On how American Jews are Mostly the Opposite of Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu

A huge Pew Charitable Truest telephone poll of American Jews confirms many of the things learned by previous religious polls conducted by Barry Kosmin and colleagues under the rubric of the American Religious Identification Survey.

What is striking is how dissimilar the mainstream of Jewish Americans is to the ruling Likud Party in Israel, headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu and his party use Judaism and Jewish heritage as the basis for the construction of an exclusivist, nationalist, hardline ideology hostile toward and suspicious of non-Jews. Netanyahu even sponsored a campaign of television commercials attempting to shame American Jews for dating non-Jews or commemorating Christmas.

31% of Jewish Americans in this poll said they did not feel attached to Israel. Another 39% are only “somewhat” attached. The strong Israel nationalists are only about 30%.

62% of Jewish Americans do not believe that the Israeli government is making a good faith effort to negotiate with the Palestinians, though they have an even lower opinion of the Palestinian Authority.

83% do not agree that the construction of Israeli settlements on the Palestinian West Bank helps Israeli security, a key plank in the platform of the ruling Likud Party in Israel.

44% of Jewish Americans, on the contrary, assert that this settlement of Palestinian land is actively harmful to Israeli security.
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72% say that there is a lot of discrimination against Muslim Americans.

Only 42% say that there is a lot of discrimination against Jewish Americans.

They really like Christmas trees. 62 percent had them in their homes last year.

A majority don’t think it would take anything away from their Jewishness to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. I suspect they mean by this the common American conviction that all the major religions are in some sense true, rather than that they approve of sectarian groups like Jews for Jesus.

Almost 6 in ten of Jewish Americans who married in the past decade and a half married non-Jews. For non-religious Jews, the percentage is nearly 8 in 10. Note that sociologists sometimes use endogamy (marrying within an in-group) as a measure of ethnic identity. By that standard, American Jews of no religion are not an ethnic group! And among the Millennials, over 30% say they are not religious.

AIPAC, the Zionist Organization of America, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Anti-Defamation League (which too often defames other people) are completely unrepresentative of Jewish Americans. But they do represent a few very wealthy super-nationalists such as Sheldon Adelson and (on his bad days) Haim Saban.

One of the takeaways of the poll is that American politicians and media should stop being so afraid of the American Likudniks, who very ironically use their extreme nationalism to accuse other people of being bigots. The Israel lobbies don’t represent most Jewish voters, and if voter sentiment is the issue, they can most often safely be defied. Likewise, organizations such as CAMERA, who monitor journalists and attempt to discipline them or get them fired if they dare criticize Likud policy, should just be ignored. They don’t speak for Jewish Americans. They speak for a small group of fanatics.

11 Responses

  1. This is not really a comparison between American and Israeli jewry. One might find considerable agreement on many points as Netanyahu and Likud are a right wing faction holding power by a slim margin.

    • The “oddball” parties in Israel that have substantial electoral clout via Knesset seats and traditional ability to form ruling coalitions e.g. Shas, United Torah Judaism, have virtally no following in the U.S.

      The Labor Party or Meretz are likely the two political parties in Israel whose liberal outlook most closely approximates mainstream Jewish-American socio-political views. These two parties have very little influence in Israel in the last decade, even though the Labor Party dominated electoral politics in Israel during the 1960s and early 70s.

      Interestingly, only four American-born Israelis were ever elected to the Knesset. One was a feminist from New York elected in the early 1970s due to her pro-female views – and another was Meir Kahane, who renounced his U.S. citizenship and was elected to the Knesset where he sat until his death in 1992. Kahane today is an iconic figure among Israeli extremists – but whose views are broadly disliked among Jewish-Americans as racist.

  2. This is an over-the-top, silly assertion: “AIPAC, the Zionist Organization of America, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Anti-Defamation League (which too often defames other people) are completely unrepresentative of Jewish Americans.” You should be embarrassed for using the word “completely.” ADL is highly respected for at least some of work they do.

  3. I call for an important Reboot & Design DIY
    Conference in order to rethink our relations to each other .. As an Israeli/ American Jew .
    We have to synchronize a future .. Israel might be right, and could be very well off on the wrong direction . Huston , we have a problem

  4. The Zionist right wing in America is powerful not due to support of most Jews but because of the power of the accusation of anti-Semitism. They are very skillful with such insinuations. We hear things like “he is trying to throw Israel under the bus” when Israel does not get its way, implying that Israel, a regional super power, is at risk. The ridiculousness of that accusation is irrelevant, the message has been delivered: go further any you will be accused of being anti-Semitic.

    If a politician does not buckle under then the accusations increase: “He wants Israel destroyed”, “He wants all Jews killed”, “Another Holocaust”, etc. It does not take long before a politician realizes that if he votes for the bill and signs the check such problems go away. It is a process that has worked very well for half a century.

    With this scheme, the opinions of ordinary American Jews hardly matter.

    • Why don’t the more prominent and other of the 39& Jews who are only “somewhat” attached to Israel come to the politician’s aid?

      I would suspect, while not denying the assimilation rate
      is significaant, that among the 39% and among the “neolib” Jews who do not identify with the Likud, there are still a dominant majority who would reject a scheme to transform Israel to a true democracy with no rabbinical (or Shariah) Law.

  5. The poll results are about what I would suspect – and indeed, many Israelis are likewise opposed to Likud policies and thinkstyle. Also what a supreme hypocritical irony, that the US Christian Right dotes on Bibi Netanyahu while he puts out propaganda against celebrating Christmas. That is a *true* “war on Christmas” but will right-wing outlets feature or condemn it …

  6. Don’t forget that a good chunk of hard-line support for Israel in the USA comes from fundamentalist Christians from their belief that Israel’s existence is a precondition for the Eschaton.

    • Absolutely.

      Pastor John Hagee is one of the key proponents of this.

      These fundamentalists often are of the opinion that Israel should NEVER be criticized.

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