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Isaac Luria

Isaac Luria

Posted March 27, 2009 | 09:47 AM (EST)

2 Jews, 3 opinions


Since J Street released a second poll of American Jews' views on Israel, the Middle East, and the US role in resolving conflicts in the region, some of the usual suspects have tried to reject the results out of hand.

Like a similar poll we commissioned last July, the findings show that an overwhelming majority of American Jews support the United States government taking the reins when it comes to peace making between Israel and its neighbors, even if that means pushing both sides to do it. (A PowerPoint presentation of the findings, the full poll results, and our pollster's analysis can be accessed on our website here.)

The results certainly present a problem for J Street's opponents who have claimed to speak for the majority of American Jews. The poll does paint a pretty bleak picture regarding the lack of depth of American Jewish support for right wing positions. Learning those views are actually in the minority has got to be a hard pill to swallow.

I suppose, then, it is understandable that some of our more virulent and frequent critics would use this opportunity to mount attacks on J Street and the poll we sponsored.

First out of the gate was conservative columnist Shmuel Rosner who posted on the Jerusalem Post's website that our poll was a "joke," "tailored to J Street's needs," and "problematic."

Tough charges. But after reading Rosner's post, I had to question whether he'd actually read through the entire poll.

In one case, Rosner argued that the respondents to Poll Questions 33 and 35 who "somewhat support" either the "US publicly stating its disagreements with both the Israelis and Arabs (Q. 33) " or "the US pressuring the Israelis or Arabs" (Q. 35) may have chosen this answer because they support, in his words, "pressure on Arabs but not pressure on Israelis."

Actually, we tested whether or not Rosner's claim was correct in the very next question. Focusing in on support for publicly disagreeing with or pressuring Israel, we asked if respondents would support if the "US publicly stated its disagreements with Israel" (Q. 34) or the "US exerting pressure on the Israel." (Q. 36) We found that, understandably, there was a drop off in support amongst American Jews who support "active American involvement" for public disagreement just with Israel (76% → 58%)) and support for pressure just on Israel (72% → 57%).

We didn't highlight Questions 35 and 36 in our press release because we didn't want to give the impression that J Street supports the US singling out Israel for pressure. If you're asking, we don't.

After a few more paragraphs attacking the formulation of the questions for stylistic reasons, Rosner uses our own poll - which he had just tried to discredit - to accuse us of hiding our position on the recent Gaza conflict.

We've never done such a thing. All our statements on Gaza are freely available on our website. Actually, we asked this question in the poll in order to contribute to our own understanding and the overall conversation on the efficacy of Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip, which has been J Street's central point about the use of military force in the region more generally.

We have never and will never question Israel's right to self-defense. We also recognize that military force must be a part of the toolkit that Israel and the United States use to defend against terrorism. But we think it is important to ask whether specific military operations actually make Israel and the United States more secure in the long run. We believe that when it came to the Gaza operation, it did not.

Interestingly, when asked if the Gaza operation made Israel more secure, American Jews echoed the concern posed by J Street during the operation. 59% of those polled believe that the Gaza Operation had did not make Israel more secure.

Rosner concludes with the warning that, "[J Street] should have been extra careful if they want me to believe their numbers. But they're not."

After reading Rosner's criticism and remembering what he's already said about J Street and the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement, I'm not sure that we should care about getting Shmuel Rosner's endorsement.

When you take a step back, the reason he attacked our poll comes into focus. He's just not that into J Street. I think we can live with that.