The Economist misleads on American Jewish attitudes towards Israel and Iran

The narrative advanced by The Economist in a Nov. 25 story about the American political repercussions of the recent deal in Geneva between Iran and the P5+1 (‘Israel heads for a terrifying split‘) is clear towards the end of the opening paragraph:

APPEARANCES to the contrary, the Israeli government does not have a problem with the terms of the deal that was struck on Iran’s nuclear programme on Sunday. Rather, the Israeli government has a problem with the fact that a deal was struck on Iran’s nuclear programme on Sunday. Over the course of the negotiations, it has become abundantly clear that Binyamin Netanyahu and the conservative coalition he leads do not want a diplomatic resolution to the standoff over Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons on any terms that Iran would be willing to accept. That puts Israel at loggerheads with the majority of Americans; perhaps more important, it puts Israel at loggerheads with a large fraction of American Jews.

Then, to buttress the argument of an impending erosion of solidarity between Israel and American Jews the (anonymous) author of the story cites two polls.  

Here’s the first:

Meanwhilea poll of American Jews by the Anti-Defamation League early this month found that if Israel were to carry out a military strike against Iran, 48% thought America should take a “neutral” position, while just 40% would favour supporting Israel.

However, when you open the link it’s clear that the ADL poll gauged the views of all Americans, not specifically American Jews.  


So, if the intent was to show that American Jewish support for Israel – in the context of the current crisis – has declined, the poll cited (on the views, again, of ALL Americans) does not demonstrate this.

Now, here’s the second poll used in the same paragraph within The Economist report:

That stand-offishness was in line with a broad decrease in support for aggressive anti-Iranian positions that emerged in a poll by the American Jewish Committee in October, which found backing for American military action against Iran had fallen to 52% from 67% in 2012.

Unlike the ADL poll, the AJC poll does indeed gauge the views of American Jews. However, note how the author shifted gears from a question about the reaction to Israeli military action (in the first passage), to the reaction to American military action (in the second passage).  Indeed, if the two passages were to be consistent the latter one would have noted results in the same AJC poll cited showing that 67 percent of American Jews would support Israeli military action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

AJC poll of American Jews, 2012

Further, results from AJC’s two previous polls of American Jews show 72.5 percent supporting Israeli military action in such a scenario in 2012, with 67 percent supporting such action in 2011 – indicating relatively consistent support over the past three years for a potential Israeli attack.  

More broadly, a major study by Pew Global released this year demonstrated that about 70 percent American Jews are “emotionally very attached to Israel”, findings, Pew noted, which “closely resemble results from the last National Jewish Population Survey conducted in 2000-2001”.

So, it seems clear that – despite The Economist’s misleading characterizations of the polls cited – American Jewish support for Israel (including support for any future Israeli military action which may be required) shows no signs of wavering. 

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