percent' have hijacked Jewish groups to press for policies" that don't represent the Jewish mainstream, he is out to tea with his friend Mortenson.

A second poll, carried out June 20-7, 2011 by the Dick Morris Poll revealed similar findings demonstrating strong Jewish American attachment to Israel and deep concern for its security. In particular, the poll found:

  • By 79-4, Jewish Democrats agree that “Israel wants to live in peace with its neighbors but the Arabs won’t let it” and reject, by 11-73, the statement that “Israel is always trying to grab more land and throw out the Palestinians who live there.”
  • Finally, Jewish Democrats agree, 67-13, with the overview that “if the Arabs lay down their weapons, there would be no more war. It is just their desire to destroy Israel that creates the conflict.”
  • Finally, a third poll of American Jews, carried out by Pat Caddell and John McLaughlin and release July 12, 2011, affirmed similar findings. Notably:

    93% are concerned about Israel being threatened by Arab nations and Iran that want to destroy Israel

    81% are against Israel being forced to return to its pre-1967 borders [sic; they were armistice lines]

    73% believe Jerusalem should remain the united capital of Israel and only 8% support that the US should force Israel to give away parts of Jerusalem

    So much for Kristof 's fictional "hijacking" of American Jewish organizations by a loud fringe of hawks.
     
    He claims in his first paragraph, "there's one area where Congress has been even more obstructionist [than with respect to the debt ceiling]: the Middle East." But, of course, Congress's positions regarding Israel are a genuine reflection of the views held by the American Jewish community (and the greater American public).
     
    As much as Kristof might like to reinvent J Street as representing something more than loudest fringe in the Jewish community, those pesky polls — like the pesky reporters who blew the whistle on Greg Mortenson's lies — keep proving him wrong.
     

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