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Australian Jews support Israel, but what that means varies

Deborah Stone
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Australian Jews support Israel, but what that means varies

New analysis from Crossroads23 shows politically progressive Jews are less concerned about security and more worried about anti-democratic trends in Israel.

New analysis  from Crossroads23: Surveying Australian Jews on Israel shows the divisions between Australian Jews on the challenges facing the Jewish people and on Australian Jews’ responsibilities to Israel.

The survey of 1200 Australian Jews was conducted by The Jewish Independent with the support of the Zionist Federation, ensuring a wide variety of respondents. Results were analysed by Emeritus Professor Andrew Markus of Monash University.

Initial analysis, published in June and based on closed questions, found Australian Jews overwhelmingly care about and identify with Israel but few agree with the country’s current trajectory, expressing strong concern over judicial reform, the influence of Orthodoxy and corruption.

The first analysis of open-ended questions in the survey is now available. This analysis divides responses based on self-described general political alignment and compares three groups: conservative, moderate and progressive on two questions and produced word maps demonstrating the most commonly used terms.

The analysis found conservative and moderate Australians were more concerned about security and more likely to think of Israel as a matter for Israelis while progressives were more concerned about democracy and more interventionist.

What do you think are the critical challenges facing the Jewish people over the next three years?

The most frequent response was antisemitism, indicated by 33% of those who identified as conservative, 38% moderate, and 21% progressive.

But the next most critical challenge varied more according to political alignment. Conservatives focused on threats from outside Israel. Moderates also cited security but were equally concerned about democracy in Israel and the disunity of the Jewish people. Progressives were most concerned about internal stability in Israel referring to democracy, politics, government, and the judiciary.

Both groups referred to Palestinians, but conservatives talked in terms of conflict management, whereas progressives focused on conflict resolution with phrases such as “solving the Palestinian situation”, “accommodating Palestinian aspirations whilst maintaining a safe and secure Israel”, “re-establishing meaningful dialogue” or “having the courage to create peace with Palestine”.

There was only one reference to BDS, five to the United Nations, five to climate change.

The critical challenges facing the Jewish people, by segment

The critical challenges identified by conservatives, size indicating frequency of mention
The critical challenges identified by conservatives, size indicating frequency of mention
The critical challenges identified by moderates
The critical challenges identified by moderates
The critical challenges identified by progressives
The critical challenges identified by progressives

What do you think are the Australian Jewish community’s responsibilities to Israel, if any?

Support was the most common response, a word used by 72% conservative, 59% moderate, and 48% progressive respondents. But support means different things to do different people. Conservatives used phrases such as:

  • Support in every way, no public criticism  
  • Support no matter what
  • Support without criticism
  • Stay out of Israel politics and be VERY supportive Zionist.
  • Come together and speak in one voice (opinions aside) to support Eretz Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state
  • We Jews are one family so we should support our family anywhere

Among progressives, support was expressed in the context of maintaining democracy and advocating for a change in policy towards the Palestinians. Only 25% indicated unqualified support while 55% specified support in critical terms; remaining responses were ambiguous. The prevailing tenor of comments was:

  • Demand the best from Israel
  • Hold it accountable
  • Continue to argue for and support progressive democracy
  • Help Israeli people save their country, support democracy and pluralism
  • Defend Israel not merely from external threats but from internal ones as well
  • Speak out about human rights violations
  • Honest criticism; not letting extremes take control to the detriment of the general population
  • Advocate for a democratic and humane Israel and advocate for the immediate withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian Territories

Responses by those who identified as moderate were in terms closer to the views of conservatives. Only a minority, close to one-in-five, couched their support in critical terms.  The majority perspective was indicated by comments such as:

  • Support the government of the day vociferously
  • Speak out to defend Israel. Make sure we have a voice to counter the imbalance of reporting/ current affairs shows – the ABC is infamous now
  • Support and stand by the government of Israel – do not criticize outside our community.
  • Support Israel’s existence by publicizing the positive, refuting the lies spread by media and universities - AND LEAVE ISRAEL'S INTERNAL POLITICS TO ISRAELIS
  • We must never speak against Israel, its people and policies in the wider society
  • We are responsible to the Jewish people in Israel, our friends and family and their well- being. Ensure they get the international support they need
  • Raise funds especially for social action such as orphanages; elderly; disabled. Australian Jewry cannot dictate to Israel

Financial support was indicated by 26% conservative respondents, 20% moderate, and a much lower 6% progressive. Almost no one considered support in terms of aliyah or visits to Israeli.

There was little optimism among survey respondents, as indicated by the few (one-in-twenty) references to “peace”.

Top image: Word maps of political conservative (top) and politically progressive responses to the question “What do you think are the critical challenges facing the Jewish people over the next three years?”

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