Young Palestinians skeptical of negotiations and supportive of violence, poll finds


The overwhelming majority of young Palestinians believe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be resolved through negotiations.

poll of Palestinian youth, defined as ages 16-30, published Monday by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center depicts a community that is socially conservative, supports violence against Israel, is skeptical about its leadership and opposes the Islamic State. It also shows significantly greater support for violence among Palestinians in the Gaza Strip than among those in the West Bank.

While 47.4 percent of youths in the West Bank oppose stabbing attacks, 78.6 percent of Gaza youths support them, according to the poll. In addition, 66.6 percent of the respondents in Gaza believe the current wave of violence serves the Palestinian cause, while 40.9 percent in the West Bank agree.

The poll is based on face-to-face interviews with a random sample of 1,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza between April 13 and 19. It has a 3 percent margin of error. The average age of the respondents was 22.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents said they believe that negotiations will not succeed in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and 64.3 percent oppose the idea of working with like-minded Israelis to find a solution to the conflict.

Despite the apparent cynicism about negotiations, the majority, or 52.9 percent, support a possible resumption of negotiations with Israel, but a sizable minority, at 43 percent, oppose doing so.

While the survey found high levels of support for the Palestinian National Authority, with 67.7 percent saying it should stay in place and 60.3 percent saying its performance was good or very good, it also reported high levels of mistrust for the various Palestinian political factions. Asked which faction they trust the most, 32.5 percent of respondents said they don’t trust any faction, 33.8 percent said they trust Fatah — which controls the Palestinian Authority — more than others and 19.1 percent said they trust Hamas more than others.

Similarly, when asked which leaders they trust, the plurality, or 32.7 percent, said they did not trust anyone. With 16 percent, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas garnered the most trust of any named leaders.

One issue around which there was strong consensus was a shared distaste for the Islamic State, or ISIS, the Islamic extremist group that controls parts of Syria and Iraq and which has perpetrated terrorist attacks in Europe and elsewhere. Some 83.6 percent of those surveyed had negative opinions of the group.

On social issues, the majority of those polled, or 65.3 percent, said they do not shake hands with members of the opposite sex. Respondents were sharply divided on the issue of coeducation, with 49.8 percent opposed and 48.1 percent in favor.

UK Muslims more anti-Semitic than general population, poll finds


A poll of British Muslims revealed that they are more anti-Semitic than the general population, and also differ from the larger community on numerous social issues.

The poll was conducted for a television documentary that will air Wednesday called “What British Muslims Really Think.”

According to reports in several British media outlets, the poll found that while 6 percent of the British population in a parallel poll believed Jews are “responsible for most wars,” more than 25 percent of Muslim respondents held that view. In addition, nearly 40 percent of the Muslims polled said Jews had “too much control over global affairs,” a view held by just 10 percent of the overall British population.

The poll of Muslims also found that more than one-third believe Jews talk too much about the Holocaust, 30 percent believe Jews “think they are better than other people” and 40 percent believe Jews are “more loyal to Israel than to the UK.”

Asked if they believed anti-Semitism is a problem in the UK, 25 percent of respondents said yes.

Some British Muslim leaders are questioning the poll‘s accuracy, however, with one scholar saying it interviews Muslims only in areas where they are 20 percent or more of the population and thus less likely to be integrated into the larger British culture. Writing in the Guardian, a leader of the Muslim Council of Britain called the poll “skewed” and “divisive.”

According to London’s Jewish News, a statement from the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism said the poll showed that interfaith initiatives had “failed to stop high levels of Muslim anti-Semitism,” adding: “British Muslims hold deeply anti-Semitic views. … We note the shocking levels of anti-Jewish opinion, including several conspiracy theory based beliefs about Jews and power, money, business and the media.”

The poll also found that large numbers of British Muslims believe Jews wield too much power: 40 percent said Jews have too much power over financial markets and 39 percent said the same about the media.

“It is sad that ancient stereotypes still play out in society at large and in particular within parts of the Muslim community,” Jewish Leadership Council leader Simon Johnson said, according to the Jewish News. “This report shows a clear need for further education.”

According to London’s Jewish Chronicle, the poll also found sharp differences between Muslim opinion and general British opinion on homosexuality and women’s rights. For example, half of respondents said homosexuality should be illegal, while 39 percent agreed with the statement that “wives should always obey their husbands” and 31 percent thought it was acceptable for a man to have more than one wife, The Guardian reported.

While their views differed from their non-Muslim countrymen, the Muslims polled expressed positive feelings about the United Kingdom, with 88 percent saying Britain was a good place for Muslims and 86 percent saying they feel a strong sense of belonging in the country.

The poll was conducted in person in the spring of 2015 with a representative sample of 1,000 Muslims across the country. For comparison, the pollsters also interviewed by phone a representative sample of 1,008 British people.

 

Poll of Israelis: 58% see Trump as friendly


Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump may have hit a nerve among Jewish voters in the United States when he suggested he would take a “neutral” approach on Israel, but not so much among Israelis.

According to the Israel Democracy Institute’s monthly Peace Index poll published on Sunday, 61 percent of Israeli Jews see Trump’s position on Israel as very or moderately friendly, 14% as not at all or not so friendly. The numbers are the same (58% vs. 13%) when matched among the general Israeli public, including Israeli Arabs.

The poll also showed that 34% of the Jewish-Israeli public think a Republican president will be better for Israel, compared to 28 percent who think so regarding a Democratic president. Thirteen percent believe that from the standpoint of Israel’s benefit, it makes no difference from which party a president will be elected.

Between the two Democratic presidential candidates, 40 percent sees Hillary Clinton as preferable from Israel’s standpoint. Only 16 percent preferred Bernie Sanders, who’s Jewish and stayed on an Israeli kibbutz in the 1960′s.

Americans disapprove of Iran deal 2-to-1


The implementation of the Iran nuclear deal earlier this year appears to have done little to allay the American public’s concerns about a nuclear-armed Iran, a new Gallup poll released on Thursday showed. 

According to the survey, 57 percent of U.S. adults disapprove the international accord that was signed with the Iranian regime last July, while only 30 percent approve of the agreement. Fourteen percent have no opinion.

Approval of the deal negotiated by the Obama administration is at 51 percent among Democrats, while 38 percent disapprove. Among Republicans, only 9 percent approve of the deal, 80 percent disapprove. 

Strong disapproval may have to do with that fact that 75 percent of U.S. adults see Iran as a critical threat to the vital interests of the U.S. in potentially developing nuclear weapons in the next 10 years, the survey showed. 

At least two Republican presidential candidates – Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio – have vowed to disavow the deal on their first day in the Oval Office. The remaining candidates are all opposed to the deal.

Poll: Majority of French Muslims on board with daughter marrying a Jew


A majority of French Muslims said they would react positively if their daughter married a Jew, a survey found.

The results were part of a document comprising three reports published Sunday by the polling firm Ipsos based on opinion polls and interviews conducted over 2014 and 2015 with several partner organizations, including the Foundation of French Judaism.

The data on perceptions about Jews among Muslims came from an online survey conducted among 500 French-Muslim adults between Feb. 24 and March 9, 2015. In the survey, 55 percent of respondents said they would “react positively” if their daughter married a Jew, while 45 percent said they would “react negatively.”

The proportion of negative respondents among Muslims to this scenario was higher than the one that emerged from another survey included in the Jan. 31 report, which was conducted July 2014 among 1,005 French adults who were selected to represent French society in terms of political views, gender and religion.

In that group, titled “general population,” only 21 percent of respondents said they would react negatively. Among Muslims, 68 percent of respondents said they would react positively if their daughter married a Catholic.

Fifty-six percent of respondents from the general population said they would react negatively if their daughter married a Muslim.

The survey also revealed that anti-Semitic sentiment was more prevalent among French-Muslim respondents than respondents from the general population, with 18 percent of Muslims affirming that “there are too many Jews in France” compared to 13 percent in the general population.

Asked to what degree French Jews were responsible for anti-Semitism, 11 percent of Muslims said “to a very high degree,” 20 percent indicated “to a significant degree” and 29 percent wrote “to a minor degree,” while 40 percent indicated they were not responsible. In the general population, only 3 percent marked “to a very high degree,” 14 percent wrote “to a significant degree” and 42 percent said Jews had a minor responsibility.

Among Muslims, 62 percent said French Jews are more attached to Israel than France, compared to 53 percent in the general population.

The third part of the document was based on a survey of 313 Jews conducted in 2015 between February and June. Of those, 92 percent said anti-Semitism increased since 2011.

Forty-five percent said they had experienced anti-Semitic abuse and 11 percent said they were the victims of anti-Semitic violence. Sixty-one percent said Jews were safer in Israel than in France, and 26 percent said they are seriously considering immigrating to Israel.

Jews in the West, Jews on the left


Regardless of the exact rationale, Jews of the West are politically and ideologically different from those in the rest of the United States.

For more than a century, the American West has held a special place in the hearts and minds of Americans; its allure as a frontier played an outsized role in the American imagination. Today, the Pacific Coast continues to be viewed as a place for reinvention and rediscovery, an incubator for  technology and culture. One of the key facets to this Western idea is the notion that Westerners explicitly reject many of the traditions and institutions of the East as too rigid, too out of touch and too backward or inward looking. Many key progressive and liberal ideas have stemmed from this more progressive Western spirit.

Accordingly, the question that needs to be asked is how American Jews fit into this picture. As we find in our analysis of the Pew Research Center’s 2013 survey of Jewish Americans conducted especially for the Jewish Journal, the survey contains a treasure trove of data on Jews’ political dispositions and orientations, and one area in particular that warrants examination is geography. Do Jews actually look politically different in the West compared with the United States’ Jewish population as a whole? The answer is a resounding yes. Although this distinction might not seem particularly apparent as Jewish voting patterns — which often show regional parity — are reported, we demonstrate here that Western Jews are not only far more liberal when compared with the U.S. as a whole, but that there is a distinctive Western Jewish form of liberalism.

Voting Democratic, but that’s not the whole story

In 2012, 69 percent of American Jews voted for President Barack Obama. Although this is a large percentage, it is notably lower when compared with the post-2000 presidential elections, when closer to 80 percent of Jews voted for Democratic candidates. For Americans overall, there are notable regional voting patterns. The West, for instance, has voted consistently for Democratic presidential candidates since 1992, while the South has voted consistently Republican since 1980.

In the case of regional Jewish voting patterns, as we have already noted, there have been few meaningful presidential voting differences since 1992 in terms of electoral choice. Southerners are slightly less supportive of Democrats, but Western Jews are not leading the regional groups in terms of their support for Democrats or Republicans; among American Jews, there is regional electoral convergence. Most notably, if we look at the voting trends among American Jews over time, we find that since 1992, Democratic support across all regions has declined slightly — from the mid-80 percent range in the 1990s to the low-70 percent range by 2012.

The story of Western liberalism becomes far more interesting when we dig deeper. Voting patterns provide an overly simple and skewed view of reality, largely because electoral outcomes do not capture many attitudes or ideals. Rather, they capture a forced choice, often between two extreme and polarized candidates. When Americans are asked to state their party preference, a plurality regularly opt to declare themselves “independent” rather than Democrat or Republican. In fact, close to 60 percent of Americans want a third major political party because they believe Democrats and Republicans do such a poor job representing the American people.

All this being said, as we will now show, the positions in the West are clearly more liberal when compared with the non-West, and Jews are more liberal than Americans generally, and Western Jews are more liberal than Jews elsewhere. True, we see regional convergence in Jews’ voting patterns; but a more nuanced look at measures beyond voting reveal far greater differences in ideology and socio-political attitudes.

Many Jewish Democrats, many Jewish liberals

After we go beyond voting patterns, we find that the often-presumed absolute liberalism among American Jews is not entirely uniform, as more observant Jews certainly lean right of center. Nonetheless, it is unquestionable that Jews are largely liberal and very much Democrats, with those living in the West almost twice as likely to be liberal.

To elaborate, we can start by looking at those who identify as strongly liberal. Of Americans living in the West, only 9 percent are strong liberally, as compared with three times as many — almost 30 percent — among Jews living in the West. Similarly for those outside the West, roughly 5 percent of Americans identify as strongly liberal compared with 16 percent of non-Western Jews.

On particular issues, Jewish liberalism remains far greater than among other Americans, in the West or elsewhere. Two examples come to mind. The first is the issue of whether homosexuality should be accepted by society. Among Jews, the West/non-West division is minor — 85 percent to 82 percent, respectively. Notably, acceptance of homosexuality by Jews is roughly 20 points higher compared with non-Jews in the West and the non-West.

A second example involves social services: “Some people think the government should provide fewer services, even in areas such as health and education, in order to reduce spending. Other people feel that it is important for the government to provide many more services, even if it means an increase in spending.” The two options present clear liberal and conservative views of the role of government. Here, Jews are again more liberal compared with the American populace on the whole. Almost 55 percent of Jews want to see more services and a larger government. Jews’ liberalism on government’s role exceeds non-Jews by about 10 points in the West and 15 points in the non-West, demonstrating that Jews are, once again, more liberal than non-Jews.

As for party identification, Western Jews are far more likely to be Democrats, compared with Jews in the other regions and compared with Americans more generally. In the West, 61 percent of Jews are Democrats, followed by 27 percent independents and 11 percent Republicans. Comparable Pew data from 2013 for all those living in the West show that only 35 percent were Democrats, 44 percent independents and 20 percent Republicans. Although the West in general is more left of center than the rest of the country, the Jews in the West are almost twice as likely to be Democrats compared with non-Jews.

Looking at the East, Midwest and South, we see similar distributions. But for Jews in the non-West, the leftward tilt is not as strong as in the West, with 53 percent of non-Western Jews identifying as Democrats, 31 percent as independents and 14 percent as Republicans. But the relative leftward skew of Jews outside the West is evident when we compare them with all Americans in the non-West: Among them, 42 percent are Independents, with roughly 30 percent each for Democrats and Republicans.

We see a clear story here. When looking at ideology and partisanship, we find that Jews compared with the U.S. as a whole are far more left of center. Moreover, there is a distinct Western Jewish liberalism that is still further to the left when compared with West Coast liberals generally and Jews outside the West.

Jews see more discrimination — against themselves and others

Table 1. Discrimination: percent “Yes, there is a lot of discrimination”

Note: May 2013 Pew Political Survey, Weighted

Given the history of anti-Semitism in the United States, it is no surprise that Jews see forces of discrimination alive and well for all groups. As many as 43 percent of Jews see themselves as facing a lot of discrimination, as compared with only 24 percent who feel that way about Jews among the general public.

Even more notable is that Jews believe Muslims, gays and lesbians, Hispanics and Blacks face considerably more discrimination than they do. The magnitudes are substantial compared with the population as a whole. Table 1 displays the size of these perception differences. Looking at Blacks, for instance, Jews see discrimination as being rampant, while the general population does not. The startling gap between Jews and the general public is about 3-to-1. Moreover, Western Jews are even more likely than Jews elsewhere to perceive a lot of discrimination against particular groups.

Among Jews, higher approval of President Obama

In May of 2013, slightly less than 50 percent of Americans approved of the way President Barack Obama was handling his job as president. Jews, on the other hand, felt differently, with 70 percent of those living in the West approving of Obama while 64 percent elsewhere did, as well. Moreover, on the question of Obama’s handling of the economy, roughly 42 percent of Americans approved his approach. Again, Jews felt more positively, with 68 percent of Western Jews and 57 percent elsewhere reporting support of the president. So, once again, we see expression of Jewish liberalism, with a more pronounced version in the West.

The question that remains is why are Jews so liberal — and even more liberal in the West? We offer some partial explanations for why Jews are generally liberal, and Western Jews even more liberal than American Jews elsewhere.

One is that Jews are decidedly found in areas such as Los Angeles, San Francisco or Denver, which have left-of-center political climates. Another explanation can be found in the demographic trends. Western Jews dramatically trail Jews in other parts of the U.S. in terms of those who self-identify as Orthodox, and we also found a smaller proportion of Conservative identifiers in the West. At the same time, the West markedly leads other American Jews in the number who identify with no denomination (48 percent versus 32 percent). 

Consistently, for Jews and Americans, traditional religiosity is related to conservatism. Among Jews, those who are Orthodox specifically, and more religious generally, situate themselves more to the right on the political spectrum; those who identify simply as Jewish without a denominational label, or are less religious in other ways, more often fall on the liberal left. Therefore, unsurprisingly, the West looks far more liberal compared with other parts of the country.


Samuel Abrams is research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and professor of politics and social science at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. Steven M. Cohen is research professor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and director, Berman Jewish Policy Archive at Stanford University.

Is it really a shock that 1/3 of Americans wouldn’t hide Jews?


Is the glass one-third empty or two-thirds full?

A poll commissioned by distributors of Holocaust film “Return to the Hiding Place” asked 1,000 Americans a question many Jews have pondered: “If you were living during World War II, would you have risked the imprisonment and death of yourself and your family to hide Jews?”

The results, as reported in The Hollywood Reporter  (and various other publications that cited the Hollywood Reporter), were presented in a remarkably negative way: emphasizing the one-third of respondents who said “no,” rather than the majority — two-thirds — who said “yes.”

This strikes me as odd. In most poll coverage, it’s the majority that leads the news, not the minority. And in this case, what the majority said is noteworthy: They would risk the lives of themselves and their family to save Jews.

To me, this is an impressive answer, even adjusted for the fact that saying you would do something heroic is a lot easier than actually doing something heroic. Had even one-third of Poles or Germans been willing to harbor Jews, Hitler’s Final Solution might have been stopped.

By focusing on the one-third who would not hide Jews, the coverage implies surprise that a significant minority is unwilling to take a serious risk (not to mention assume a huge and potentially costly responsibility) to rescue a stranger.

Given how few countries and their citizens are willing to take in large numbers of Syrian refugees or impoverished immigrants, a relatively low-risk proposition, why is it surprising that many people are reluctant to take a step that could cost them everything?

Maybe I’m too skeptical of human nature, but I’m more impressed that a whopping two-thirds claim they would take that risk.

The slant of the coverage is not the only thing odd about this poll, which the Hollywood Reporter said Barna Research firm conducted for the 2013 film’s distributors as part of a publicity campaign for its digital release.

The poll appears nowhere on the official film website, nor does the film’s Twitter handle mention it. Why launch a publicity campaign you don’t even publicize yourself?

I emailed Spencer Productions, the company distributing the DVD, to confirm that they did in fact commission the poll and to request a copy of it (the poll, not the DVD). They have not yet responded.

In any event, the poll of 1,000 American adults, as described in the Hollywood Reporter, had some intriguing findings beyond the two-thirds-to-one-third headline.

The question read as follows: “Think back to World War II when Jews in Europe were forced into concentration camps and many were killed by the Nazis. If you were living in this time period, would you have risked the possible imprisonment and death of yourself and your family to hide Jews?”

Males were more likely than females to say yes, married people more likely than single people to say yes and homosexuals more likely than heterosexuals to say yes. Also more likely to say yes were religious people compared to irreligious people and Southerners compared to Northeasterners.

The pollsters did not compare Jews to non-Jews because the sample size was too small to be statistically accurate on the matter.

Since my efforts to track down the poll have so far been unsuccessful, it’s not clear to me how significant the differences were between these various demographics.

But it’s fair to say that if you’re seeking a safe haven, the best bet (based on this poll) is to knock on the door of a married Southern homosexual man.

Israeli daily poll: 47% back Iran strike following nuke deal


Seventy-one percent of Israelis say they believe accord brings Iran closer to bomb, and 51 percent support bypassing Obama in effort to nix it.

Forty-seven percent of respondents in a survey conducted by Maariv, an Israeli daily, supported a military strike to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms.

The poll was published Friday after Tuesday’s nuclear deal between Tehran and major world powers, which agreed on the details of an unsigned accord that would offer Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for a scaling back of the Iranian nuclear program.

The paper did not give a sample size or margin of error for the poll carried out by Panels Politics Polling Institute. It did not provide information on respondents’ age, gender or religion.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents in the poll said they thought the agreement would accelerate Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon, not prevent it as claimed by the powers.

Asked “Do you support independent military action by Israel against Iran if such action is needed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon?” 47 percent said yes, 35 percent said no and 18 percent expressed no opinion.

A majority of respondents believed Jerusalem should use whatever means necessary to convince  Congress to reject the deal, while only 38 percent said it was now time to engage with President Barack Obama on the execution of the deal in order to achieve conditions preferable to Israel. Eleven percent said they did not know what the best course of action was.

Poll: Americans more apt to back Jewish candidates than evangelicals, Muslims or atheists


Ninety-one percent of Americans said they would vote for a presidential candidate who is Jewish, according to a new poll.

The Gallup poll of recent voting preferences released Monday showed that 73 percent of Americans would support an evangelical Christian for president, while 60 percent would back a Muslim and 58 percent an atheist.

The latest results on voting for a Jewish candidate matched those from June 2012. When the question about religion was first asked in 1937, less than half of Americans said they would vote for a Jewish candidate.

In addition to asking about religions, the poll, which was conducted via telephone interviews from June 2 to 7, asked the 1,527 participants aged 18 and older about their willingness to vote for gay or lesbian, African-American, Latino, female and socialist presidential candidates. Ninety-two percent said they would vote for an African-American and/or a woman and 74 percent a gay or lesbian. Forty-seven percent said they would consider voting for a socialist.

Both Democrats (92 percent) and Republicans (95 percent) expressed willingness to vote for a Jewish candidate, but they differed in their willingness to vote for candidates of various other faiths. Among Republicans, 84 percent said they would vote for an evangelical, compared to 66 percent of Democrats, and more Democrats were willing to vote for a Muslim (73 percent) than Republicans (45 percent). Some 64 percent of Democrats would vote for an atheist, compared to 45 percent of Republicans.

Considerably higher percentages of Democrats than Republicans — 85 percent compared to 61 percent — would vote for a gay or lesbian.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is the only announced Jewish candidate in the 2016 presidential race. Although Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic nomination, is independent, he has described himself as a democratic socialist and speaks out frequently against income inequality.

The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Respondents came from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Hamas gains in popularity in Gaza, West Bank since war with Israel


The Islamist Hamas movement that dominates Gaza has gained in popularity among all Palestinians since last year's war with Israel, but most feel the devastation caused by the conflict outweighs its achievements, a new poll shows.

Pollster Khalil Shikaki of the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey also reported what he called “the highest number ever recorded” — 50 percent — of Palestinians in the impoverished and isolated Gaza Strip considering emigration.

“There's a very high level of frustration we are seeing in Gaza more than at any other time in the past year,” Shikaki told reporters by teleconference from the West Bank, referring to results of the June 4-6 survey.

Rebuilding has been slow in Gaza since the 2014 war, in which Palestinian militants launched thousands of rockets and mortar bombs at Israel while Israeli air strikes and artillery battered Gaza, a small densely populated enclave. More than 2,100 Palestinians, mainly civilians, were killed while 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed on the Israeli side.

When asked who they would support if a parliamentary election were to be held, 39 percent of those polled in Gaza said they would vote for Hamas, up from 32 percent a year ago.

In the West Bank, where the Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas exercises self-rule alongside Israeli settlements, support for Hamas has risen to 32 percent from 27 percent three months ago. Fatah weighed in at 36 percent backing, down from 41 percent in March.

Shikaki said Hamas's rising appeal in the West Bank could be attributed in part to frustration with a prolonged impasse in diplomacy between Abbas and Israel on a Palestinian state in territory Israel captured in the 1967 war. But 63 percent of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank were unhappy with the achievements of the Hamas-Israel war “compared to the human and material losses” Gaza suffered, the poll also showed.

Shikaki said Abbas, the president since succeeding the late Yasser Arafat in 2004, held a slight edge in personal popularity over Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader in Gaza.

But Abbas' performance rating had dipped to 44 percent from 50 percent at the outset of last year's Fatah-Hamas unity deal, which has still not yet been fully implemented on the ground.

Hamas triumphed in the last Palestinian parliamentary election held in 2006. Fresh elections have been repeatedly postponed since Hamas's seizure of power from Fatah in Gaza in a brief 2007 civil war.

Poll: Plurality of Americans support Iran deal, half say U.S. should defend Israel


A plurality of Americans support the newly brokered deal with Iran, and half believe that the United States should defend Israel militarily, a new poll found.

Some 44 percent of Americans support the interim agreement on Iran‘s nuclear program reached between Iran and six world powers in Geneva last weekend, and 22 percent oppose it, a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Tuesday showed.

The survey also showed that 49 percent of Americans want the United States to increase sanctions if the Iran deal fails and 31 percent think it should pursue further diplomacy, according to Reuters. Twenty percent believe U.S. military force should be used against Iran.

The poll found that 63 percent of Americans believe that Iran’s nuclear program is developing a nuclear bomb. Iran says the project is for civilian purposes only.

Meanwhile, 65 percent of those polled said that that the United States “should not become involved in any military action in the Middle East unless America is directly threatened;” 21 percent disagreed with the statement.

Fifty percent of the Americans polled believe that the United States “should use its military power to defend Israel against threats to its security, no matter where they come from,” and 31 percent disagreed with the statement.

The poll of 591 Americans was conducted from Sunday through Tuesday with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

Meanwhile, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday that the six-month interim agreement with Iran has not yet started, saying that the next step is “a continuation of technical discussions at a working level so that we can essentially tee up the implementation of the agreement.”

She said the U.S. is “respecting the spirit of the agreement in pressing for sanctions not to be put in place” and expects that the same is coming from Iran’s end.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Iran’s Parliament on Wednesday that the Islamic Republic would continue to build the Arak heavy water plant, in contravention of the announced agreement. The previous day, Iran said that the United States had not distributed an accurate account of the agreement.

Polls: Most Americans support interim Iran deal


Two new polls released this week show most Americans surveyed support easing sanctions on Iran in exchange for a partial rollback of its nuclear program.

A CNN poll released Thursday and conducted by ORC international showed 56 percent of respondents favored “an interim deal that would ease some of those economic sanctions and in exchange require Iran to accept major restrictions on its nuclear program but not end it completely and submit to greater international inspection of its nuclear facilities.” Thirty-nine percent opposed. The poll, based on phone interviews between Nov. 18-20 of 843 respondents, has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

A Washington Post-ABC poll published Tuesday showed 64 percent of respondents support a deal “in which the United States and other countries would lift some of their economic sanctions against Iran, in exchange for Iran restricting its nuclear program in a way that makes it harder for it to produce nuclear weapons.” Thirty percent opposed. The poll was conducted Nov. 14-17 over the phone and reached 1,006 respondents. It had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

Unlike the CNN poll, the Post-ABC poll did not specifically address the crux of the difference between the Obama administration and Israel: Whether Iran should suspend all or some of its nuclear activities in an interim deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, backed by some U.S. lawmakers, has insisted that Iran totally dismantle its nuclear program and end all enrichment in exchange for any easing of sanctions.

A third round of talks between Iran and major powers is underway in Geneva this week.

The Post-ABC poll also showed that only 36 percent of respondents were confident that such a deal would stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, while 61 percent were not confident.

Goy until proven Jewish


“Who is a Jew?” is a uniquely Jewish question. It is a question that epitomizes the Jewish people and culture. It is a philosophical question that embodies the history of Jewish debate. It is a question of belonging that symbolizes Jews as a minority. It seems like a theoretical question, until your Judaism is in doubt. The question “Are you a Jew?” is a much more personal question and it is a question that many more Jews are being asked. In Israel, American Jews who made Aliyah or are living in Israel are finding that the burden of proof for proving Jewishness is getting increasingly heavy.

When it came time for Julia to get married, she was prepared to fight to prove her Jewish identity. She had moved to Israel three years prior, from the East Coast of the United States, and had gotten used to things always being harder in Israel. But she was not prepared for what she would face.

As someone who keeps a kosher home, doesn’t drive on Shabbat, and considers herself religious, it was important to Julia to have an Orthodox wedding with the Israeli Rabbinate. She is proud of her Jewish heritage, which she can trace back to her great, great grandfather who was an Orthodox Rabbi. However, she knew that her heritage would be hard to prove because of a gap in documents. The gap is a result of her great grandmother and great grandfather being institutionalized, which was the regrettable practice at the time for people born deaf. Being institutionalized, her great grandparents did not form a connection with Judaism, which meant that they did not leave a paper trail, such as a Ketuba or tombstone, for Julia to prove her Jewishness decades later.

Knowing that as an American Jew the Rabbinate would scrutinize her files, she went to the Rabbinate armed with pictures of her great, great grandparents’ tombstones, her parent’s Ketuba from a Reform Rabbi, her Bat Mitzvah certificate, letters testifying to her Jewish identity from two people in her community, and a letter from her Rabbi from the Conservative movement. However, all of this proof was not enough for the Rabbinate and she was refused approval of her Jewish identity.

Speaking of the letter from her Conservative Rabbi, Julia said, “The Rabbi who knows me the most is from a Conservative synagogue. So, I thought it was better to get a letter from someone who really knew me, which was obviously a mistake. It is better for (the Rabbinate) to get a letter from a Rabbi who they know but doesn’t know me whatsoever,” Julia said, still distraught about the treatment she received.

The refusal by the Israeli Rabbinate to accept a letter from a conservative rabbi doesn’t only hurt Julia, but it impacts the entire Conservative movement. Conservative Rabbi Menachem Creditor of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, California and co-founder of ShefaNetwork and KeshetRabbis said, “For me as a Rabbi to be so marginalized by the religious authorities of my own sacred home demonstrates that the Jewish exile hasn’t ended yet and that the perpetrators of Jewish exile today are largely Jews. The State has only begun to acknowledge the corrupt form of Judaism that has reigned in the State of Israel and that it is going to take a lot more work to end the exile being perpetrated by Jews at Jews. Secular politicians have an obligation to the global Jewish people that they are beginning to acknowledge.”

After a long and painful process, and only about three weeks before the wedding, Julia finally did receive approval to get married in Israel. However, the process has left her with a deep scar. “It was equally frustrating and offensive to my identity. My whole family is Jewish. I have never once in my life doubted my Jewish identity. It was so shameful. It really made me feel ashamed. This is so not Jewish.”

Julia probably does not take any solace in the fact that she is not alone in this struggle. There is a systematic and epidemic distrust from the Israeli Rabbinate towards American Jews and Rabbis from non-Orthodox streams of Judaism.

Morgan, just like Julia, is a Jewish American immigrant to Israel who got engaged to an Israeli. While Morgan was opening up her marriage file at the New York Rabbinate so she could get married in Israel, her fiancé simultaneously went to his local Rabbinate in Northern Israel. They both faced obstacles related to Morgan being able to prove that she is Jewish.

In New York, Morgan was dealing with a variety of obstacles – from the Israeli Rabbis not understanding that religion isn’t listed on a driver’s license to them not appreciating the fact that Morgan’s mother, who grew up in the projects of New York had faced a lot of anti-Semitism growing up and was more focused on surviving than finding a kosher grocer. While Morgan and her extended family members were being interrogated by the Beit Din in New York, a Rabbi in Israel explained to her fiancé that Morgan’s parents are the equivalent of goyim because they were married by a Reform Rabbi in Los Angeles and affiliate with the Reform Jewish movement.

Speaking about the refusal of the Israeli Rabbinate to accept Reform Judaism as a legitimate form of the religion, Reform Rabbi Steven Z. Leder, Senior Rabbi at Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles, California and recently named among the “Top 50 Influential Rabbis in America” by Newsweek stated, “I have little doubt that the rabbinical authorities who impugn the status of Reform and Conservative Rabbis, their congregations, and those who convert to Judaism within them, have gladly accepted financial assistance offered to Israel by those very same Jews and given countless sermons about the importance of unity among the Jewish people.  This makes these Rabbis, in a word, hypocrites.”

The Rabbi who called Morgan’s family goyim explained to her fiancé that she would need to provide documents that show her Jewish heritage for the past three generations. When her fiancé asked this Rabbi how the Rabbinate knew that he was Jewish, since his father had been born on the way to Israel from Yemen without any documentation, the Rabbi refused to give a reason.

Morgan says that one of the toughest parts of this process was that the Rabbinate approached the issue from the “assumption that we aren’t Jewish. They were asking questions to try to trap us, which is so insulting. I was so disgusted. This whole process for the privilege to be married in Israel made me feel as if I didn’t even want to come here anymore. How dare you question my mother and me like we are not Jews! It is a scourge on Israel what they are doing to people, to olim (immigrants), to people who served in the army. It all just disgusts me.”

The entire process to prove that she was Jewish enough to get married in Israel took Morgan approximately a year. After eventually getting a letter through a connection, Morgan can now joke about the experience. “I was making a good six figures in New York, and I’m coming here. Who else but a Jew would do this?”

The Israeli Rabbinate’s refusal to accept letters testifying to an American Jewish immigrant’s Jewish identity from Reform, Conservative, and even some streams of Orthodox Rabbis as sufficient proof is a growing trend and one that is well-known among the immigrant community in Israel, but not well known among American Jews.

“I think Israel’s religious decisions are under the radar for most of the young American Jewish population because most of the young American Jewish population is already distanced from Israel for other reasons,” explained Rabbi Creditor. “We can’t afford to continue distancing these young Jews for both political and religious reasons. It probably is a good thing that young Jews don’t know about those things yet. But as soon as they find out it is an absolute barrier to any sense of connectivity with the State of Israel.”

In recent years, there has been more coverage related to isolated incidents of the Israeli Rabbinate denying Reform and Conservative converts the right to get married, but these are reported as issues that mainly impact converts and their descendents. However, these stories show that converts are simply the canary in the coal mine. When the Israeli Rabbinate refuses to recognize conversions of Reform, Conservative, or other streams of Judaism, it is not a directed offense against converts; it is an affront against American Judaism as a whole. It is an assault against the legitimacy of the leaders, the Rabbis, and the members of one of the strongest Jewish communities in the world.

It is an issue that impacts many, if not most American Jews. According to the 2000-2001National Jewish Population Survey, in the United States there are 1.3 million Jews in Conservative household and 1.7 million in Reform households. This means that, just like Julia and Morgan, more than three million American Jews could face obstacles proving their Jewish identity and potentially be denied the right to get married in Israel. But surprisingly, the American Jewish community, one of the strongest supporters of Israel, is not demanding that Israel reciprocate that support.

Rabbi Creditor explains that being critical of Israel can by synonymous with being a Zionist. “It is absolutely essential that American Jews be engaged in Israel’s safety and life. What makes anybody an authentic Zionist is that they love their Jewish people, they love their Jewish family. And we are free thinkers. We should continue to be free thinkers who love our family. I raise my voice loudly, to demand of my homeland that it treat me like family. And in return, I model that kind of respect and love through everything that I do. My commitment to Israel is what gives me the right to demand of Israel that it treats me with respect.”

Jessica Fishman moved to Israel from the US in 2003 and writes the Aliyah Survival Blog, an irreverent portrayal of life as an immigrant in Israel. Her new book, Chutzpah and High Heels: The Search for Love and Identity in the Holy Land, will be published soon.

Crisis and opportunity — Reflections on the Pew report


Full disclosure: I have been thinking about the results of the Pew report for more than a decade. I understand that Pew didn’t release its results until last week, but these statistics and trends have been obvious to some in the Jewish community for a very long time. Four years ago, I made a major life change and became the president and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles because of the revelations now appearing in the Pew report. It is what drives our board, our staff and me every day, and it is what has motivated our Federation’s major reimagination and transformation. It is at the core of our mission and our work.

Over the past week, there has been a great deal of reaction to the study’s findings, ranging from defensiveness to rejection with a smattering of thoughtful responses. The truth is that we can no longer afford to look the other way.  We must take a communal approach to building a Jewish community that will not just sustain but will flourish.

I love Judaism, the Jewish people and the State of Israel.  I strongly believe that being Jewish adds immeasurable value to me, my family and our world.

We have a crisis. The numbers and the trending in the Pew report speak out loud and clear. Our crisis is not in the Middle East. It is in America. It is a crisis based on our success. We have truly succeeded in becoming American and in assimilating into this great country. 

The resulting loss of engagement, however, impacts every Jew and every Jewish institution.

But this crisis also offers us an extraordinary opportunity.

What got us here won’t get us there

Marshall Goldsmith, one of America’s preeminent executive coaches, wrote an insightful best-selling book titled “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” The book’s central tenet provides us with a solid piece of Torah.

We, as a people, have built great synagogues and great organizations. We have created enviable Jewish communities across the Diaspora.

It is clear that what we have built did get us here, but it is now equally clear that if we want to ensure a vibrant Jewish future, that infrastructure may not get us there.

I say this with caution. This is not a time for a knee-jerk reaction, and there are no “innovative” quick fixes. This is a time to take a break from our preoccupation with our history to take a long, proactive look at the future, the future we want for the next generations. They are the loudest voices in the study. These voices demand to be in our communal conversations.

We need to learn from Apple

Steve Jobs and his crew understood almost from the beginning that once a consumer is introduced to the power of technology, he or she would be hooked. Once hooked, it was up to Apple to continue to deepen the relationship between the consumer and that technology by listening to the consumer and being ahead of the competition in introducing both new products and new applications.

We need to see Judaism like new and evolving technology, and we need to be more like Apple. We need to create a two-way conversation with our consumers, and we need to reimagine our product line.

This analogy speaks directly to our Millennials and the generations to come.

There is another central change we need to make. We have promoted “episodic” Judaism based on lifecycle milestones and communal events. Our institutions have promoted powerful programs like PJ Library, Taglit Birthright and Jewish preschool.  Our Federation supports these important, highly successful programs. But what this study says loud and clear is that “episodic” Judaism is not enough.

We need to create a Jewish journey for every Jew, a journey that each Jew helps to create. Think of the iPod. Millions and millions of people use the same device to listen to their music but with customized play lists. They listen to their iPods alone, or they plug them into speakers and play for their friends in a communal experience.

We need to embrace our young people, not blame them

Our young people are redefining their Judaism. We need to be an active part of that redefinition process. It is up to the Jewish community to reach out, engage and embrace them. 

At the Federation, we are committed to not just engaging our young people, but engaging them in our reimagination and our transformation. They are not the problem. They are a part of the solution.

Many of our organizations have built models based on philanthropy first. We need to move away from “pay-to-play” Judaism. If young people are meaningfully engaged, they will become philanthropists. But we are pushing too many of them away by expecting them to give before they connect.

The challenge

Our future demands our attention. We need a strong, communal approach to build a rich, vibrant Jewish future. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has made the commitment to this process. Will you join us?


Jay Sanderson is president and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Pew study finds a vibrant Jewish community


Over the past week, I have seen a flurry of writing about Pew Research Center’s study on American Jews. Several scholars and communal leaders have taken an alarmist stance toward the findings, calling the increasing rate of intermarriage “devastating” and describing non-Orthodox Jews as “demographically challenged.” As an adviser to the Pew study and researcher of American Jewish communities, I would like to offer a more optimistic analysis.

Some of the articles have looked for the most dramatic findings to report. The Forward focused on the fact that in 1957, Jews made up 3.4 percent of the U.S. population, compared to 2.2 percent today. This decrease can be explained by the steady streams of mostly non-Jewish immigrants from Latin America and around the world, which have increased the U.S. population at a higher rate than the Jewish population. To quote the Pew report, “The number of adult Jews by religion rose about 15 percent over the last half century, while the total U.S. population more than doubled.”

So how many Jews are there? It depends on how you count. The study estimates that there are 8 million people in the United States who are willing to tell a phone interviewer that they are fully or partly Jewish. But many of those are also Christian or have no Jewish ancestry and have not converted. The researchers realized that different readers would want to apply different definitions, so they provided a handy calculator where we can check off boxes and come up with our own estimate. (Missing from that tool is a halachic definition: There are no checkboxes for having a Jewish mother and/or conversion.) If we include only people who say they are Jews and do not also subscribe to another religion, we find 6.7 million. Just people who say their religion is Jewish (called “Jews by religion”): 5.1 million. No matter how you calculate our population, we still have an impressive representation.

The New York Times and other venues reported a 71 percent rate of intermarriage among non-Orthodox Jews, a number I have already heard discussed with concern in various Jewish circles. I contacted the Pew researchers to verify this statistic, as it does not appear in the report. It is accurate (actually, it’s 71.5 percent), but it is a bit misleading. First, it includes only people who have married since 2000 and whose marriages are still intact. Second, it includes Jews of no religion. The sample size was too small to calculate the percentage of non-Orthodox Jews by religion who have married non-Jews in the last 13 years. But if we look at all Jews by religion, we find the recent intermarriage rate at 50 percent (marriages from 2000 to 2004) and then 45 percent (2005-2013); note the drop in the last several years. Third, these calculations include many people who themselves have mixed ancestry. If we look only at Jews with two Jewish parents — common practice in demography, as my colleague Bruce Phillips has explained — we find the intermarriage rate is 37 percent, compared to a whopping 83 percent of those with only one Jewish parent. I asked Pew to calculate the intermarriage rate for non-Orthodox Jews with two Jewish parents, and they complied: 43 percent. Again, the sample is too small to divide these results by year of marriage or even age, but it is clear that the “intermarriage rate” can vary widely depending on how it is calculated.

Instead of bemoaning or even debating the numbers, an alternative response to the survey would be to marvel at the fact that so many Jews still marry other Jews. We live in an age of acceptance: Not only are Christians willing to marry Jews, many (an estimated 800,000) feel so connected to Jews or Judaism that they tell a phone interviewer that they are Jewish, even if neither of their parents is Jewish. Why don’t the vast majority of Jews marry non-Jews? I would suggest it is because synagogues, schools, youth groups, Hillels and other Jewish organizations are creating opportunities for Jews to get to know other Jews.

According to conventional wisdom, Jewish organizations are no longer touching most Jews. The survey finds the opposite: 58 percent of all Jews report that they attend Jewish religious services at a synagogue or other place of worship at least a few times a year. There is little difference among age groups in synagogue attendance.

We see similarly high numbers for Jewish education: 67 percent of respondents participated in some kind of formal Jewish education. And when we look at Jewish day school attendance — the most exclusive and demanding form of Jewish education — we see an increase based on age: Only 17 percent of those 65 and older attended day school, compared to 35 percent of those 18-29. (Note that these statistics include many people of mixed ancestry, and the numbers for “Jews by religion” are significantly higher.)

Synagogues, schools and other organizations are, it seems, succeeding in fostering friendships among Jews: 79 percent of Jews say that at least some of their close friends are Jewish. Interestingly, this is the only item for which the report mentions regional differences. In the West, only 67 percent say that at least some of their close friends are Jewish, compared to 77 percent in the Midwest and South and 85 percent in the Northeast. These numbers are likely much higher in densely Jewish parts of Los Angeles, but to confirm this we’ll need to wait for the next (much-needed) L.A. Jewish Population Survey.

To sum up, yes, the report finds that the Jewish population is changing. Boundaries between Jews and non-Jews have become more porous, and Jews continue to marry the people they love, whether or not they are Jewish. This trend may lead to decreasing numbers of non-Orthodox Jews in the future. But the numbers seem less alarming with a bit of explanation. The Pew study clearly shows that we are still a robust and vibrant community, numbering in the millions — no matter how you count.


Sarah Bunin Benor is Associate Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s School of Jewish Nonprofit Management and Louchheim School for Judaic Studies at USC.

Eric Garcetti: Keep an eye out for seniors


The small turnout at the Los Angeles polls for the mayoral election on May 21 is cited as evidence that most Angelenos don’t care whether City Hall is open, closed or simply blown away. But two days after the election, I visited a Jewish Family Service (JFS) senior center on Fairfax Avenue and got a different picture. 

As I watched women and men enjoy a cold chicken and salad lunch, witnessed them attending a class and saw their sparkling exercise room, I understood how city government, which helps finance the center, is a vital part of these people’s lives. It was clear to me how much the success or failure of Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti will mean to them.

The center I visited — the JFS Freda Mohr Multipurpose Center — is one of 16 such city-funded facilities in Los Angeles. They provide meals, either delivered to the home of someone in need or at 100 dining centers; help for battered old people; counseling and other assistance to the aging and diminishing band of Holocaust survivors; transportation; and some health care, including advice and screening for ailments. These services are financed with increasingly limited funds that come from Washington, Sacramento and L.A. City Hall, and are administered by city departments. Washington sequestration and Sacramento and L.A. budget cuts have diminished the money. That gives the city administrators, headed by the mayor, a difficult job in allocating the funds.

I had asked Nancy Volpert, director of public policy for Jewish Family Service, to put me in contact with people for a column on the impact of the city election on the Jewish community. Jewish Family Service has been on my Jewish Journal column beat for several years, especially after the Great Recession made large numbers of unexpectedly unemployed Jews of varied ages and economic statuses dependent on its services. Volpert suggested I visit the JFS Freda Mohr center, check out its services and talk to Paul Castro, the chief executive officer of Jewish Family Service, who happened to be touring the facility the day I went.

Seniors, Castro told me, “are overlooked in terms of poverty.” This is surprisingly true in the Jewish community, despite its traditions of community help and the perception of affluence — too often false — that clings to it.

“A lot of them don’t have family,” he said. “They don’t want to become institutionalized; staying home is very important to them.” Among the very poor, he said, are Holocaust victims who have outlived their families and friends.

“I think what the new mayor will do is make the safety net a priority on his agenda,” Castro said. “He needs an agenda that addresses this. Poverty is not acceptable.”

The JFS Freda Mohr Multipurpose Center does much more than address poverty. It offers a full day of challenging and interesting activities to men and women whose talents and energy are often overlooked by a society preoccupied by youth — or the appearance of youth. The center gives seniors a chance to blossom.

When Jewish Family Service was appealing for funds at the L.A. City Council, its leaders brought along center regular Louise Lelah. “They were cutting expenses for senior day care,” she told me. With some pride, Lelah said, “I gave my bit about these centers. If they are closed and people are stuck at home, it will cost the government more money.” That would be for additional medical and mental health care, the result of isolation and neglect.

Garcetti, then a city councilman, talked to her afterward. “He’s a down-to-earth man,” she said. “I was really surprised. He said, ‘If you need anything, this is my card.’ ” 

So, she voted for Garcetti, as did senior center regular George “the Engineer” Epstein. That’s the name on the card he gave me, which also identifies him as an author, lecturer and player. Player of poker, to be precise, and a teacher of the game, running several poker classes a year. He invited me to join one, but I explained I had no head for cards.

Epstein, an MIT graduate, was an aerospace engineer for many years, working on major projects for The Aerospace Corp. and other firms. Drawing on his experience devising materials to protect people, buildings and missiles from projectiles, he figured out how to fill potholes in a way that would last longer.

Epstein contacted the office of City Controller Wendy Greuel, Garcetti’s opponent in the mayoral election. He said he talked to her aides a couple of times, but nobody got back to him. “A real leader makes sure people working for her are responsive,” he said. With that, he began campaigning for Garcetti at the Mohr center and other senior groups he attends.

Places like the JFS Freda Mohr Multipurpose Center and its regulars didn’t occupy much time in a campaign focused on the middle class. The big topics were bad traffic, potholes, quality of life and other matters that cropped up in polls and focus groups. Garcetti offered a vision of Los Angeles resembling the trendier parts of his Hollywood district — clubs, restaurants and galleries, along with new high-tech business to be populated, I assume, by Angelenos as stylish as he is. These were among the constituencies that elected him.

But also on his side were the seniors who need the city-funded social services network, who need the intellectual and social stimulation, nutrition and transportation provided by their centers. Louise Lelah and George Epstein and others — frequent and dedicated voters — will be keeping their eyes on the new mayor. If I were Garcetti, I wouldn’t disappoint them.


Bill Boyarsky is a columnist for the Jewish Journal, Truthdig and L.A. Observed, and the author of “Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times” (Angel City Press).

Poll: Big drop in Israelis who see Obama as pro-Palestinian


The number of Israelis who view President Obama as pro-Palestinian dropped by 20 percent following his first presidential visit to Israel, according to a new poll.

In the poll, conducted Sunday by Smith Research for the Jerusalem Post, 27 percent of 500 Israeli respondents said they considered the Obama administration more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian, 16 percent said he was more pro-Palestinian, 39 percent were neutral and 18 percent did not an express an opinion.

In a pre-visit poll conducted March 17, 36 percent of respondents said they thought Obama was more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israel, 26 percent said Obama was more pro-Israel and 12 percent expressed no opinion. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Palestinian disappointment with Obama’s positive messages about Israel and his failure to visit former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s grave was widely reported in the Hebrew press.

Among Labor voters who participated in the post-visit poll, 51 percent said Obama was pro-Israel. That figure was 29 percent among Yesh Atid voters; 27 percent for Likud-Beiteinu and Shas supporters, and 20 percent for those who supported the Jewish Home party.

The proportion considering the administration more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israel was 40 percent among Shas voters, 20 percent for those who voted Jewish Home, 19 percent for Likud-Beiteinu, 11 percent among Yesh Atid supporters and 6 percent among Labor voters.

Americans backing Israel in ever-growing numbers, poll shows


Americans' sympathies lean heavily toward Israel over the Palestinians in the highest level of support seen in 22 years.

According to data gleaned from Gallup's 2013 World Affairs poll, 64 percent of Americans support Israel over the Palestinians, with 12 percent backing the Palestinians over Israel. The last time Israel garnered as much support from Americans was in 1991 during the Gulf War.

Republicans are much likelier than Democrats to favor the Israelis, at 78 percent to 55 percent, with independents at 63 percent. But since 2001, independents have shown the greatest gain in support, up 21 percent. The support from Republicans has increased 18 percent during that time and Democrats' backing has grown 4 percent.

Older Americans backed Israel in the greatest numbers, with 71 percent among those 55 and older showing sympathy. The figure fell to 65 percent among 35- to 54-year-olds and 55 percent among 18- to 34-year-olds.

Among young adults, the percentage of those answering no opinion or does not favor either side has increased.

Each age group polled 12 percent in favor of the Palestinians. 

The poll was conducted Feb. 7-10, with a random sample of 1,015 adults aged 18 and older living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 points.

Survey: 27 percent of Americans see God’s hand in sports


Fewer than three in 10 Americans believe that God plays a role in determining sports outcomes, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.

That 27 percent believed in divine intervention in athletic competition was among the findings of the January Religion and Politics Tracking Survey, which also found that 53 percent of Americans believe that God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success.

Among the survey’s other findings were that 26 percent of Americans are more likely to be in church than watching football, compared to 17 percent who said the opposite.

Half of the survey’s 1,033 respondents approved of athletes expressing their faith publicly by thanking God during or after a sporting event, and 76 percent agree that public high schools should be allowed to sponsor prayer before football games.

According to the survey, about two-thirds of Americans are very (44 percent) or somewhat (22 percent) likely to watch Sunday's Super Bowl between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers.

The website of the Washington-based institute, which was founded in 2009, says it is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and education organization that conducts public opinion surveys and research “to help journalists, opinion leaders, scholars, clergy, and the general public better understand debates on public policy issues and the role of religion in American public life.”

Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu take 31 seats; Yesh Atid comes in second


Initial Israeli exit polls show the combined Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu ticket won the highest vote total while the new center-left Yesh Atid unexpectedly came in second.

Polls released just after polls closed at 10 p.m. on Jan. 22 reported that the Likud-Beiteinu won 31 seats, down from the 42 the two parties currently hold.

Yesh Atid, led by former television personality Yair Lapid, is projected in exit polls to receive 19 seats.

Channel 1 projected that right-wing parties collectively garnered 62 seats in total, compared to 58 for the left-wing parties.

The channel also projected 17 seats for the Labor party led by Shelly Yachimovich, 12 seats for the Jewish Home party led by Naftali Bennett, and 11 for the Sephardi Orthodox party Shas.

Hatnuah, led by Tzipi Livni, and Meretz, led by Zahava Gal-On, both received 7 seats.

The Arab-Israeli Balad party and the controversial Strong Israel party are each projected to receive two seats in the Channel 1 poll, though other polls projected they would not reach the two percent threshold.

Some 85 percent of the ballots are expected to be counted in the coming hours, with the remaining tallied and announced on the morning of Jan. 23.

Fighting over every percentile: Arguing about the Jewish vote and exit polls


President Obama’s Jewish numbers are down, but by how much and why?

Get ready for four more years of tussling between the Jewish community’s Republicans and Democrats about the meaning of Obama’s dip from 78 percent Jewish support cited in 2008 exit polls to 69 percent this year in the national exit polls run by a media consortium.

Is it a result of Obama’s fractious relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? Or is it a natural fall-off in an election that was closer across the board than it was four years ago? Does it reflect a significant shift in Jewish voting patterns toward the Republicans?

A separate national exit poll released Wednesday by Jim Gerstein, a pollster affiliated with the dovish Israel policy group J Street, had similar numbers: 70 percent of respondents said they voted for Obama, while 30 percent — the same figure as in the media consortium's Jewish sample — said they voted for Mitt Romney.

Matt Brooks, who directs the Republican Jewish Coalition, said the $6.5 million his group spent and the $1.5 million an affiliated political action committee spent wooing Jewish voters was “well worth it.”

“We’ve increased our share of the Jewish vote by almost 50 percent,” he said, noting that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the 2008 Republican nominee, got 22 percent in that year’s exit polls to Romney’s 30 percent this year.

Brooks said that his group’s hard-hitting ads, which attacked Obam on his handling of both Israel and the economy, helped move the needle. “There’s no question we got significant return on our investment,” he said.

Democrats insisted that the needle didn’t wiggle so much, saying the more reliable 2008 number for Obama's shae of the Jewish vote was 74 percent, a figure that is based on a subsequent review of data by The Solomon Project, a nonprofit group affiliated with the National Jewish Democratic Council.

“Right now 69 or 70 is the best number we have for this cycle, and 74 percent is the best number we have for four years ago,” said Steve Rabinowitz, a consultant to Jewish and Democratic groups, including the NJDC. “You can intentionally use a number you know has been corrected just for the purposes of comparison, or you can use the data.”

The 2008 numbers, like this year’s, are based on the 2 percent of respondents identifying as Jewish in the major exit poll run by a consortium of news agencies — altogether, between 400-500 Jews, out of a total of over 25,000 respondents. The Solomon Project review, by examining a range of exit polls taken in different states as well as the national consortium, used data garnered from close to a thousand Jewish voters, a number that reduces the margin of error from about 6 points to 3 points.

Whether the 2008 percentage was 74 or 78 — or some other number entirely given the margins of errror — both Republicans and Democrats agreed that Obama’s share of the Jewish vote had declined. Rabinowitz conceded that the Republican expenditure, which dwarfed spending on the Democratic side, might have had an impact.

“What yichus is there in the possibility of having picked up a handful of Jewish votes having spent so many millions of dollars?” Rabinowitz asked, using the Yiddish word connoting status.

Gerstein said his findings suggested that the Republican blitz of Jewish communities in swing states like Ohio and Florida had little effect; separate polls he ran in those states showed virtually the same results as his national poll of Jewish voters. Gerstein’s national poll of 800 Jewish voters has a margin of error of 3.5 percent; his separate polls of Jewish voters in Ohio and Florida canvassed 600 in each state, with a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

He also noted that there were similar drop-offs in Obama’s overall take — from 53 percent of the popular vote in 2008 to 49 percent this year — as well as among an array of sub groups, including whites, independents, Catholics, those with no religion, those under 30. The only uptick for the president in the media consortium’s exit polls was seen among Hispanic voters, likely turned off by Romney’s tough line on illegal immigration.

“You see a lot of things that are tracking between the Jewish constituency and other constituencies when you look at the shift in Obama’s vote between 2008 and now, “ he said.

The NJDC president, David Harris, attributed what shift there was to the economy.

“American Jews are first and foremost Americans, and like all Americans it’s a difficult time for them,” he said. “The Democratic vote performance has decreased somewhat.”

Gerstein said that the mistake Republicans continued to make was to presume that Israel was an issue that could move the Jewish vote.

“They’ve got to do something very different if they’re going to appeal to Jews,” he said. “The hard-line hawkish appeal to Israel isn’t working.”

He cited an ad run in September in Florida by an anti-Obama group called Secure America Now that featured footage from a press conference in which Netanyahu excoriated those who he said had failed to set red lines for Iran, which was seen as a jab at Obama. Gerstein said that of the 45 percent of his Florida respondents who saw the ad, 56 percent said they were not moved by it, 27 percent said it made them more determined to vote for Obama and only 16 percent said i made them more determined to vote for Romney.

Israel did not feature high among priorities in Gerstein’s polling, a finding that conformed with polling done over the years by the American Jewish Committee. Asked their top issue in voting, 53 percent of Gerstein’s respondents in his national poll cited the economy and 32 percent health care. Israel tied for third with abortion and terrorism at 10 percent.

Gerstein’s national poll showed Obama getting strong overall approval ratings of 67 percent of his respondents, with strong showings on domestic issues like entitlements — where he scored 65 percent — and majority approval of his handling of relations with Israel (53 percent) and the Iranian nuclear issue (58 percent.).

But the RJC's Brooks said he was confident Republicans would continue to accrue gains, saying that with the exception of Obama’s strong showing in 2008, his party has steadily increased its proportion of the Jewish vote since George H. W. Bush got 11 percent in 1992.

“Our investment is not in the outcome of a single election,” he said. “It’s ultimately about broadening the base of the Republican Party in the Jewish community.”

Five challenges facing the American pro-Israel community in the next four years


The American pro-Israel community has a lot of work to do. While many pro-Israel organizations in the United States, including AIPAC, Christians United for Israel, Stand with US and Hasbara have been extremely effective in defending the Jewish State, there is always more we can do. Here is a list of the five greatest challenges facing the American pro-Israel community in the next four years.

The University

Unfortunately, the place where we send our children to grow up and obtain wisdom, the university, is the hotbed of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment in America. Who can forget the exchange between David Horowitz and an anti-Israel student at UC San Diego a couple years ago? Mr. Horowitz asked her, “I’m a Jew. The head of Hezbollah has said that he hopes that we will gather in Israel so he doesn’t have to hunt us down globally. [Are you] for it or against it?” The student answered “For it.”

Incitement against Jews and Israel at the university is not unusual at the hate-fest known as “Israel Apartheid Week,” where anti-Semites are invited to rail against the Jewish State. At one event at UC Irvine, Imam Amir -Abdel Malik-Ali—who has called Jews “the new Nazis”— blamed the financial crisis on “Alan Greenspan, Zionist Jew, Geithner, Zionist Jew, Larry Summers, Zionist Jew.” A few years ago, after visiting several universities in the U.S., Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh described what he observed: “I discovered that there is more sympathy for Hamas there than there is in Ramallah…What is happening on the U.S. campuses is not about supporting the Palestinians as much as it is about promoting hatred for the Jewish state. It is not really about ending the ‘occupation’ as much as it is about ending the existence of Israel.”

Up against such hate and propaganda, the pro-Israel community must fight back. The Horowitz Freedom Center has been very effective, launching important counterattacks like Islamic Apartheid Week and the Wall of Truth, which expose the hateful lies and hypocrisy of Israel’s enemies. The Jewish community must continue to give money to on-campus Israel advocacy organizations, and we must all redouble our efforts to make sure that Israel is adequately defended and promoted at American universities.

The Fringe of American politics

Thank God a majority of elected representatives in both parties strongly support the State of Israel. These members must make sure that the views at the fringe of their parties do not become mainstream. The Republican Party must guard against the likes of Ron and Rand Paul, who would like to see America pull back from the world stage and cease its support for Israel. Fortunately, this movement does not seem to be gaining steam, as every poll shows that the Republican Party overwhelmingly supports Israel.

Unfortunately, however, any serious reflection by pro-Israel Democrats must conclude that there is a problem within their leftwing ranks. Though most pieces of pro-Israel legislation overwhelmingly pass both Houses of Congress, those who abstain or vote in the negative are disproportionately Democrats. In 2009, the House passed a resolution condemning the Goldstone report–which had accused Israel of war crimes—by a vote of 344 to 36. 33 of the 36 who voted against the resolution were Democrats. In 2010, 333 members of the House signed onto a letter re-pledging their support for the American-Israel relationship. 7 Republicans and 91 Democrats withheld their signatures. Furthermore, according to a recent Gallup Poll question–“Are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?”—78% of Republicans and 53% of Democrats answered Israel. This poll was reaffirmed when at least half the Democratic delegates to their convention in August expressed their disapproval of Jerusalem being recognized as the capital of Israel.

I am not writing this to score political points for Republicans, but to reveal a real problem within the Democratic ranks. This is so disappointing, because the liberal case for Israel is such a compelling one. Israel treats its minorities better than any other country in the Middle East—out of the 120 member Israeli Knesset, 16 are not Jewish. During its short existence, Israel has welcomed millions of immigrants from all over the world, including Africa and Russia. Israel has a very liberal supreme court, which routinely places restrictions on its military in times of war. Israel is also leading the way with game changing green innovations that will reduce CO2 emissions. In addition, Tel Aviv annually hosts a gay pride parade! What other country in the Middle East would be so inclusive?

American Jewish liberals must do a better job of making this case forcefully and passionately to their Democratic allies.

Apathy

Jews shouldn’t be ashamed to say that support for Israel ranks among their most important political priorities. If it doesn’t, then there is a problem.

According to an American Jewish Committee survey, when asked what political issue was most important to them, 4.5% of American Jews said U.S- Israeli relations, and a paltry 1.3% said Iran’s nuclear program. This is very troubling. If American Jews don’t care enough about Israel’s survival, and preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, then who will?

Jews in America clearly underestimate how important a strong and prosperous Israel is to the collective Jewish psyche. After all, the welfare of Israel is not disconnected from that of American Jews. If something terrible were to happen to Israel, or should there be a mass migration of Jews out of Israel, the status of the Diaspora would be negatively impacted forever, including in the United States.

A strong Israel with a strong military also serves as a deterrent against terrorist attacks against Jews all over the world. Furthermore, a strong Israel is in America’s national self-interest, as Israel is on the front line in the war against radical Islam.

Using these arguments, the pro-Israel community must do a better job of encouraging our friends and family to become more politically active, in order to promote a strong American- Israel relationship.

Iran and the Economy

America has been mired in an economic crisis since 2008. As such, American citizens and its elected representatives have been almost single mindedly focused on improving the economy. The race for the Presidency has largely been defined by whom could best promote a strong economy, even though the most important Constitutional powers of the President reside in the realm of foreign policy. This is understandable. However, it is up to those in the pro-Israel community to ensure that preventing Iran—which is led by a fanatic who denies the holocaust and wishes to wipe Israel from the earth–from obtaining a nuclear capability is not overlooked.

Unfortunately, this issue has not been addressed adequately to date. Though tough sanctions have been passed against Iran, it continues to spin its centrifuges. We in the pro-Israel community must insist that a credible American military threat be understood by Iran as a reality. This is the only way they will peacefully give up their nuclear weapons program.

To this end, we must write letters to our Congressmen, join pro-Israel organizations like AIPAC, give money to pro-Israel causes, and encourage our friends and family to do the same.

Israeli Delegitimization

The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign—which encourages people to refrain from doing business with Israeli companies and universities –was launched against Israel several years ago. The campaign is meant to portray Israel in the same light as apartheid South Africa, a country that institutionalized segregation. Of course, this is complete nonsense, as more than one million non-Jews in Israel enjoy the same rights as Jews.  Furthermore, as cited above, there are 16 non-Jews serving in the Israeli Knesset.

Many college professors and pop music figures in America have embraced this campaign. Roger Waters, the former lead singer of Pink Floyd, is spearheading it. He refuses to perform in Israel and is encouraging his musical cohorts to join him. The Pixies, Elvis Costello, The Gorillaz and Carlos Santana have followed his lead, and have all canceled their scheduled performances in Israel. Famed American actress, Meg Ryan, refused to attend an Israeli film festival, because of what she viewed as Israel’s indefensible actions in response to the Gaza flotilla.

This is deplorable. The pro-Israel community must make it known that boycotting the only Jewish State will not go unnoticed. It is one thing to criticize Israel, which, in proportion and without demonizing, is acceptable. However, it is totally unacceptable to try to destroy Israel economically, which is the BDS campaign’s primary goal.

The pro-Israel community should not support those who engage in the BDS campaign; don’t buy their CDs, don’t go to their shows, and encourage your friends and family to do the same.

Romney’s Libya comments landed with a thud, according to poll


Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was the loser in a political fight over U.S. reaction to attacks last week on American diplomatic compounds in Libya and Egypt, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll on Tuesday.

Four in 10 U.S. voters felt less favorably toward Romney after hearing about his criticism of President Barack Obama's handling of the attacks in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya was killed.

Only 26 percent of the registered voters polled felt worse about Obama after hearing about the Democrat's comments about the violence in the Middle East, the survey said.

“Romney probably did not do anything to shore up his foreign policy cred on this particular issue,” Ipsos pollster Julia Clark said, but she noted that foreign policy was typically low on lists of the issues most important to American voters.

Romney took heavy criticism for issuing a statement accusing Obama of sympathizing with Islamists who waged the attacks on U.S. diplomatic compounds in Egypt and Libya.

For his part, Obama vowed to work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers of the ambassador and three other Americans.

The poll found that 37 percent of voters felt more favorable toward Obama after hearing about his remarks, versus 29 percent who felt favorable about Romney after hearing about his statement.

The flap last week started a tough period for Romney, who struggled to stabilize his reeling campaign after a secretly recorded video showed him belittling Obama's supporters, raising questions about his ability to come from behind and win the Nov. 6 election.

The poll surveyed 792 registered voters.

The precision of the Reuters/Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points for all respondents. (Editing by Alistair Bell and Eric Beech)

Leading Jewish demographer disputes study of N.Y. Jews


Len Saxe, a leading Jewish demographer, said a widely cited survey on New York Jewry overestimated the number of Orthodox Jews in the city and its environs.

Saxe, a demographer at Brandeis University, told The New York Jewish Week that the data on the Orthodox in The Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011 clashed with that reported by the Avi Chai Foundation in 2009 on the number of Orthodox children in day schools.

The newer survey, which was commissioned by the UJA-Federation of New York and released last month, found that about 1.5 million Jews are living in New York City and three surrounding counties, and that about one-third are Orthodox. Saxe agreed with the finding that the city’s overall Jewish population has grown.

[Related: Rosner-Cohen ‎Exchange: So, how many Jewish people are there exactly?]

“Key outcomes of the study don’t seem to reconcile with ‘hard,’ non-survey data,” Saxe told The Jewish Week.

Steven M. Cohen, one of the study’s authors, told The Jewish Week that “the main contours of our findings” were correct.

Survey finds young Frenchman unfamiliar with WWII Jewish roundup


Most young Frenchmen never heard of the World War II roundup of Paris Jews, a survey shows.

The recent survey showed most young French adults were unaware of the deportation of Parisian Jews during the Holocaust.

Sixty percent of respondents aged 18 to 24 said they never heard of the Vel d’Hiv Roundup of July 16-17, 1942, when French police rounded up some 13,000 Jews in and around Paris. They were held near the Eiffel Tower before being shipped for extermination to Auschwitz.

The Union of French Jewish Students commissioned the leading polling company CSA to perform the survey, which includes answers from 1,056 respondents. The union published the results on the 70th anniversary of the deportation.

The survey showed young adults know less about the roundup than the average French adult. Among the general population, 42 percent of respondents had never heard of the roundup.

In 1995, then-President Jacques Chirac apologized for the French police’s role in the murder of the Jews arrested in the Vel d’Hiv Roundup. Popularly known in French as La Rafle (“The Raid”), the roundup has been the subject of books, poems and movies.

The survey revealed 32 percent of young French adults knew that French police had been responsible for arresting the Jews of Paris. That figure was 46 percent among the general population.

Eighty-five percent of all respondents said teaching about the Holocaust was “important.”

Dr. Richard Prasquier, president of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities, said the poll shows “there is a lot that needs to be done, but there are also positive points.”

Meanwhile, an exhibit of police archives from the French deportation, including photos, signatures and records of personal possessions from many of the victims, is set to go on display Thursday in Paris.

So, how many Jews will vote for Mitt Romney?


Here is a truism we all already know: Jews are news. The fact is, no matter how tiny the American Jewish community might be — between 1.5 and 2 percent of the population — the battle for Jewish votes will be extensively reported and analyzed.

Over the last several decades, Democratic identification overall has fluctuated both up and down, from 36 percent at the high points, in 1988 and 2008 (according to Gallup poll tracking), to lows of 31 percent in 2010. Among many traditionally Democratic groups, such as white Southerners, Catholics and others, the trend has been fairly consistently downward, even as other groups, mainly Hispanics,  became more reliable supporters of the party. However, while others were changing affiliations, Jews’ political leanings remained largely the same.

There are many explanations for the unique political behavior of the Jewish voter, most focusing on the relatively liberal views of Jews on almost all social issues, while others suggesting that the “rural, overwhelmingly Christian and Southern” nature of the GOP is a turn-off for Jewish voters. The Washington Post’s conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin framed it thus: “They don’t sound like us, they don’t talk like us, and they don’t understand us.”

Whatever the reason, in almost every election cycle of recent years, Republicans have attempted to make a new case for the “this time, it is really coming” argument — namely, that a new wave of Jewish Republican voters is about to appear. However, as I outlined in 2009 in a long piece in Commentary Magazine, “The story remained what it has been over the course of the past seven national elections, with Jews voting for Democratic candidates by colossal margins.”

Will 2012 prove any different? Last August, New York Times op-ed columnist Charles Blow made a case somewhat reminiscent of the Republican claims of 2004 and 2008: Relying on data from the Pew Research Center in 2010, Blow argued that “the number of Jews who identify as Republican or as independents who lean Republican has increased by more than half since the year [Barack Obama] was elected. At 33 percent, it now stands at the highest level since the data have been kept. In 2008, the ratio of Democratic Jews to Republican Jews was far more than three to one. Now it’s less than two to one.”

In response to criticism from some quarters, Blow nevertheless repeated his claim a few weeks later in another column, in which he argued that “Obama’s approval rating among Jews in 2010 averaged 58 percent. This percentage was the lowest of all those representing his enthusiastic supporter groups except one, the religious unaffiliated.” Blow’s claim that Obama’s loss of support among Jews should be attributed to the president’s positions on Israel was furiously debated (many of Blow’s critics were associated with the dovish J Street lobby, and relied on many polls in which Jews rank the topic of “Israel” as fairly low in their voting priorities). Nevertheless, the question remains: Do Jews — as one might conclude from the Pew numbers — now trend Republican more than they have in the past?

To help make all this a numbers-based type of discussion, we gathered data available from four sources: the American Jewish Committee (AJC) annual surveys of Jewish opinion, Gallup surveys, the study on Jewish Distinctiveness in America by Tom W. Smith (from 2005 — we needed those to get a glimpse of previous decades) and the Pew Research Center studies. The result was quite revealing: While Pew studies suggest that the GOP is gaining somewhat among Jewish voters (that’s the basis for the Blow post), the other data seem to suggest that Jews don’t really trend Republican, but rather independent — like the rest of the electorate. In other words, the Democratic Party is losing, while the Republican Party is not necessarily gaining.

Even if Jews aren’t yet moving in droves over to the GOP camp, the data might still be considered bad news for the Democratic Party. When a Republican candidate for the presidency is getting more votes from Jewish voters, it is not usually Jewish Republican voters. As one study showed, “The average non-Jewish Bush voter identifies as a weak Republican, while the mean Jewish Bush voter is an independent-leaning Republican.” Another study, this one of the 2008 election, found that “among Independents, we see even more of a pronounced split, with Obama garnering just over 36 percent, McCain close to 30 percent and undecided at 30 percent.” Clearly, the more independent the Jewish voter, the more likely he is to choose a Republican over a Democratic nominee.

To better understand this, one must consider a follow-up on the “leanings” of independent Jewish voters. Back in 2004, a study found that “after asking independents which party they ‘leaned’ toward, 64 percent of all Jewish voters identified as Democrats, 16 percent as Republicans and 20 percent as independents.” If that is still the case, then Democrats have less to worry about, as most “leaners” tend to behave in a way similar to that of party partisans. But Republicans can hope that the Pew 2010 study is a sign that Jewish independents now trend Republican.

This is exactly what the most recent AJC study also suggests. This survey posed two questions relevant to the question of Jewish party identification. The first question is the one the AJC people included in previous polls: “In politics TODAY, do you consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat or an Independent?” The second one is a new one for AJC polls: “[IF INDEPENDENT/OTHER] As of TODAY, do you think of yourself as closer to the Republican Party/Democratic Party?”

The second question is the one that’s making the difference. Of the 26 percent Independents responding to this poll, 15 percent, when pressured to “lean” toward one of the parties, chose to lean GOP. Taken together, GOP voters plus those leaning toward the GOP amount in this poll to 27 percent, not far from the 29 percent registered by Pew — and a reflection of a possible rightward trend. 

Having said that, not one serious pollster or political operative expects the Jewish vote to be divided in favor of the 2012 Republican candidate or to be equally distributed. The question is not about who will be winning the Jewish vote, but rather, whether the GOP can outperform its past performances with Jewish voters. Pollster Jim Gerstein answered this question last November by saying the following: “Our latest poll of American Jews simulated an election between Obama and Romney, and perhaps presents the clearest picture of where the Jewish vote may be headed. The initial vote shows Obama leading 63 to 24 [percent]. When we allocated the undecided voters by party identification — a common practice among political pollsters when trying to map out the outcome of a race — the vote was 70 to 27 [percent].”

So what does this mean for presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney?

It is important to note at this point that in reality, for Jewish votes to be of any significance come Election Day, the margin between candidates has to be very small — very, very small — and in very specific areas.

Take Ohio. Jews in this state comprise 3 percent of the vote; in 2004 George W. Bush took the election by 2.1 percent of the entire Ohio electorate. This means that even in the closest of elections, you need every single Jew to vote as one bloc to make a difference. That is never going to happen, as even the most optimistic (among Republican operatives) and the most pessimistic (among Democratic operatives) put the percentage of Jewish voters in play no higher than 15 to 18 percent, which could potentially be added to the 22 to 26 percent who voted for John McCain in 2008.

In February 2012, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life published a new analysis of party identification by religion. The bottom line, as far as Jewish voters go, was pretty clear: “Even Jewish voters, who have traditionally been and remain one of the strongest Democratic constituencies, have moved noticeably in the Republican direction; Jewish voters favored the Democrats by a 52-point margin in 2008 but now prefer the Democratic Party by a significantly smaller 36-point margin.”

Yet a May 2012 AJC survey of American Jewish opinion (which actually contained nothing Earth-shattering) found support for Obama among American Jews to be slightly higher than it had been half a year earlier, but still not very high. As Ron Kampeas of the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) reported at the time: “The AJC’s new findings are similar to those of the Public Religion Research Institute in March. That poll showed Obama scoring 62 percent of the Jewish vote, as opposed to 30 percent for a GOP candidate.”

Romney, according to the AJC survey, could get as much as 33 percent of the Jewish vote. That’s nice compared to Republican performances in previous election cycles, but not the meltdown of Jewish support for Obama that some Republican operatives predicted about a year ago. Forty percent of Jewish Americans do not approve of Obama’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations. But this is a significant improvement compared to the September 2011 survey in which 53 percent registered in the “disapprove” column. 

A June 2012 Gallup poll on the current tendencies of Jewish voters (and accompanying analysis by Jeffrey Jones) makes clear that “Obama remains the favorite of Jewish voters but appears to be running a bit weaker among them than he did in 2008, given the 10-point drop in Jewish support for him compared with a five-point drop among all voters. Nonetheless, for those who have a short memory, maybe it is worth pointing out that 10 months ago, Gallup was saying the exact opposite — that Obama’s numbers are down among Jews proportionally to the president’s decline among other groups:

“There is little sign that President Obama is suffering disproportionately in support among Jews; 54 percent approved of his job performance from Aug. 1-Sept. 15, 13 percentage points higher than his overall 41 percent approval rating during that time, and similar to the average 14-point gap seen throughout Obama’s term.”

True, comparisons can be tricky. A year ago, the question was about presidential approval, and this time it is about voting preference. Even trickier is that Gallup compares Obama of June 2012 to Obama of October 2008. What happens if one compares June 2012 to June 2008? Suddenly, Obama doesn’t look like a loser: Back in 2008, Jewish voters hesitated during the summer, and it was only in the fall that they made up their minds to support Obama in far greater numbers than previously registered. This might — or might not — happen again this coming November. Time will tell.

Assuming that around 75 percent of American Jews voted for Obama in 2008 (very few knowledgeable observers still believe the 78 percent exit poll number of 2008), how high can Romney climb? If the Jewish swing votes in play are no more than 18 percent — the most ambitious estimate I’ve heard from American sources in the know — Romney’s ceiling is 43 percent. But for him to get to that number, one needs to give him the votes of every single undecided Jewish voter. Realistic? Not quite.

If Romney gets half the votes of undecided Jews, he’ll be at 34 percent. That is, if you agree with the estimated 25 percent Jewish Republican voters, and the estimated 18 percent of Jewish votes in play. If you go by the exit poll (22 percent of Jews voted McCain in 2008) and add to it the lowest estimate of votes in play (I heard 12 percent), the Romney ceiling is a much lower 34 percent, and the likely Romney achievement (if he gets half of the Jewish votes in play) will be at around 28 percent of the Jewish vote. When was the last time that any Republican nominee got 30 percent or more of the Jewish vote? Reagan in 1984. It would be no mean feat if Romney were able to get more votes than McCain, George W. Bush (twice), Dole, George H. W. Bush and repeat the 1984 Reagan vote.

Writer Sara Miller contributed to this report.

Majority of Israeli Arabs prefer to live in Israel


The vast majority of Israeli Arabs are reconciled with the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and even exhibit a degree of patriotism, according to a poll released Thursday.

The survey by Haifa University found that nearly one in seven (68.3%) preferred to live in Israel than anywhere else, even a future Palestinian state. It found that 57.7% are reconciled with Israel as a Jewish democratic state whose day of rest is the Sabbath on Saturday and Hebrew is the main language.

“I wouldn’t say that the Arabs are Israeli patriots. What we found was that they said that Israel was a good place to live in. They have benefits in Israel. They have the rule of law. They have democracy. They have a modern way of life. And all this they appreciate and this is their pragmatism,” Sammy Smooha, the University of Haifa professor who conducted the survey, told The Media Line.”

“When they say they reconcile themselves with the Jewish state this doesn’t mean that they prefer a Jewish state. They prefer to have a bi-national state. This also doesn’t mean they justify a Jewish state,” Smooha added.

The poll of 715 Israeli Arabs released Thursday found that 80% blame the Jews for the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” of the expulsion of most (over 700,000) of the Palestinians from Israel during the 1948 war. It also found that 38% participate in events marking the Nakba.

Smooha, who has been monitoring attitudes among Israeli Arabs for more than 30 years, told The Media line that there has been a steady erosion of faith in Israel’s democracy over the years.

Still, it found that the Israeli Arab public-at-large was less extremist than its leadership, he said.

“Their leaders reject Israel as a Jewish democratic state, whereas our studies over the years have found that the Arab public say that while they prefer a bi-national state, they are reconciled with reality and say they have to deal with it,” Smooha explained.

Extremism was not absent from the survey. Nineteen percent of Israeli Arabs denied Israel’s right to exist, as opposed to 11% who expressed a similar view in 2003. Fifty-seven percent of Israeli Arabs said that they would support a referendum that defined Israel as a “Jewish, democratic state that promised full civil rights to Arabs,” compared to the 70.9% who said they would support such a referendum in 2006.

“This poll confirms the continued trend of the hardening of Arab attitudes and the worsening of Arab Jewish relations, but also shows that there is a lot of pragmatism among the Arabs and the framework for Arab-Jewish relations is still in existence and still solid,” Smooha said.

He defined the framework as the acceptance of the state of Israel and the Palestinian state alongside.

Ali Haider, co-director of Sikkuy, an organization pushing for civic equality in Israel, was more skeptical. He said it was important to have surveys to examine trends, but he disliked terms like “co-existence,” “pragmatism” and “alienation.”

“We talk about equality and shared public space and respect of identities,” Haider told The Media Line. “The Palestinian minority in Israel from 2000 until now feels some kind of frustration from the government and Jewish society, especially after the last election,” which highlighted a right-wing agenda.

“Israeli Arabs feel that the government in Israel is working against them. Current trends reflect to the Arabs that they are not welcomed and their citizenship is threatened,” Haider said.

He was referring to the so-called “Nakba Law” which imposes financial damages on any state-funded institution sponsoring a Nakba-related event; imposed civil service; incitement against Arab leadership; and increasing racism by right-wing Israeli leaders.

“I don’t know to which national group we are patriotic, but we want to be citizens of Israel; but on the other hand, we want to keep our Palestinian identity and feel part of the Palestinian people and also citizens of Israel,” Haider said.

“This combination is very complicated. I think that identity is not something static. This is dynamic and people can have at the same time more than one identity and this is the issue.”

Poll shows strong Jewish support for labor, higher taxes


A poll showed American Jews strongly favor tax increases for the wealthy and tend to back labor in disputes with management.

The poll, released Thursday by the Workmen’s Circle, showed 65 percent of respondents favored raising taxes on those who earn more than $200,000 a year and that 61 percent tend to side with the union when they hear of a strike against a large company.

A similar number, 62 percent, perceived a “major threat” from the “power of financial institutions and banks.”

The Workmen’s Circle, in commissioning the poll, sought to assess Jewish views on labor, taxes and jobs because such questions have been absent in recent years from a number of other high-profile polls of Jewish Americans.

The Jewish labor rights group, established in 1900, is seeking to re-assume a higher profile in the Jewish community.

“An organization who is going to connect to them [American Jews] on their social and economic values is needed and relevant,” Ann Toback, the group’s executive director, told JTA.

The poll, conducted from April 19 to May 3, otherwise tracks results found in recent Jewish polls: President Obama would draw 59 percent of the Jewish vote, all-but-certain Republican candidate Mitt Romney would garner 27 percent and undecideds are at 14 percent. The numbers don’t differ statistically from a poll last month by the American Jewish Committee in which Obama and Romney scored 61 percent and 28 percent, respectively.

Steven M. Cohen, the veteran pollster who worked with the polling firm IPSOS on the Workmen’s Circle survey, said taxes and labor-management relations were the main determinant—as opposed to foreign or social policy—in what attracted a voter to a party.

“I did not expect to see the strong results we saw in economic justice,” he said, “and I did not expect to see the salience of economic justice in determining the presidential vote.”

Other results were similar to those in recent polls: A substantial majority, 68 percent, favor gay marriage, and a vast majority, 89 percent, favor making abortion legal in most cases.

On foreign policy questions, 58 percent said they agree that the current Israeli government wants peace, while 71 percent said the Palestinian Authority does not want peace and 78 percent agreed that the Palestinians wanted Israel’s destruction. Asked whether Israel should freeze settlement expansion, 40 percent agreed, 22 percent disagreed and 39 percent said they were not sure.

The poll of 1,000 American Jews was conducted through the Internet. Respondents were culled from the IPSOS database of more than 1 million Americans who have expressed interest in surveys. The margin of error was 4 percentage points.

Livingstone trailing in London mayoral election, final poll shows


Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who stirred controversy with remarks called anti-Semitic by the city’s Jewish leaders, was trailing in a bid to reclaim his post, a final poll showed.

As voters went to the polls on Thursday, incumbent Boris Johnson, Livingstone’s successor, had 53 percent of voters’ support to 47 percent for Livingstone in the hotly contested race, according to the YouGov poll for London’s Evening Standard.

In the 2008 election, the Tory Party’s Johnson took 42.4 percent of the vote to 36.4 for the Labor Party’s Livingstone.

London Jewish leaders said Livingstone in a March meeting made remarks that they called nearly “classic anti-Semitism.” Livingstone said that the Jewish community would not vote for him because “the Jewish community is rich.” The Jewish leaders also said that Livingstone had used the words Zionist, Jewish and Israeli interchangeably and “in a pejorative manner.”

Livingstone apologized for the statements and called on the Jewish community to “move on from the ‘Ken and the Jews dramas.’ “

The meeting was held to discuss Livingstone’s support of radical Muslim cleric Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi and his accepting money from Iranian state broadcaster Press TV. Livingstone has been a frequent critic of Israel.

Netanyahu the clear favorite heading to Israel’s upcoming elections, Haaretz poll


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can rest easy after reading the results of the latest Haaretz-Dialog poll: Not only does he trounce all his rivals on the question of who is most fit to lead the country, but an absolute majority of Israelis reject the aspersions cast on him last week by former Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin.

Judging by this poll, Netanyahu is the only candidate with a realistic slot of becoming prime minister after the election slated to take place in another four months.

Asked which candidate is most suited to hold the job, 48 percent of respondents said Netanyahu. That is considerably more support than the other three candidates received put together.

His closest rival, Shelly Yacimovich (Labor ), got only 15 percent support. Next came Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu ) with nine percent, and finally Shaul Mofaz (Kadima ) with six percent. That is a blow to Mofaz, who has been presenting himself as Netanyahu’s only realistic rival.

Read more at Haaretz.com.