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Jews are more strongly opposed to the Iraq War - and have been since before it began - than any other American religious group, according to an analysis of Gallup polls conducted since 2005 that was released over the weekend by The Gallup Organization.
Asked if "the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq," 77 percent of American Jews said it had, while only 21% believed the deployment was not a mistake. This figure is in marked contrast to the American average, where only 52% indicated opposition to the war and 46% indicated support.
The Jewish opposition to the war, according to Gallup figures, is not new, and preceded most Americans turning against the war. In the first two years of the war (2003 and 2004), when 52% of Americans supported the war, 61% of Jews opposed it. Even before the beginning of hostilities in 2002 and early 2003, US Jews supported the war by just 49% to 48%. Americans generally supported it by 57% to 37%.
The Gallup figures also show that Jewish opposition to the war is not explainable by the high Democratic Party affiliation among Jews. Even within the Democratic Party, Jewish opposition to the war was greater than that expressed by non-Jewish Democrats. In polls taken from 2005 to 2007, 89% of Jewish Democrats opposed the war and just 8% supported it, while non-Jewish Democrats opposed the war by 78% to 20%.
"This just goes to prove that the argument put forward by some players in America and elsewhere that the Jews pushed Bush to go to Iraq is little more than anti-Semitic rubbish," Col. (res.) Eran Lerman, head of the American Jewish Committee's Israel/Middle East office in Jerusalem, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
"Traditional liberal values are deeply implanted" among American Jews, Lerman added, noting that US Jews "are anti-war generally and tend to be suspicious of the Bush administration specifically.
"There may also be the fear," he surmised, "that if this war doesn't succeed, somebody will blame the Jews [for it]."
The Gallup Organization itself noted that "these data show that the average American Jew - even those who are Republicans and may support the Bush administration on other matters - opposes the war."
"Most of the Jews [in America] always believed that most of the non-Jews suspect they are not loyal to the United States," agreed Prof. Eytan Gilboa, a political scientist at Bar-Ilan University who specializes in American Jewish-Israeli relations and has written a book on such polls.
But, he added, these Jews were usually wrong. "In fact, most of the non-Jews have thought the opposite, and I think this is still true today, [particularly] in a period when there is a distancing between American Jews and Israel, and a new generation [of young American Jews] that doesn't know much about Israel," he said, adding that "American Jewry's position [on the Middle East] is complex. The Israel issue is part of it, but it doesn't have a veto. American Jewry wants first of all to see itself as American."
Yet, despite this, "over the last two years, Israel's enemies have succeeded in pushing them into the corner, putting them on the defensive," he believes. "You see accusations - not from the fringes - that the war in Iraq only took place in order to help Israel," he said, and "the Jews are accused of dual loyalties."
The study also found that, though Protestants as a whole were evenly divided on the war (49% for and 48% against), African-American Protestants (who were grouped with other Protestants because the study divided according to religions) opposed the war in equal measure to the Jews, with 78% opposing the war and 18% supporting.
The Jews even outpaced Americans with "no religious affiliation," who took second-place with 66% opposed and 33% in favor. Catholics came in third with 53% opposed and 46% in favor. Mormons, meanwhile, were most supportive of the war, with 72% in favor and 27% against.