British Jews’ Confused Love For Israel

Last week a survey of British Jews’ attitudes to Israel, funded by Yachad (similar to J Street), was published by London’s City University, with some disturbing results.

To be sure, it did confirm that Israel is significant to British Jews’ lives, with 93% saying it plays a “central”, “important” or “some” role in their Jewish identity. But the rest of the results seem to indicate that their connection is dependent on how Israel is perceived by others – so how their views impact Israel itself is secondary to how their views on Israel affects them in the UK.

73% felt that Israel’s current approach to the peace process has damaged its standing in the world, which might explain why 75% said that settlement expansion is a “major obstacle to peace”, and 68% feel a “sense of despair” every time Israel builds over the green line.

It’s a shame that they feel that way, but the majority of Jews in Israel don’t share those feelings. So I guess it’s lucky for those Jews that they live in the UK and not here with us extremists.

One of the most bizarre findings is that around half of those surveyed believe the Israeli government is “constantly creating obstacles to avoid engaging in peace negotiations”. Wait, what??? What does that even mean? That Israel is constantly fabricating Palestinian incitement? That we create Palestinian belligerence and anti-Semitism? We create their denial of Jewish history and rights to our homeland? Their denial of Jews’ right to live? We create a Palestinian leadership that refuses to recognize Israel as the Jewish state and refuses to negotiate, again and again and again? And we created all of this because we don’t want peace, because we like war and stabbings and rockets?

Possible the most disturbing figure though, is that 50% of British Jews support ceding territory to achieve peace, even if withdrawal is seen as posing a risk to Israel’s security. Well great. Great that British Jews, from there in the UK, just love for Israel to take risks, from here in the Middle East. Unfortunately for them, the majority of Israelis can see that now is just not the time to be gambling on the very existence of our country and people.

Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland praised those British Jews: “They favour compromise, rejecting the suggestion that concessions should wait until the wider region calms down.” Freedland said: “This is heartening”. Most Israelis would find it nauseating.

There were some other notable findings: 63% said “peace negotiations are pointless as long as incitement against Israel is taught in Palestinian schools” and 60% said there is no credible Palestinian partner for Israel to make peace with. So according to the results of the survey, the majority of British Jews don’t see the Palestinians as a peace partner, know that incitement is the reason for that, but half of them would still encourage Israel to give up land and stop building, even knowing that it would cause security risks. Why could this be? Why would Jews who live in the UK pressure Israel in the same ways that everyone around them outside of Israel does, but which most Israelis oppose? The answer’s in the question.

It might not be as bleak as it seems though. On one hand there are some concerns about the methods of the survey.

On the other hand, it should not be surprising that many Jews who live in the UK are disproportionately critical of Israel. After all, they choose to live there rather than here. The more Zionistic UK Jews are the ones more likely to move to Israel, that is just a fact. So a possible explanation might be that as more Jews make Aliyah, the balance changes and the proportion of Jews who are more critical overtakes those who are more supportive.

Either way, British Jews can keep on doing what they’re doing, and Israelis can just be thankful that those British Jews surveyed are not the people running our country.

About the Author
Mizrachi Jew. Israeli-in-Progress. But I only drink tea with milk.
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