B’nai B’rith poll: the latest in the ‘who can slam J Street the most’ sweepstakes?

Update: the folks at Americans for Peace Now point out that I missed a key finding of the B’nai B’rith survey. APN spokesman Ori Nir, in a press release, points out that "a full 55 percent agreed" with the statement "A two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is essential to Israel’s survival as a national home of the Jewish people as a vibrant democracy."  

Ori adds this: "the real shocker: Read B’nai B’rith’s press release and you will miss the surprising finding that almost half of those polled (48%) support foreign pressure on Israel. Yes, this is not a mistake."

How does that square with the Israeli fear of Obama and its dislike of Jewish groups here that don’t support the policies of the current Israeli government? Talk about dissonance…Here’s the APN blog.

B’nai B’rith International seemed determined to join the Jewish groups that see J Street, the pro-peace process lobby and political action committee, as their favorite punching bag. That was pretty clear when the Washington-based group announced the results of this year’s Survey of Contemporary Israeli Attitudes Toward World Jewry (see the BBI summary here)

The first two questions highlighted in the BBI press release were clearly grenades lobbed at the dovish group.

“A majority of Jewish residents of Israel (54 percent) believe that Jewish organizations that advocate for Israel with foreign governments and call themselves ‘pro-Israel’ should always support the government’s policies, while 28 percent do not,” was the first line in the BBI press release.

That was followed by this, from the BBI press release:

“The survey also found that 56 percent of adult Israeli Jews disagree with the ‘call for Reason’ petition issued by JCall, a European-based nonprofit advocacy group on the Middle East and Israel, stating that unequivocal support of Israeli government policies by the Jewish Diaspora is not in the best interests of the country, while 30 percent agree with it.”

Take that, J Street. JCall is an unaffiliated group that nevertheless has been widely dubbed the European J Street.

Given the huge range of issues involving Israel-diaspora relations, isn’t it interesting that B’nai B’rith focused so heavily on questions that clearly pointed to J Street?

In contrast, on the biggest issue roiling Israel-diaspora relations – the latest iteration of the “who is a Jew” controversy – the B’nai B’rith survey reported on only one question:

“MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beitenu), chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice committee, has proposed legislation that would change the prevailing convention regarding conversions in Israel and eligibility for citizenship under the Law of Return. The Reform and Conservative movements have called on their leadership and membership in the United States to exert pressure to prevent the passage of Rotem’s amendment. Which statement most reflects your opinion?”

38 percent said “the Knesset can amend these laws without consideration for the concerns raised by these streams,” 37 percent said it should be amended “only in agreement with the major streams of world Jewry.”

This issue and the response to this question cry out for more information – but BBI seems more interested in proving that it’s part of the hit-J Street crowd.

JTA’s Ron Kampeas alertly pointed to another strange question: “Do you think the possibility of being accused of dual loyalty discourages American Jews from criticizing the Obama Administration’s policy towards Israel?”

Huh? Where did that come from?

46 percent agree, 36 disagree, and Ron wonders about the “loaded” question.

Even with these sketchy numbers, one conclusion is pretty obvious: Israelis, who generally think President Barack Obama is the worst pro-Israel ever, and Americans, who’d probably vote for him again in overwhelming numbers, are on diverging political paths.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.