A quarter of American Jews believe Israel is an apartheid state according to a new poll which has made a number of striking findings over the extent to which the occupation state is losing the battle for hearts and minds amongst the most populous Jewish community outside Israel.
The poll of US Jewish voters, released yesterday, was taken after Israel’s 11-day onslaught on Gaza in May which killed over 250 people including women and children. It found that 25 per cent agreed with the statement that “Israel is an apartheid state” and 22 per cent agreed that “Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians.” Both statements are often cited as examples of anti-Semitism according to the highly controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of racism against Jews.
Amongst the younger generation the picture is more startling. Twenty per cent of Jews under 40 believe that “Israel doesn’t have a right to exist,” a view that is significantly lower among the older generation. A third of younger voters agreed that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians and more than a third consider Israel to be an apartheid state.
The survey was commissioned by the Jewish Electorate Institute, a group led by prominent Jewish Democrats and conducted by a research group GBAO Strategies from 28 June to 1 July online and via texts.
The findings are as striking as much as they are worrying for pro-Israel groups that for years have faced an uphill battle to sell Israel to new generations of American Jews. Israel’s reputation as a pariah state, alongside the fact that it was founded on the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians and its subsequent military occupation, which is far and away the longest in modern history, have made it impossible for American Jews to reconcile their liberal values with support for a state accused of committing crimes against humanity by imposing an apartheid regime on Palestine.
Israel’s status as a deeply racist country that practices a system of apartheid has become impossible to dispute. In April, the pre-eminent human rights organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) joined a host of other prominent groups to declare that Israel is committing the crimes of apartheid and persecution.
Prior to HRW’s report, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem branded Israel an “apartheid” state that “promotes and perpetuates Jewish supremacy between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.” Echoing the UN’s 2017 report which concluded that Israel was practising apartheid, B’Tselem dismissed the popular misconception that it is a democracy within the Green (1949 Armistice) Line.
In an article last month, two former Israeli ambassadors to South Africa also denounced Israel as an apartheid state by drawing parallels with the system of racial segregation in South Africa which ended in 1994.
Yesterday’s poll findings are a further sign of what commentators have described as a “messy” breakup of American and Israeli Jews. Mainstream pro-Israel organisations are said to be struggling to make the case that the occupation state is central to Jewish identity.
The growing chasm is further highlighted by the poll’s findings on what American Jews consider to be anti-Semitic. More respondents disagreed than agreed with the statements that “Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians,” and “Israel is an apartheid state” are anti-Semitic. This is a stark contrast to the controversial IHRA definition which many pro-Israel groups are vigorously campaigning for. Seven of IHRA’s 11 examples conflate criticism of Israel with racism towards Jews.
On the question of aid, the majority of American Jews hold a position similar to that of progressive Democrat representatives like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and several others that want to condition US aid to Israel. Though 71 per cent said it was “important” to provide financial assistance to Israel, a smaller majority 58 per cent, said it would be appropriate to restrict aid to Israel so it could not spend US tax-payers money on illegal settlements.