The Levy Economics Institute of Bard College published a working paper which reexamines the annual AJC opinion surveys for the past seven years. It’s a thorough fisking of sorts of the information the AJC pumps out regarding peace proposal opinions. Even with caveats to the study’s limits, Perlmann has some interesting data to report.
— The AJC surveys have been limited to people to identify as Jewish religiously.
— No socioeconomic or demographic factors dramatically affect any opinions on the West Bank…
— …Except orthodoxy. Orthodox Jews reject by 93% varying compromises around peace. For the other 9/10ths of American Jewry, denomination accounts for very little differences in opinion.
— Within the non-Orthodox denominations, opinion is divided in even thirds: accept all compromises, accept all but Jerusalem, and accept nothing.
— The older you are, the more you are emotionally attached to Israel…
— …Yet, the older you are, the more ready you are to compromise on return of the West Bank.
— 51% who report Jewishness as being “very important” do not report a “very close” attachment to Israel. American Jews appear able to separate their feelings for Jewish religion from the Jewish state. Gasp!
— New York City (or other metro area) Jews aren’t any more conservative than Jews in other places, once you remove the Orthodox contingent.
— Emotional attachment to Israel, in non-Orthodox respondants, does not correlate with rejection of peace proposals.
The straight breakdown:
65% support dismantling some or all settlements (“some” being a very elastic term)
55% support a Palestinian state
41% support a change in the status of Jerusalem
For curiosities sake, the religious breakdown of the study is:
24% Conservative, affiliated
17% Reform, affiliated
13% Reform, unaffiliated
10% Conservative, unaffiliated
10% Just Jewish
The importance of being Jewish:
55% Very important
35% Somewhat important
11% Not very important
Perlmann says the results would not dramatically change if the large combined number of Jewish secularists and intermarried households were added to the survey base. I doubt this, because that magnitude is the very segment of Jewish society we know so little exact details about.
First, the questions about the peace proposals are imprecise — making them useless at plumbing the sources and reasons of disagreement within the Jewish community. Perlmann points out:
For example, is a position to support Israeli settlements on the West Bank based on an argument that the land: 1) was conquered in a defensive war; 2) is historically Jewish; 3) was divinely promised; 4) is a buffer keeping the border farther from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv; or just 5) a bargaining chip for future negotiations. Israeli Jews have had a hard time sifting these arguments; so much the more so American Jews.
The AJC study always stands in contrast (sometimes up to 35 percentage points) to the joint polls by American’s for Peace Now and the American-Arab Institute, especially in their wording:
The wording of the AJC survey question is: “In the current situation, do you favor or oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state?” Roughly 55% of respondents favored and 40% opposed establishment during 2000–2005. By contrast, the APN-AAI poll has been conducted three times since 2002; between 82% and 90% of American Jews supported a Palestinian state each time. The APN-AAI poll question asks about a future context created by 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.”
AJC says Jews barely support a Palestinian state, whereas APN-AAI say it’s an overwhelming majority. They are discussing two completely different scenarios: a Palestinian state with all its warts or a future in which problems have been addressed. But perhaps this we all could already have guessed.
When the day comes when a serious researcher bothers to examine the breadth of disagreement on Zionism, Israel, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the organized Jewish community (OJC) is going to have a shit fit. I personally believe this has not been done to date precisely because it would undermine the OJC’s assertion that Jews stand so resolutely behind Israel. For example, if it were unveiled that X percent of Jewish communal professionals were non-Zionist or ambivalent towards Israel, they might have a harder time classifying those beyond the communal pale as self-haters. And the potential for such a study to shake the OJC into a real understanding of how it stands outside the norms of average American Jews gives me wet dreams.