By Robin Shepherd
A major new survey by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research suggests that British Jews are overwhelmingly supportive of Israel, with a very large proportion indicating that Israel forms a significant component of their Jewish identity. The report simultaneously represents a devastating blow to anti-Zionist Jews who are given huge prominence in the British media — particularly in the BBC and the Guardian — in order to give the impression that significant sections of Britain’s Jewish community are as hostile to Israel as much of the non-Jewish population.
The survey was conducted among 4,081 respondents in January and February 2010. The following are selected results taken from the report.
** “For 82% of respondents, Israel plays a ‘central’ or ‘important but not central’ role in their Jewish identities”.
** “90% believe that Israel is the ‘ancestral homeland’ of the Jewish people”.
** “72% categorize themselves as Zionists; 21% do not see themselves as Zionists, and 7% are unsure”.
** “An overwhelming majority (87%) agrees that Jews are responsible for ensuring ‘the survival of Israel’— over half (54%) the non-Zionist respondents also agree”.
Taken together, such figures are indeed devastating to the claims of anti-Zionist Jewish groups in Britain such as Independent Jewish Voices that they speak for significant sections of Britain’s Jewish community. Given the kind of attitudes represented above, they would be hard pressed to claim the support of more than 10-15 percent of British Jews. In other words, they are very much on the fringes of the Jewish community with the percentiles in which their opinions fall being roughly similar to those of people in wider British society who sympathise with the far left or the far right.
On policy issues in Israel, British Jewish opinion tends be slightly more dovish than Israeli opinion. Nonetheless, their views fall well within the Israeli mainstream. Here is a selection of other findings from the report:
** “Two-thirds (67%) favour giving up territory for peace with the Palestinians; 28% disagree”. Religious respondents are less likely than secular respondents to agree”.
** “Almost three-quarters (74%) are opposed to the expansion of existing settlements in the West Bank (Judea/Samaria). Even among those who define themselves as Zionist, 70% are opposed”.
** “A large majority (78%) favours a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians; 15% are opposed, and 8% are undecided”.
** “Just over half (52%) think that Israel should negotiate with Hamas, while 39% do not”.
** “Half the sample (50%) agrees that ‘Israeli control of the West Bank (Judea/Samaria) is vital for Israel’s security’, while a sizable minority (40%) disagrees.
** “There is still stronger support (72%) for the view that the security fence/separation barrier is ‘vital for Israel’s security’”.
** “Most (72%) agree that the Gaza War was ‘a legitimate act of self-defence.’ Religious and Zionist respondents are considerably more likely to agree with this than secular and non-Zionist respondents”.
** “Fully 87% of respondents agree that ‘Iran represents a threat to Israel’s existence’”.
** “A large majority (80%) feels that ‘Democracy is alive and well’ in Israel.
** “By contrast, 67% agree that ‘there is too much corruption in Israel’s political system.’ Only 13% disagree, while 20% are uncertain”.
** “About three-quarters (74%) think that ‘Orthodox Judaism has too much influence in Israel’s society’. Close to half (45%) of ‘Religious’ respondents also agree with this assertion”.
** “60% of respondents agree that Jewish minority groups in Israel, such as people of Russian or Ethiopian origin, ‘suffer from discrimination’, and only 20% disagree. Similarly, 56% agree that non-Jewish minority groups ‘suffer from discrimination’ in Israel, while 27% disagree”.
** “Over three-quarters (76%) of the sample feel that Israel is relevant to their day-to-day lives in Britain. Even so, 67% do not feel any conflict of loyalty regarding Britain and Israel”.
** “Just over a quarter (26%) say that they ‘feel uncomfortable living in Britain because of events in Israel’. Respondents living in parts of the country with fewer Jews are the most likely to feel uncomfortable”.
** “A majority (60%) says that Israel is either not an issue or only one of several issues that influences their voting behaviour. 36% say that Israel is either ‘the central issue’ or a ‘high priority issue but not central’”.
** “Almost a quarter (23%) of the sample had witnessed some form of antisemitic incident in the previous year. Of these, over half (56%) believe that the incident was ‘probably’ or ‘definitely’ related to the abuser/assailant’s views on Israel.
** “More than one in ten respondents (11%) said they had been subjected to a verbal antisemitic insult or attack in the 12 months leading up to the survey. Over half of the victims (56%) believe that the incident was ‘probably’ or ‘definitely’ related to the abuser/assailant’s views on Israel”.
** “Over a third (35%) think that Jewish people should ‘always’ feel free to criticize Israel in the British media; a further 38% say that there are some circumstances when this would be justified. Only a quarter says this is ‘never’ justified”.