Life on J Street

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J Street, the new dovish Israel lobby, has a big new survey of Jewish voters. That’s the good news. The bad news is that, typical of surveys by ideologically driven organizations, far too many of the questions are posed in so ideologically skewed a way as to render many of the results if not worthless than highly problematic.
On the non-worthless side, the survey shows support for Barack Obama over John McCain at 62 percent to 32 percent, which is consistent with other findings. It asks for favorability ratings on a range of figures and organizations, and finds that, for example, that Obama (57.8 percent) rates higher than Joe Lieberman (41.7). Indeed, Obama rates higher than any other item on the list (including AIPAC) except for the respondent’s local Jewish federation–but it can be no accident that Hillary Clinton’s name is left off. So there can be no stories about Jews (still) preferring Clinton to Obama.
On the problematic side, many of the questions on peace are worded in such a way as to maximize the J Street agenda. For example, by nearly two to one, respondents agreed with the following statement:

Israel’s recent cease fire with Hamas has resulted in Hamas ending its rocket attacks from Gaza into southern Israel. This agreement between Israel and Hamas demonstrates that the best path for Israel requires non-military solutions and negotiations to resolve the disputes with the Palestinians.


A series of questions on Rev. Hagee begins on an even-handed note:

Now, we are going to look at something different. As you may know, there is an organization called Christians United for Israel that is led by Reverend John Hagee and works to build support for Israel among evangelical Christians. Do you have a positive or negative impression of Christians United for Israel?

It is telling that by 51 percent to 19 percent, respondents had a negative impression. But the Hagee negatives go much higher after questions like the following:

Below are two statements about Christians United for Israel and its leader Reverend John Hagee. One statement comes from supporters of the organization and the other statement comes from opponents of the organization. Both statements are factually accurate. After reading each statement, please mark whether you think Jewish leaders and institutions should form alliances and partnerships with Christians United for Israel and Reverend John Hagee.
Supporters of Christians United for Israel say Christians have a Biblical obligation to defend Israel and the Jewish people’s right to all of Biblical Israel. With Iran’s President serving as a new Hitler who has threatened to wipe out Israel and America, Christians must do whatever they can to protect Israel’s six million Jews from the second Holocaust. This means mobilizing millions of Christians to call on the U.S. government not to pressure Israel to make territorial concessions and making sure initiatives like the recent Annapolis Peace Summit do not lead to American coercion of Israel in future negotiations. As the Bible says, for Zion’s sake, we will not hold our peace and for Jerusalem’s sake, we will not rest.
Opponents of Christians United for Israel say the organization is a far right wing group led by Reverend John Hagee whose work and close ties with extremists is bad for Israel. Hagee worked to undermine Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and he expressed support for the man who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin because the assassin was motivated by a Biblical imperative to redeem the Land of Israel. Hagee opposes a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians or any territorial compromise, he uses his influence with conservative Republicans to undermine any efforts by the U.S. to advance peace, and his organization provides funding to illegal Israeli settlements throughout the West Bank.
After reading these statements, do you think Jewish leaders and institutions should form alliances and partnerships with Christians United for Israel and Reverend John Hagee?

Hagee’s position on a two-state solution is more complicated than the opponents’ position suggests; and he has publicly declared his support for the Israeli government’s peace efforts.
Not to drag this out too far, but before taking J Street’s claims at face value, read the survey yourself.