Several hundred Jewish leaders from around the country will spill into Washington on Thursday for a “national leadership advocacy day on Iran” that many hope will spark a genuine grass-roots movement akin to the Soviet Jewry movement of the 1980s.
And while one ostensible goal of the fly-in is to press for new sanctions legislation pending in Congress, there is a broader, unspoken purpose: to ensure strong official U.S. support if Israel feels compelled to use military force to damage Iran’s nuclear program.
In a widely disseminated error by news outlets and bloggers, Joshua Fattal, 27, currently a captive in Iran, is being confused with Joshua Fattal, a teenaged local yeshiva student who has written two articles for Fresh Ink, the high school supplement of The Jewish Week.
The case of mistaken identity has led to speculation that the older Fattal may be charged with being a “Zionist” spy.
In dramatic shift, 56 percent of U.S. Jews favor military strike, according to new AJC poll.
No alternate text on picture! - define alternate text in image propertiesAmerican Jews have taken a sharply hawkish turn on Iran, with a majority now supporting a U.S. military strike to end that country’s nuclear weapons program, according to this year’s Survey of American Jewish Public Opinion, released on Wednesday by the American Jewish Committee.
No alternate text on picture! - define alternate text in image propertiesThe revelation that Iran had a secret nuclear site deep in the arid mountains near the holy city of Qom and protected by anti-aircraft missile batteries has dramatically increased the likelihood of strong sanctions against the Tehran regime, but it is unlikely to change a strategic calculus that does not favor U.S. or Israeli military action.
The maddening thing about the American Jewish Committee’s Annual Survey of Jewish Public Opinion – this year’s edition was released yesterday – is that the list of questions seems to get shorter each time around as the answers get more interesting. (Read the Jewish Week story on the poll here, and an editorial here).
The shrinkage has an obvious cause – polls are extremely expensive, the AJC is pinching its pennies in these trying times and the list of potential questions is pretty much endless.
Still, this year’s survey once again begs for further analysis.
Take question 4: “Do you agree or disagree with the Obama administration’s call for a stop to all new Israeli settlement construction?”
You have to admire the way the question is constructed: no frills, no padding meant to skew answers one way or the other, no loaded terms.
But what, exactly, are the factors behind the surprisingly high 51 percent who disagree?
Some Jewish leaders are already saying it shows polls by Mideast advocacy groups – they really mean J Street, but don’t come out and say it – are bunk. J Street officials have argued their data shows that the Obama administration has considerable latitude in pushing Israel toward the negotiating table.
But there isn’t enough information in that single question to draw many conclusions. How much of that 51 percent is motivated by sympathy for settlers, or a belief that Israel’s security would be jeopardized by new pullouts? How much by resentment over the WAY the administration pushed Israel without seeming to push the Palestinians, not the fact it was pushing?
Speaking of Obama, there were strong indications of a growing skepticism about his Mideast policies, but not a single question revealing his overall standing with Jewish voters. Yes, 51 percent disagree with his settlements tactics and 32 percent disapprove of his handling of the U.S.-Israel relationship, but those numbers don’t necessarily mean his overall support in the Jewish community is slipping, since in most presidential elections domestic factors outweigh Israel ones in Jewish presidential voting.
If Obama was running again tomorrow, would he get the 78 percent he won last November? 70 percent? Or 51 percent? The AJC poll offers no clues, although I’m sure that won’t stop the Republicans from spinning a story of impending disaster for the Democrats.
There are interesting contradictions in the data that deserve further study.
American Jews seem to be more dubious about Israeli-Palestinian negotiations; 23 percent say they are less optimistic about the chances for lasting peace than a year ago, while only 12 percent say they are more optimistic (1 percent say they are “not sure.” How can you be not sure on a question like this, when “no change” is also an option?).
But other questions reveal a steadily, if not dramatically, growing optimism that a permanent settlement can eventually be achieved, (question 10) and a decline in the percentage to believe the ultimate goal of the Palestinians is the destruction of Israel, not the return of territory (question 9).
The most fascinating number and the one most reporters glommed on to is in question 14: “Would you support or oppose the United States taking military action against Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons?”
I like the sparseness of the question; none of this “would you support military action against the radical leaders in Iran who have repeatedly threatened Israel with annihilation” stuff.
56 percent said they’d support a military strike, 36 said they wouldn’t, and the numbers were a complete reversal from 2007.
Why the huge change? Does it mean plummeting confidence in sanctions? Does it reflect the work Jewish leaders have been doing to alert the community to the dangers? Does it reflect broader public opinion in America? On that last point, the survey data is contradictory.
And as someone strongly interested in Jewish involvement in domestic matters, I was disappointed not to see questions about the current debate over health care. I don’t have a clue what the Jewish community is thinking on this one, just the hyperactive spin by advocates on both sides of the debate.
Oh yes, there was one question I didn’t get to in this week’s story: party affiliation.
No big shifts here but the continuation of a longstanding trend: the Republicans are making very small gains, the Democrats are experiencing somewhat greater losses – and the number identifying as “independents” seems to be on a sharp upward course.
That’s been going on for a while now – but it appears most of those new “independents” are mostly voting Democratic.
Los Angeles (JTA): The last five Jews held in an Iranian prison on charges of spying for Israel have been released on "vacation," although it remains uncertain whether they will be permanently freed.
The five were among 13 Jews arrested on spy charges in early 1999.
In a case that drew worldwide attention, they were tried in the southern city of Shiraz, and 10 received prison sentences. Five already have been released after serving some of their time. Israel denies the men were its spies.
What if some prominent individual or group started holding press conferences to declare that the Earth is flat, or that it is stationary while the sun revolves around it?
Would scientists rush to debunk this theory, publishing papers and holding conferences, or just shake their heads in disbelief and return to their work?
I'm not suggesting the odious, politically charged hate crime of denying the Holocaust is as benign as making spurious scientific claims. But I do think the response to it ought to be along the same lines as the scientists who shake their heads.
On Thursday Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Neytanyahu, came to the United Nations General Assembly bearing detailed plans of Auschwitz, and cited President Barack Obama's recent visit the Buchenwald. "Was President Obama paying tribute to a lie?" asked the prime minister. And, he added, are the thousands of Jews who still bear the tatoos of concentration camp numbers perpetrating a lie?
He asked these questions because on the previous day the thug who leads Iran offered up some of his usual tripe about the Holocaust being a hoax. The comments are worthy of condemnation, but the detailed response of Netanyahu and others come too close to creating a debate on the subject, something the small legion of crackpot deniers worldwide desperately wants.
Whether in academia, political discourse or popular culture, there is no serious discourse about whether the Nazi war against the Jews took place. The detailed accounts of eyewitnesses, photographic and scientific evidence and, most significant, the records of the Nazis themselves, who never sought to cover up their crimes are readily available to any inquiring minds.
While Ahmadinejad may have convinced himself there are some questions about about the scope and scale of the atrocities, it's hard to imagine even he seriously believes the Nazis did not perpetrate genocide 60 years ago. Rather, he knows it's a sure-fire way to push buttons in the West, and to expose pro-Jewish sentiment among western leaders that he can use to muster allies who hate America and Israel.
Engaging this blowhard in any kind of serious debate only plays right into his hands.
The summit in Annapolis is being seen by some observers as a success -- not just because it set the stage for a promised 13 months of serious Israeli-Palestinian peace talks but because of what some believe is a new Middle East dynamic on the horizon. Others, though, insist this is nothing more than a mirage.
“It’s not every day you see an Israeli prime minister speak and the Saudi foreign minister applaud,” said Asaf Shariv, Israel’s consul general in New York.
Jewish leaders have rejected the assertion of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami that he will not intervene in the case of 10 Iranian Jews convicted of spying for Israel.
“He has to use his influence to see that justice is done,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “We believe that he has to be involved when there is an injustice.”
As the Jewish community awaited a verdict as early as next week in the trial of 13 Iranian Jews charged with spying for Israel, a prominent rabbi charged that a massive prayer vigil he had planned in their behalf was “sabotaged” by a major Jewish group.