What Do American Jews Think About Gaza?
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg
Overwhelmingly, those people support Israel. Now I'm not making a value judgment here as to whether this is right or wrong; it just is. So it should hardly be surprising that Israel has near uniform support in Washington.
I gotta say, the recent misdiagnosis of Obama's supposed "Jewish problem" has really made skeptical about broad sweeping statements about American Jewish opinion. Remember when Jews weren't going to vote for Obama until they voted for him in greater numbers than they did for Kerry?
So, I decided to do my own little focus group and have over the past couple of days been talking to friends and family and reading various forwarded emails from my parents. This has included messages from family friends who recently moved to Israel, a rabbi, a diverse set of ages, and generally people who engaged on this issue and care deeply about Israel. It's also not an overwhelmingly liberal group by Jewish standards. I think it's a fair representation of conservative and reform Jews.
The very unscientific results would indicate a much more diverse set of opinions than what we're seeing coming from Capitol Hill. There is almost uniform agreement on the fact that Israel has a right to defend its civilians from rocket attacks. Moreover, while most folks don't buy into the proportionality argument (i.e that Israel's response is disproportionate) and believe that Israel is doing what it can to limit Palestinian civilian casualties, they are uncomfortable with the civilian death toll and suffering in Gaza. People understand why Israel would launch such an operation. But there is also almost uniform skepticism of one kind or another about whether such an operation will work. Pretty much everyone has argued that at the end a diplomatic solution will have to be part of the equation and that military force alone will not do it.
This hesitance and debate is only natural. The debate inside Israel has become much more intense over the past twenty years as that society works through very difficult questions. And those debates are also being expressed more and more in the Jewish diaspora. Basically, to make any assumptions about American Jewish opinion on the military operations in Gaza without some polling is a mistake. Feelings are very mixed and conflicted across the community.