For AIPAC, whose stated mission is to improve relations between the U.S. and Israel, it is crucial to appeal across the political spectrum. In recent years, though, Israel has become an increasingly divisive issue among the American public. Support for Israel among Republicans is at seventy-three per cent, and at forty-four per cent among Democrats, according to a poll conducted in July by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press; the divide is even greater between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans.
This difference represents a schism among American Jews—AIPAC’s vital core. For decades, the Jewish community was generally united in its support for Israel. Today, a growing number of American Jews, though still devoted to Israel, struggle with the lack of progress toward peace with the Palestinians. Many feel that AIPAC does not speak for them. The Pew Center’s survey found that only thirty-eight per cent of American Jews believe that the Israeli government is sincerely pursuing peace; forty-four per cent believe that the construction of new settlements damages Israel’s national security. In a Gallup poll in late July, only a quarter of Americans under the age of thirty thought that Israel’s actions in Gaza were justified. As Rabbi Jill Jacobs, the executive director of the left-leaning T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, told me, “Many people I know in their twenties and thirties say, I have a perfectly good Jewish life here—why do I need to worry about this country in the Middle East where they’re not representing who I am as a Jew? I’m not proud of what’s happening there. I’m certainly not going to send money. ”It reminds me of those German Jews who back in the day reviled the "Ostjuden," overtly Jew-y Jews from places like Russia and Poland who embarrassed--and did not "represent"--the secure, secular, assimilated German Jews.
That certainly worked out well for all concerned, didn't it?
I say we don't count on American Jews for anything because they simply don't get it. (In the words of one of my American Jewish relatives: "I'd vote for the Democrats even if Adolf Hitler was the Democratic candidate for president.") The American people, on the other hand, mostly do get Israel, and thank God for that.