Mondoweiss / April 26, 2022
Nearly half of millennial American Jews don’t feel very connected to Israel and 22.5 percent believe that there should be one “bi-national” state in Israel and Palestine, according to the American Jewish Committee.
The American Jewish Committee, a leading Israel lobby group, yesterday published surveys of Jewish millennials in the U.S. and in Israel, and the results affirm recent trends.
A large number of younger American Jews just don’t feel that connected to Israel — nearly 44 percent. And more than one in five millennial American Jews support the idea of one democratic state in Israel/Palestine. Only one in 20 Israeli Jews like that idea.
And campus discussions of Israel are not hotbeds of antisemitism, as the American Jewish Committee likes to claim. No, 28 percent of millennials say the Israel-critical discourse has caused them to “rethink” their commitment to Israel, and 63 percent say that climate hasn’t damaged their friendships.
Here are some of the salient points of surveys.
American Jewish millennials don’t all feel connected to Israel. How important is Israel to your Jewish identity? Very or somewhat, 53.5 percent. Not important– 43.8 percent. That second figure looms large because countless establishment Jewish orgs today assert that Israel is central to Jewish identity.
The AJC shows that American millennial Jews and Israeli Jewish millennials have very different attitudes.
Is it appropriate for U.S. Jews to try to influence Israeli policy? 45 percent of U.S. Jews say it is appropriate, but only 23 percent of Israeli Jews agree, with 70 percent saying that it’s not appropriate. (This is a measure of entitlement imho [in my humble opinion]: give us the money and support, but keep your mouths shut.)
How much responsibility do you have to help fellow Jews in the other place? American Jews feel considerable responsibility — 58 percent feel some or a great deal. But only 42 percent of Israeli Jews feel that responsibility, and the negative–not much responsibility — is 47 percent on the Israeli side and only 35 percent on the American side.
Israeli Jews seem to believe that they’re helping American Jews just by having a Jewish state (more entitlement). 80 percent of Israeli Jews say that a strong Israel is necessary to the survival of Jews outside Israel, but only 69 percent of American millennial Jews share that view. While 25 percent of American Jews say a strong Israel is not necessary for the survival of Jews outside the country.
Israelis are way more pessimistic about the future with Palestinians than American Jews are. The numbers show how accepting Israelis are of a managed conflict/occupation, forever. Is a viable solution possible? By 52-19 American Jews say Yes. But Israeli Jews say No by similar proportions, 56-24.
And while both groups are for the “two-state solution,” 22.5 percent of American Jews are for one “bi-national” democracy. Only 5.4 percent of Israeli Jews are. This figure is congruent with a poll of 2021: 20% of Jewish voters under 40 said that Israel does not have a right to exist. That number is surely growing.
Israel on campus, that whole narrative from the Israel lobby? 28 percent of the American Jews say the “anti-Israel climate” on campus — yes the poll uses that language — made them “rethink” their commitment to Israel. And another 12.3 percent say there is no anti-Israel climate on campus! That’s a lot of Jews who aren’t drinking the Koolaid. And 63 percent say the “anti-Israel climate” has not damaged their relationships with their friends.
Lara Friedman of Foundation for Middle East Peace writes about the American Jewish Committee survey:
This is an org that has for years been promoting the narrative that Jewish students feel unsafe/discriminated against on US campuses because of Israel. Yet its own polling tells a very different story…
All in all this polling aligns pretty well, I think, with the experience of people who are actually paying attention to what is going on on US campuses, rather than just reading the talking points of groups trying to shut down protest of Israel/Zionism.
My observation is that the surveys show that Israeli and American societies are very different, and the two Jewish communities do not share a worldview. The U.S. is a functioning democracy with all its flaws, Israel is a democracy for Jews only, and the privileged group likes it that way. And btw this poll appears to skew the US Jewish population right, given the high numbers of moderate and centrist Jews, and high number of religious and traditional ones.
Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006