British Jews show 'deep levels of attachment to Israel' but are not uncritical

July 16, 2010

jpr“JPR’s new report on the attitudes of Jews in Britain towards Israel reveals deep levels of attachment to the country”
Institute of Jewish Policy press release 15 July 2010

See also: Tony Lerman Survey reveals British Jews can be a critical friend to Israel, 16 July 2010

The press release states:

Jews in Britain strongly identify with and support Israel.  They are ready to see Israel swap territory for peace and to talk with Hamas if it will advance the cause of peace. At the same time, they are concerned about Israel’s security, support the separation barrier/security fence and viewed the 2008/09 operation in Gaza as “a legitimate act of self-defence.”

These are the central findings of the most definitive study ever conducted of the attitudes of Jews in Britain towards Israel.  The study, entitled Committed, concerned and conciliatory: The attitudes of Jews in Britain towards Israel, is published today by the community’s leading research institute, the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR).

Based on over 4,000 individual responses, with fieldwork conducted by Ipsos MORI and with the support of several leading experts in Jewish demography and sociology, the findings show that:

·          More than nine out of ten Jews have visited Israel, and a similar number consider it their ‘ancestral homeland’.

·          Four-fifths of respondents say Israel plays a central or important role in their Jewish identities, and one in five says they are very or fairly likely to live there in the future.

Respondents are clearly sympathetic to Israel’s need to defend itself. Nearly three-quarters agree that “The security fence is vital for Israel’s security” and a similar number agree that Operation Cast Lead (the Israeli military action in Gaza in winter 2008/09) was “a legitimate act of self-defence.”  Nearly nine out of ten respondents believe that Iran represents a threat to Israel’s very existence.

Significantly, Jews in Britain clearly desire peace, and are eager to see the Israeli government take steps to achieve it:

·          Over three-quarters favour a “two state solution” as the “only way Israel will achieve peace with its neighbours in the Middle East”, and two-thirds favour trading land for peace.  Furthermore, three-quarters oppose the expansion of settlements in the West Bank.

·          Some go further still – just over half (52% as against 39%) would support Israeli government negotiations with Hamas.

Perhaps most significantly for a community that has long debated the acceptability of Jewish criticism of Israel in public, a slight majority (53% to 45%) believes that Jews living in Britain have the right to judge Israel, and nearly three-quarters believe that Jews should be free to speak their mind about Israel in the British media in at least some, if not all circumstances.

Commenting on the findings, JPR Executive Director, Jonathan Boyd, says:

“Fundamentally, we found that most Jews feel a strong sense of connection to Israel, and for many it forms an important, and even central, part of their Jewish identity.”

“Jews in Britain are pro-Israel and pro-peace.  Their hawkishness on some issues is typically motivated by a clear concern for Israel’s security, while their dovishness on others reflects a deep-set desire to see the country at peace, both with itself and with its neighbours.”

Trevor Pears, Executive Chair of the Pears Foundation, which supported the research, adds:

“This research contributes to a more informed understanding of the attitudes of British Jews towards Israel.  The research provides evidence that British Jews can hold critical opinions of some of Israel’s policies, whilst still retaining a strong positive attachment to the country as a whole.”

JPR Chairman, Harold Paisner, comments:

“I welcome the Israel Survey as crucial and highly relevant and hope it will inform the debate about the very special place Israel holds in the hearts and minds of Jews in Britain.”

To read the report in full click here

To read/hear the media coverage of the report so far, click here

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