Major survey on British Jews shows ‘despair’ at Israeli policies

Jewish News, 12/11/15

A major survey on British Jews’ feelings about Israel has shown “feelings of despair” are widespread and that most are torn between loyalty to the country and repulsion at some of its policies.

Releasing the findings of its poll, commissioning group Yachad said the research showed that 68 percent felt “a sense of despair” every time Israel expanded settlements, while three quarters felt settlements were a “major obstacle to peace”.

Almost two in three respondents said British Jews had the right to judge Israel despite not living there – a significant increase. Among British Jews under the age of 30, this was particularly pronounced, as less than one in five felt they ought not to cast judgement.

Elsewhere, over half the respondents felt torn between “my loyalty to Israel and my concern over its conduct or policies”

The research, conducted by Ipsos Mori and based on more than 1,130 responses, also showed that almost half favoured negotiating with Hamas, and that a similar number felt a settlement-freeze should be a top priority.

Yachad said it also showed that younger Jews “would support tougher action against Israel if they felt it would help the stalled peace process”. The generation gap was demonstrated on the labelling of settlement products, it said, with less than four in ten people under the age of 30 agreeing that there was “no justification” for doing so.

“The community is shifting,” said Yachad director Hannah Weisfeld. “Feelings of despair, conflict between loyalty to Israel and concern over policies of the government are mainstream, not marginal positions.”

She added: “The research shows we are more willing to speak out on these issues than ever before. Members of Anglo-Jewry who have previously been afraid to give voice to their concerns over Israeli government policy, should realise that they are in fact part of the majority.”

Yachad, which promotes a two-state solution and criticises Israeli settlement-building beyond the Green Line, argued that the findings “support the notion that the majority of Jews in the UK support [our] approach”.

The survey showed more than 70 percent of British Jews believed that a two-state solution was “the only way Israel will achieve peace with its neighbours” and that Palestinians have a “legitimate claim to a state of their own”.

However the study’s methodology was criticised in March after it emerged that forms were sent only to people with the 40 most “distinctive Jewish names” for cost reasons. Sociologists specialising in the British Jewish community.

A spokeswoman for Ipsos MORI said: “Using distinctive Jewish names is simply a way of identifying people who are probably Jewish… We do not see this as stereotyping.”

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