J Street to ADL: Let’s do a poll


J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami says he has a proposal for the Anti-Defamation League.

He wants to team up with the organization for a "serious poll" that explores American Jewish opinion on Israel and the Middle East, as opposed to the survey which the ADL released last week and which ADL national director Abraham Foxman said strongly contradicts "those who disagreed with Israel’s actions against Hamas and claimed there was a sharp division in the American Jewish community."

Ben-Ami believes Foxman was referring to his organization — neither Foxman nor the poll mentioned any specific group — but  said, "I don’t think the poll is at all relevant to what we were saying."

The poll asked whether American Jews favored Israel or Hamas in the conflict — with overwhelming numbers favoring Israel — and found that 79 percent of American Jews felt Israel’s response to Hamas rocket attacks was "appropriate," with just 17 judging them "excessive."

But Ben-Ami responded that it was no surprise that the vast majority of American Jews favored Israel over Hamas, and that while the latter finding was interesting, his organization didn’t take a position on that issue. Instead, J Street was questioning whether "these types of actions" in Gaza "make Israel more secure" in the long run and "enhance the prospect of achieving peace and security." And he said that ADL didn’t ask that question in its poll.

While J Street did say Israel’s actions in Gaza would "deepen the cycle of violence in the region," it didn’t call the actions "excessive" or say that Hamas rocket attacks "were not a serious threat to Israel’s existence," as the ADL poll question says. In Ben-Ami’s initial statement in late December, he said the Gaza airstrikes could be "understood and even justified," while also calling them "counterproductive" and damaging to "long-term prospects for peace and stability."

A petition J Street e-mailed to supporters did say that "while there is nothing ‘right’ in raining rockets on Israeli families or dispatching suicide bombers, there is nothing ‘right’ in punishing a million and a half already-suffering Gazans for the actions of the extremists among them." It added that "there is nothing to be gained from debating which injustice is greater or came first."

Ben-Ami said he’d be willing to split the cost with the ADL and work on the questions together for a poll that would "really explore what it would take to solve the conflict." And he claims that such a poll would show that the J Street worldview is "more in line" with the Jewish community than some believe.

Recommended from JTA