ZOA disputes J-Street take on Jewish poll

Zionist groups disagree on import of numbers on settlement support

November 11, 2014 18:19
4 minute read.
Jeremy Ben-Ami

J Street chief Jeremy Ben-Ami. (photo credit: COURTESY J STREET)

A recent poll commissioned by J Street indicates strong support for continued settlement activity, the Zionist Organization of America charged on Tuesday, disputing the interpretation of the left-wing pro-Israel lobby of the findings.

The nationwide telephone survey of American Jewish views on Israel and America’s Middle East policy, conducted as Americans went to the polls in Congressional elections last week, found that American Jewish views largely aligned with those of the Obama administration, with “large majorities… support[ ing] a two-state solution and favor[ing] limits on Israeli settlement on the West Bank,” according to J Street.

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Twenty-eight percent of respondents agreed that Israel should suspend all construction of settlements in the West Bank, while 52% stated that Israel should only suspend building outside of the core settlement blocs but that such activity could continue in areas already developed.

A further 20% indicated that they believed that Israel should build “in any area of the West Bank that it wants.”

“This poll should be a wake up call for the Israeli government. If they choose to go forward with unlimited settlement expansion throughout the West Bank, they will find that American Jews, whose support is so crucial, are not with them,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said.

The ZOA, a right-wing pro-Israel organization frequently at loggerheads with J Street, interpreted the results differently.
The poll “clearly shows that the American Jewish community is not opposed to settlements,” ZOA Israel office director Jeff Daube told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

“This poll seems to indicate that 52% said that they do not object to Israeli building within the consensus settlement blocs and an additional 20% said that they do not object to Israeli building even outside those consensus blocs,” he said, explaining that the results actually showed that 72% of American Jews voiced support for settlement construction in some form.

“I think a lot of Americans, from what I gather, are beginning to understand that this is not really about the settlements,” but instead is about Palestinian opposition to any sort of Jewish entity, Daube said.

“Eighty-two percent of American Jewish voters support restrictions on settlement construction, with 28% backing a suspension of construction in all of the West Bank, and 52% backing a suspension outside the core settlement blocs. If the prime minister and his government persist in asserting that Israel has the right to build in all of Judea and Samaria, they will find themselves pretty seriously out of step with the American Jewish community,” J Street spokeswoman Jessica Rosenblum told the Post in response to the ZOA’s assertions.

The poll, she added, showed “strong American Jewish support for Israel, for a two-state solution and for US leadership to achieve it, as well as growing concern that the policies of the current Israel government is taking Israel in the wrong direction.”

The ZOA, which termed J Street a “faux pro-Israel group” on Tuesday, also trumpeted the poll’s finding that three quarters of American Jews are opposed to boycotts of goods produced in settlements.

“The ZOA read of the J Street poll conducted by Jim Gerstein is fair and accurate with respect to boycotting Israeli products and to Operation Protective Edge,” according to American Jewish sociologist Dr. Steven Cohen.

With respect to the settlements, however, Cohen said that the ZOA failed to note that over half of American Jews polled were opposed to settlement construction outside of the already developed blocs.

“Thus, for this centrist Jewish majority in the US, construction in Ma’aleh Adumim or within Gush Etzion is acceptable, but new construction or land appropriations outside the boundaries of the larger, established communities is unacceptable,” he said.

According to Jonathan Sarna, the president of the Association for Jewish Studies and a professor of Jewish history at Brandeis University, the poll results may not be “too reliable.”

“In terms of BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions], some 60% said that they knew little or nothing about it. Kudos to J Street for publishing full results of the poll on its website, even though it must have been upset with some of the findings. However, it seems to me that this poll is not terribly representative. Most of J Street’s supporters are young and most of those polled are old,” he said.

In September, anti-Israel protesters in Oakland, California prevented a Zim cargo ship from unloading its goods at the city’s port, Israel Radio reported.

According to “Stop ZIM Action Committee” head Steve Zeltzer, the 200-some protestors waited at the port in day and night shifts in order to accomplish their goal.

American and Canadian BDS activists were working since August to prevent Israeli cargo ships from docking at the ports of Oakland, Seattle and Vancouver, according to a report by Al Jazeera, also as part of a protest called “Block the Boat.”

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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