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Rosner to the rescue: J Street full of surprises after all

by Brad A. Greenberg

July 18, 2008 | 1:26 pm

I hate being wrong, which is why I started to worry this morning after seeing the reaction on liberal Jewish blogs to the J Street survey of American Jewish sentiments. I had panned the results as being chock full unsurprising schlock that, quite conveniently, bowed to J Street’s political interests. Had I missed something so obvious to everyone else?

Probably. But that’s not the point, because it turns out I was not only onto something but was in very good company. Jewlicious just informed me that The Shmuel Rosner found the survey filled with flawed and oversights, making its results “laughable.”

First thing Rosner did was point out that J Street’s press release, which is all I read, carried “no such suprises.”

Case closed: American Jews support the J Street agenda. Or do they?

Let’s take a look at a couple of interesting numbers from this poll:

1. J Street’s press release reads the following: “Instead of holding the hawkish, hard-line positions often expressed by many established Jewish organizations and leaders, American Jews actually overwhelmingly support assertive peace efforts and an active U.S. role in helping Israelis and Arabs to resolve their conflict? American elected officials and politicians have for years fundamentally misread the American Jewish community,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street?s executive director in the press release.

But here’s what the poll says: More people agree that “established” and “traditional” Jewish organizations represent their views than the number of people who say such organizations do not represent them. Even when AIPAC - supposedly the great Satan - is mentioned by name, more people (34 percent) believe it accurately represents their views than those (23 percent) who don’t. The 40 percent who do not have an opinion also represent a group that can hardly be considered “fundamentally misread.”

2. J Street opposes military action against Iran, “a terrible option for the U.S., regional stability, and for Israel.” But American Jews will be more likely than not to vote for a Congressional candidate who believes that “America must do everything it can to protect Israel’s security. This means militarily attacking Iran if they pursue a nuclear weapons program, supporting an Israeli pre-emptive strike against Iran, cutting off aid to the Palestinians if their schools allow textbooks that don’t recognize Israel, and letting the Palestinians know where we stand on Jerusalem by moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

Indeed, there’s still a significant minority (41 percent) of people less likely to vote for such a candidate. Even more people will support someone encouraging talks with Iran. But here comes the funny part: the way this poll was devised - presumably with great care - it’s impossible to know whether the “less likely” lot who opposes such a statement do so because they oppose attacking Iran, or because they object to a more firm stance vis-à-vis the Palestinians. By the way, a reliable answer to such question can be found here. It is quite clear: do not attack. But we don’t need J Street to tell us that.

Rosner goes on here, taking issues with three other major discrepancies or flaws, including the odd way in which the survey was conducted.

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