Special Report: In Many Communities, Sense of Crisis Surrounds Connection to Israel

israel_flagA sense of crisis has emerged in many Jewish communities regarding their relationships with Israel, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to discuss Israel because of the bitter political disputes these discussions spark.”
Shmuel Rosner, one of the study’s authors

A special report of the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI), based on a comprehensive dialogue process with Jewish communities throughout the world, found that Diaspora Jews widely agree that Israel operates ethically in wartime, and is careful to uphold its values even in the most difficult battlefield circumstances. The report also notes that world Jewry, similar to Israeli Jewry, is overwhelmingly certain (over 90%) that Israel receives an exaggerated amount of unfair criticism from the international community. However, many Jews around the world are concerned by the way Israel acts “between wars.” These Jews have difficulty “with the policies leading to the use of force,” and many of them “have lost trust” that Israel makes a sincere effort “to bring about peace with its neighbors.”

This is the second year JPPI has conducted a broad Dialogue initiative with the Jewish Diaspora – from New York to Los Angeles, from Toronto through Cleveland to Dallas, from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Sydney, Australia, from Johannesburg, South Africa to London in the UK and Paris, France, among others.

This year, the dialogue was conducted under the broad umbrella of JPPI’s Pluralism and Democracy in the Jewish World project, supported by the William Davidson Foundation. Following Operation Protective Edge last summer, the Institute decided to focus on one of the more sensitive topics in Israel’s relationship with world Jewry: Jewish Values and the Use of Force in Israel’s Armed Conflicts. The project is headed by JPPI senior fellows Mr. Shmuel Rosner and Brig. Gen. (res.) Michael Herzog.

Some Key Findings from the Report:

  • Jews around the world expect Israel to uphold a high level of ethical conduct, especially in military activity; a level higher than expected of the rest of the world, including the West. This expectation is based on values-related considerations, and rests on “Jewish” principles – concepts such as being “a light unto the nations” and the need for “Tikkun Olam,” as well as practical considerations.
  • More than half of world Jewry (and almost 60% of younger Jews) is certain Israel “is not doing enough to reach a peace agreement.”
  • Many Jews around the world feel their lives are directly affected by Israeli security activities. Some feel their safety is compromised by Israel’s actions. Most are convinced that Israel’s actions influence them in many ways, whether in the internal relations of their Jewish communities, or in their interactions with the non-Jewish world.
  • Despite recognizing that Israeli security issues should be decided by Israel’s citizens, world Jewry expects to voice its opinion, and that Israel needs to take its positions into consideration, even with respect to sensitive issues. This expectation results from the perception that Israel’s security policies directly impact the lives of non-Israeli Jews.
  • Growing rates of intermarriage have necessitated that an increasing number of Diaspora Jews are in the position of explaining Israel’s actions to non-Jewish family members, and some are uncertain of the best way to do this.
  • In many Jewish communities, a sense of crisis surrounds the connection to Israel, and it is increasingly difficult to discuss Israel because of a growing intra-Jewish polarization.

According to Rosner, the report is based on the direct study of the views of different Jewish communities with a connection to Israel. This was accomplished by conducting more than 40 discussion seminars throughout the world, administering a survey questionnaire, and analyzing existing studies and research literature.