Over 70 percent of US Jews believe that the May 31 flotilla incident was the
result of intentional provocation on the part of the foreign
This was according to a survey published last week by the
Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University.
survey, titled “Still Connected,” examined American Jews’ attitudes toward
Israel and a range of Israel-related issues, and found that while they have
conflicting assessments of Israeli policies and visions of Israel’s future,
there has been no erosion in the overall attachment to the country.
survey, which questioned 1,200 Jews and was conducted by the Knowledge Networks
research company in June, asked to what extent they felt a connection to
Thirty-three percent of the respondents replied “very much,” 30%
said they felt “somewhat” connected, 23% said they felt “a little” connected and
14% responded “not at all.”
The connection to Israel increases with age,
travel to Israel, religious observance and religious background. The emotional
connection decreases with parental intermarriage and secular educational
Those under age 45 were less likely to feel connected to
Israel. Twenty percent of those 18-29 and 17% of those 30-44 said they felt no
connection with Israel, compared to 13% of those 45-60 and 7% of those over 60.
The shift between the ages could also be seen in the degree of connection.
Roughly 25% of those under 45 said they felt very connected, compared to around
40% among those 45 and above.
Three quarters of the respondents
identified caring about Israel as an important element of their Jewish identity.
Seventy- five percent agreed with the statement “Caring about Israel is a very
important part of my being a Jew.”
Thirty-six percent of respondents said
they had been to Israel.
The oldest and youngest cohorts were the most
likely to have visited, with 40% both of those 18-29 and of those above 60
having made the journey.
In contrast, 35% of those 30- 44 and only 29% of
those 45-59 had done so.
They were presented with two statements – one
modeled on the claims of Israeli officials, which blamed the flotilla activists
for provoking Israel, and the other on the claims of Turkish officials, which
blamed Israel for attacking “innocent civilians and breaking international
Respondents were much more likely to agree with the Israeli version
of events; 46% strongly agreed with the Israeli statement and an additional 24%
somewhat agreed with it.
Just 9% agreed somewhat or strongly with the
Older respondents were more likely to strongly agree with
the Israeli statement and younger respondents were more likely to choose
“halfway between” the two statements.
A majority of both liberals and
conservatives agreed with the Israeli narrative, but more respondents who
identified as conservatives agreed strongly with the Israeli statement and
nearly 20% of those identified as liberal or very liberal agreed with the
Seventy percent said the flotilla incident made them
feel “neither more nor less attached” to Israel, 20% said it made them feel
either much more attached or somewhat more attached, and 10% said it made them
feel much less or somewhat less attached.
Here once again, older and more
conservative respondents tended to feel more attached after the affair, and
younger and more liberal respondents tended to feel less attached.
percent of the American Jews thought the US was too supportive of Israel, 39%
thought it was not supportive enough and 52% thought the current level of
support was “about right.”
Regarding the handling of the relationship by
the countries’ leaders, both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President
Barack Obama received poor marks. Thirtyseven percent disapproved of Obama’s
handling of the relationship and 31% disapproved of Netanyahu’s. In both cases
only 25% of the respondents approved of the leaders’ management, with the rest
Conservatives were more likely to approve of Netanyahu’s
management of the relationship and disapprove of Obama’s, while among liberal’s
the opinions were reversed.
The respondents were also canvassed on their
opinions of West Bank settlement the final status of Jerusalem in reference to
peace talks with the Palestinians.
While 28% thought that none of the
settlements should be dismantled, 30% said some should be removed and 16% said
they all should go. Nearly a third of respondents (27%) said they “don’t
When asked if “In the framework of a permanent peace with the
Palestinians, should Israel be willing to compromise on the status of Jerusalem
as a united city under Israeli jurisdiction?” 51% said no, 29% said yes and 20%
said they don’t know.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, the
study’s author, Dr. Theodore Sasson, said that the “tumultuous” events of 2008,
2009 and 2010 have sparked a debate about the quality of American Jewish ties to
Israel, with some arguing that American Jews, especially the younger generation
and those who identify with the liberal political ideology, are becoming
distanced and alienated from Israel. He said the survey was conducted to
investigate if there was any truth to the notion that American and Israeli Jews
were drifting apart politically.
“What we discovered is that the
connection of American Jews to Israel is more or less stable. It is as it has
appeared over the last quarter century,” said Sasson.
He explained that
the study’s findings that younger Jews were slightly less connected to Israel
than older Jews were on par with the findings of similar studies conducted since
“Our interpretation is that younger Jews are less connected to
Israel because they are younger, and not because they reflect the
of a new generation. If this is in fact the case, we might anticipate
they mature they’ll become more connected, or at least that is the way
to have happened in the past,” he said.
Sasson also stressed that while
the study showed that while American Jews were not of one mind when it
Israeli policies, their political views do not affect their emotional
to the country and its residents. The claims in the media characterizing
American Jews as disengaging from Israel in a significant way are
Sasson juxtaposed two theories regarding the influence of age on
American Jewry’s attachment to Israel: the generational turnover theory
stages of lifecycle theory.
While the former looks at the existing
snapshot of current American’s attachment to Israel, and anticipates
time overall attachment will decrease, the latter looks at studies from
that show a similar statistical breakdown over 25 years, and concludes
overall support levels will remain the same, and that those who feel
attached today will likely become more attached as they grow older.
we can say, is that over the last quarter century, the evidence that we
front of us favors the lifecycle interpretation,” Sasson said.
also new developments pushing in the opposite direction, he said.
is an example of a strong contributor to disengagement, while travel to
is a strong contributor to increased attachment. “We don’t know what the
will hold,” he said.
Shat particularly surprised Sasson was that American
Jews were much more likely than Americans as a whole to interpret the
incident in a fashion that is favorable to Israel.
“Just 10% of American
Jews who responded to our survey thought that the flotilla incident was
fault, in comparison to 32% of US voters. I was also struck that just 9%
American Jews were not supportive of Israel compared to 27% of US
“This is the first survey that allows us to compare the two, and we
can see that American Jews, though much more liberal than the American
population as a whole, are also much more pro-Israel in their
The Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs
expressed satisfaction with the survey’s findings.
“The survey proves
that Israel is an excellent product, which should be continued to be
around the world in an effort to improve its image, Minister Yuli
said. “Likewise, there is no substitute for visiting Israel and for that
the government has decided to significantly increase its funding of
Taglit-Birthright, which I have the honor of chairing it’s steering
in order to enable a situation where a majority of young Jews in the
visit Israel,” he said.