Peter Beinart vs. the American Jewish community

Polemics and analyses which represent nothing more than preconceived anti-Israel conclusions in search of supporting evidence are nothing new at the Guardian Group.  Nonetheless, the absence of empirical evidence in Peter Beinart’s attempt to support his claim, in an essay at ‘The Observer’ (sister paper of the Guardian) on Jan. 12, ‘Jewish Americans may be increasingly disenchanted with Netanyahu. But their priorities lie elsewhere, is still quite striking.

Beinart, the former New Republic editor who recently re-invented himself as a Jew who’s ashamed of Israel’s stubborn refusal to unilaterally declare peace in the ‘new Middle East’, and thus allow his delicate conscience to escape the unbearable social weight of Zionist vigilance against Palestinian intransigence, seemed determined to convince the Guardian coven that he’s in the vanguard of an unstoppable Jewish progressive revolt against Jerusalem.

Characteristically, Beinart spends no time reflecting upon what the terms “right” and “left” denote in the current political context – and seems breezily unconcerned with the messy nuances of Israel’s pragmatic consensus forged by the sobering failures of Oslo, the dangerous results of an illusory land for peace strategic calculus, and Islamism’s regional ascendancy.

To the marginal Beinart-style Jewish left, moral enlightenment means never having to prove your a priori progressive advantages over your more “tribalist” coreligionists.

His posturing begins thus:

“In Israel, public discourse is moving right.

In Jewish America, by contrast, public discourse about Israel is moving left. You can see it in the increasingly harsh criticism of Binyamin Netanyahu‘s government by mainstream Jewish commentators such as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and New Yorker editor David Remnick.

Are many of these liberal, relatively secular Jews, especially in the younger generation, uncomfortable with Israel’s current drift? Yes”

However, the political sensibilities of most American Jews have long since drifted away from the increasingly irrelevant intellectual echo-chamber which Beinart imputes so much significance – most having long ago steered their URL clear of such New York establishment media institutions.

Contrary to Beinart’s fanciful wishes, the Zionist sensibilities of most American Jews have not wavered.

A 2012 poll by Lutz Global, on behalf of CAMERA, found continuing, deep support for Israel and a “strong belief in Israel’s commitment to peace efforts and apprehension about its existential situation.” Survey respondents similarly expressed strong support for Israel’s right to self-defense and fierce opposition to those (such as Beinart) who endorse BDS against the Jewish state – with 71% opposing boycotts against Israel, and 68% opposing a boycott of products made in cities beyond the green line.

 A full 85% agreed that Israel ‘is right to take threats to its existence seriously,’ and that Israel’s concerns are neither “irrational’ nor overstated”.

The Lutz poll also demonstrated that American Jews possess a strong belief that “the Israeli government (84%) and its people (85%) are committed to establishing genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.” Respondents were extremely skeptical of the Palestinian commitment to peace and consider Palestinian incitement against Jews to be a major obstacle to a long-term agreement (77%) - far more so than settlements (12%) or “occupation” (12%).

Beinart then turns to Iran, and writes the following:

“So is Netanyahu free to do whatever he pleases without worrying about the American Jewish response? On the Palestinians, maybe. But on Iran, no. That’s because war with Iran, a war in which the US could easily become engulfed even if we don’t drop the first bomb, is a much higher priority than the Israeli-Palestinian peace process (or lack thereof). It’s a higher priority for Americans, for liberal American Jews, and for America’s president. It’s an issue on which Obama, as evidenced by the Hagel nomination, is not prepared to defer to Aipac. And it’s an issue that could, if America goes to war, mobilise those liberal American Jews who would not mobilise politically on the peace process but did mobilise against the war in Iraq.”

So, is American Jewish opinion at odds with the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews who believe that a nuclear armed Iran would represent an existential threat to their nation?

According to another comprehensive 2012 survey of American Jewish opinion by the AJC the answer is a resounding “no”.  The Iranian nuclear program concerns the vast majority of American Jews: 89 percent are “very” (56 percent) or somewhat (33 percent) concerned about it. Only 11 percent say they are not too concerned or not concerned at all.

Additionally, 64 percent of American Jews surveyed said that, if diplomacy and sanctions fail, “they would support the U.S. taking military action against Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.” Also, 75 percent would “support Israel taking such action if diplomacy and sanctions fail.”

Contrary to Beinart’s claims, the research indicates that American Jewish opinion is solidly in alignment with Israeli Jewish opinion on the most important issues regarding peace and security for the Jewish state.

Not surprisingly given the outcome of the recent US election, the same AJC poll showing broad support among American Jews for Israel also demonstrates that the overwhelming majority also back President Obama, which would indicate that such Jews don’t see their Zionism as in any way inconsistent with their liberal political orientation.

Beinart, in one passage in his Observer piece, cites data allegedly indicating that “only” 58 percent of younger American Jews even could identify who Binyamin Netanyahu is.

However, based on the polling data, I think it’s fair to ask how many younger American Jews have any idea who exactly Peter Beinart is.