Last month, Zogby conducted an opinion poll of Jewish and Arab Americans on behalf of Americans for Peace Now and the Arab American Institute. Between 22 and 23 May, 501 American Jews were surveyed by telephone and 501 American Arabs were surveyed between 22 and 26 May.
Richard Silverstein, whose blog, Tikun Olam, alerted me to the poll, reckons
The poll also confirms what many of us have known for years–that American Jews diverge strongly from the views of their leaders and the Israeli government when it comes to Israeli-Palestinian peace.
His only reservation
One somewhat distressing finding was that only 34% of Jews believe that Arabs support a secure
At one level, he is probably right to suggest that a significant proportion of American Jews disagree with those who purport to represent them, like the Israeli government and AIPAC and the AJC. But, as always, it’s worth looking at what the survey actually asked.
First though, I checked out the methodology section of the report, Seeing Eye to Eye: A Survey of Jewish American and Arab American Public Opinion. There I learned that the samples had been selected ‘using Zogby International's list of Jewish surnames’ and of Arab surnames. So you’d kind of expect to find a range of demographic characteristics. But when you look at the table, it transpires that there is some very suspicious stuff going on there.
Perhaps American respondents can make sense of it, but the output categories for the variable Zogby seems to call ‘ideology’ are Progressive, Liberal, Moderate, Conservative, Very Conservative, and Libertarian. I guess someone with my political orientation would have had to answer ‘Other’, but there doesn’t appear to have been a residual category for this particular variable.
I was surprised to find that a plurality of 40% of Jews and 33% of Arabs reported annual incomes in excess of US$100,000, which makes me wonder how representative the sample really is.
Another big surprise was that even though the Jewish sample was selected on the basis of surname, and not, say, synagogue records, 100% reported their religion as ‘Jewish’. I am not overly concerned that the count provided was also ‘100’ rather than the 501 you would expect, as this was probably a typo. ‘N/A’ has been entered in every other cell in the Jewish columns. Now if I had drawn a sample of 501 Jews and there was not one single atheist, agnostic, or Taoist among them, I think I’d start to worry.
Furthermore, when asked about attendance at religious services, only 21% of the Jews responded either ‘Attend on holidays only’, ‘Attend rarely’, or ‘Never attend’. This contrasts very markedly from my personal knowledge of American Jews, such as it is, which leads me to expect nearly 100% in these three categories. In comparison, a plurality of 43% of the Arabs reported attendance in this range.
The Arabs are much more religiously diverse, including 13% ‘Other/None’. Interestingly, just 24% of the Arabs in the sample reported their religion as Muslim. The plurality of 35% said they were Catholic, with a significant majority of 63% saying they were either Catholic, ‘Protestant’, or ‘Eastern Orthodox’. Jews were further classified into six separate ‘denominations’, some of which I never heard of and none of which seemed to accommodate Hassidism. In contrast, the Muslims were classified into ‘sects’ – Shi’a, Sunni, and Other. Now as the word is typically used, sect is derogatory. Sects are ‘sectarian’, obviously. They depart from the mainstream. But for Zogby, apparently, there is no Muslim mainstream – they’re all sectarians. Denominations in contrast, is about as neutral as you can get – just what you’re called. Doubtless Zogby has some perfectly reasonable explanation for this superficially racist distinction, but it’s not worth explicitly articulating it. Another curious thing is that there appears to have been no attempt to classify the Protestants and Orthodox. I assume that Zogby’s intention was that Catholic refer exclusively to Roman Catholics. But in light of the numbers and considering that 56% appear to have specified Lebanese origin, many of these may actually be Maronite, which I think might otherwise be considered an Orthodox rite. The point is that it would probably have been worthwhile probing for what kind of Catholic. In all honesty, though, the report does not provide the questions used to determine these characteristics of the sample, so maybe they did.
While on the subject of religion, I couldn’t help noticing that there were no Druzes reported. As only about 20,000 of the reported 3.5 million Arabs in the US are Druze, however, this should come as no surprise. Still, there are plenty of empty cells in the table (‘African-American’, for example), and the absence of a Druze category suggests that respondents may not even have been asked.
So before even looking at the substantive questions, I already have serious reservations about how representative the sample is and the kinds of biases the developers may be bringing to bear on the data.
A small majority – 55% of each population, give or take 4.5% - claimed that they ‘follow the situation in the
Then it starts getting more interesting. Question 4 asks, ‘Concerning the Bush Administration’s efforts at pursuing peace in the Middle East, which of the following statements do you feel is most accurate?’ In other words, to answer the question at all, you have to share the assumption of the question’s framers that the Bush Administration is in fact making efforts at pursuing peace in the
Having bought into the assumption, 41% of the Jews and 59% of the Arabs said the Bush administration was leaning towards
In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Isr
A cynical acceptance of the very ‘facts on the ground’ Israeli governments of every political hue had established for precisely this reason – to make it ‘unrealistic’ to relinquish territory acquired by war. To me this looks exactly like taking sides with
The real guts of the survey comes in questions 9, 10, and 14.
9. Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree that Israelis have a right to live in a secure and independent state of their own?
10. Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree that Palestinians have a right to live in a secure and independent state of their own?
At this point, I think I’ll refrain from opening the can of worms concealed beneath the innocent phrase, ‘have a right’.
To answer question 9, one of the things you have to assume is that there is such a thing as Israeli nationality and this simply is not the case. In a famous ruling the Israeli Supreme Court determined that to acknowledge the existence of such a thing would undermine the Jewish character of Israel and that therefore all Israelis would be identified as of ‘Jewish nationality’ or some other ‘nationality’, such as ‘Arab’. So the question, as worded, really doesn’t make any sense to anyone who actually follows developments in the region at all closely.
What Zogby probably meant to ask was whether the respondent agreed that Israeli Jews in particular had this right. And the rest of the question is also in code. A more open and honest wording of the question that I’m quite confident the respondents thought they were answering would be something like, ‘Do you agree… that Israeli Jews are entitled to a country in historic Palestine where they can extend special rights and privileges to Jews and be free from the annoyance of violence carried out in the name of anybody else’s national liberation?’
Notwithstanding the similarity in wording, Question 10 presents a slightly different picture. Since there is no actual State of Palestine, we don’t know what Palestinian nationality would entail. But the expression Palestinian is used in two ways. I always insist, correctly in my view, that Palestinian denotes the Arabic speaking people who inhabited the area known as Palestine administered by the British League of Nations Mandate from 1923 to 1948, in other words from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, and their descendants. Specifically, that would include the 1948 refugees in the diaspora, the Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, and those now inhabiting the West Bank and
What the question is really asking is whether the respondent agrees that a state ought to be established on all or part of the West Bank and
As for whether such a state can realistically be secure or independent, I think it is rather obvious that the answer is no. I suppose you can make a case that the Palestinians, somehow delimited, possess such a ‘right’, but that would pry the can of worms open. The real point is that
Neither question addresses the little issue of borders. I’m sure a lot of people answered them on the assumption that the borders would be roughly the Green Line, with ‘mutually agreed adjustments’ to take account of ‘facts on the ground’. In other words, the Israeli Jewish-only conurbations constructed precisely to gain permanent control of the most fertile lands and the aquifers in the West Bank would be annexed to Israel, as intended, and in compensation, the Palestinian state would get, as Jonathan Cook wrote recently, ‘a land swap scheme that would force up to a quarter of a million Palestinian citizens (but hardly any territory) into the Palestinian ghettoes being crafted next door…The Bedouin in the Negev are being reclassified as trespassers on state land so that they can be treated as guest workers rather than citizens.’ Quiet ‘transfer’ – disarming the ‘demographic time bomb’.
14. Would you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose a negotiated peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians that included the establishment of an independent, secure Palestinian state alongside an independent, secure Israeli state, and resolved final status issues of Jerusalem, refugees, and borders?
Much of the discussion of Questions 9 and 10 applies directly to Question 14. What is new here is the issue of negotiations and the explicit mention of the ‘final status issues’.
Who negotiates on behalf of ‘Israelis’ is not problematical. It goes without saying that the Israeli government has to power to claim to negotiate on behalf of ‘Israelis’, although there are certainly grounds for disputing it. I surmise that Palestinians is here being used in the sense ‘the PA’. In my view, as the PA is not a state, as
The mention of ‘final status issues’ really makes it quite explicit that this is what’s going on. In principle, only the refugees, individually, can negotiate on their status. And as I’ve written before, for them to exercise their rights in a meaningful way actually presupposes that many of these questions are already settled. It matters to the refugees whether they exercise their right of return into a Jewish state, whether
The other strange property of the question is that it speaks of ‘resolved final status issues of
Richard Silverstein’s assertion is that the poll result ‘…reinforces the absolute divorce between the views of average American Jews and their leadership and the leadership of the State of Israel’. [my emphasis]
What the poll report says with regard to Question 14 is
Support for a negotiated two-state solution which resolves final status issues of
Looking at the websites of AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee (AJC), it is not obvious what their own positions are. There is no ‘What we stand for’ page. AIPAC writes approvingly, in its ‘issue brief’ on ‘Israel’s search for peace’, ‘The United States is committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’. I surmise that that is the official AIPAC position.
The AJC’s pamphlet, Israel’s quest for peace approvingly quotes the last three Israeli Prime Ministers, including this November 2006 statement by Ehud Olmert,
In the framework of this dialogue, and in accordance with the Road Map, you will be able to establish an independent and viable
So it would seem that on this central question the views of 87% of American Jews and those of two of the principal organisations purporting to lead them, as well as the incumbent Israeli Prime Minister, are not quite so irrevocably estranged as Richard makes them out to be.
Underlying any partition of
And if the sample was as representative as it purports to be, it would certainly seem that there is consensus between the vast majority of American Jews and the Israeli and American Jewish leaderships on the more fundamental issue that a Jewish state in some meaningful sense ought to exist.