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Yes, American Jews do care about and support Israel

Polls conducted by the Jewish Electorate Institute for organizations like J Street should be disregarded and discredited.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the annual AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C. on March 2, 2015. Credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the annual AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C. on March 2, 2015. Credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO.
Farley Weiss
Farley Weiss is chairman of the Israel Heritage Foundation (IHF) and former president of the National Council of Young Israel.

Polls conducted in 2020 by the Jewish Electorate Institute for organizations like J Street indicated that American Jews don’t care about Israel and will always overwhelmingly vote for the Democratic Party.

They further pointed to the likelihood that then-President Donald Trump would receive a similar percentage of the Jewish vote in Florida as he had received in 2016.  An AP exit poll on election day in Florida showed, however, that Trump won 41 percent of the Jewish vote in Florida, as compared with 2016, when the publication’s exit poll showed him winning only 24 percent of the Jewish vote in that state.

Unsurprisingly, the Jewish Electorate Institute didn’t acknowledge their extraordinary polling errors or adjust their methodology. Nor did it explain the vast discrepancy between its projections and the actual results.

Instead, it recently released another absurd poll about Jewish attitudes. And though its findings were refuted a mere eight months ago on election day, many people are taking it seriously without taking the reason for its having been conducted in the first place: to concoct a basis for J Street and other anti-Israel organizations to falsely claim that they represent significant parts of the American-Jewish community.

This in spite of a 2019 Gallup survey of the America-Jewish community’s political views on Israel, the results of which completely contradict it. More importantly, Gallup wasn’t pushing any particular narrative.

According to an article in August 2019 by Gallup senior scientist Frank Newport, “[A]bout nine in 10 American Jews are more sympathetic to Israel than to the Palestinians. (That compares to about six in 10 of all Americans.) Additionally, 95 percent of Jews have favorable views of Israel, while 10 percent have favorable views of the Palestinian Authority … significantly more pro-Israel than the overall national averages of 71 percent favorable views of Israel and 21 percent favorable views of the Palestinian Authority.”

Gallup’s extensive polling corresponded with the actual voting patterns of the American-Jewish community, which didn’t always vote for Democrats by the large margins of the last three decades. Forty percent, for example, voted for Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, while only 18 percent supported Republican Richard Nixon when he ran against Democrat Hubert Humphrey.

But when Democratic candidate George McGovern was perceived as not favorable to Israel, Nixon won 35 percent of the Jewish vote in 1972 against him. President Gerald Ford was not perceived well by the Jewish community, due to his pressuring of Israel during the two years after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. As a result, Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter received 71 percent of the Jewish vote, which proved decisive in his close victory over Ford.

Ironically, Carter was then perceived as not being a friend of Israel’s as compared with Ronald Reagan—and as a result, Carter received only 45 percent of the Jewish vote to Reagan’s 39 percent, with the rest going to Independent John Anderson.

In 1992, Republican George H. W. Bush running against Democrat Michael Dukakis received 35 percent of the Jewish vote. But with Secretary of State James Baker publicly blasting Israel by alleging that it didn’t care about peace, Bush’s support in the Jewish community dropped to 11 percent, and he lost the election to Democrat Bill Clinton, who won 80 percent of the Jewish vote.

The Republican-Jewish vote finally got to 31 percent in 2012, when candidate Mitt Romney faced Democrat Barack Obama, because many American Jews viewed Obama as being generally unfriendly to Israel and specifically hostile to then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

When Obama ran for re-election, he tried to claim that he was pro-Israel, yet his support in the Jewish community changed more than it did in any other group between his two elections. He won 78 percent of the Jewish vote against John McCain in 2008, but just 69 percent of the Jewish vote against Romney in 2012. Romney had not made Israel a major issue in the campaign, but it was a key topic in his last presidential debate, which helped him with the Jewish vote.

More recently, the New York City mayoral primary race was a good example of the importance of Israel to the Jewish community. Eric Adams, the most supportive of Israel among the Democratic candidates, garnered a significant amount of the Jewish vote, which helped him win the primary.  Andrew Yang was making inroads with the Jewish community, until he backed off from his strong support for Israel when it was attacked by Hamas. His support among Jews then plummeted, and he subsequently finished fourth in the primary.

A significant concern to the Jewish community has been the influential role of the “Squad” in Congress and its members’ anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statements. Reps Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) have been open about their support for the BDS movement, which—according to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance “working definition” definition—is anti-Semitic.

Instead of viewing their positions as anathema to the Democratic Party, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed both of them for re-election. Worse, she contributed financially to their campaigns.

Tlaib and Omar were joined on May 13 by eight other Democratic House reps speaking against Israel, while it faced the indiscriminate fire of more than 4,000 rockets from Gaza. No Republicans joined in the condemnation.

Indeed, and Republican support for Israel has never been higher, while Democratic support for Israel is at its lowest level since the days of the Carter administration. Though President Joe Biden condemns BDS, there is no indication that he will call on Ben & Jerry’s to change its BDS-supporting policies, leaving Republican-run states to take action against the company, which is now owned by Unilever. It should be noted that J Street has outspokenly defended Ben &  Jerry’s boycott of Israel and advocates for the Biden administration to cut aid to Israel—so it should be clear to everyone that it is an anti-Israel organization.

The non-partisan polls conducted by AP and Gallup make it clear that the Jewish community strongly cares about Israel. Furthermore, the most important surveys are those that examine voting habits over decades, which illustrate the importance that Israel holds among American Jews.

This, among other reasons, is cause enough to disregard and discredit past and current Jewish Electorate Institute polls.

Farley Weiss, former president of the National Council of Young Israel, is an intellectual property attorney for the law firm of Weiss & Moy. The views expressed are the author’s, and not necessarily representative of NCYI.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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