British Jews Are Not Drifting Away from Israel

Nov. 20 2018

Last summer, a group of British Jews affiliated with left-wing Zionist youth groups wrote an open letter to the Jewish Chronicle—the UK’s most prominent Jewish publication—proclaiming their support for “ending the occupation.” In its editorial response, the Chronicle took the letter as a sign of a general leftward shift among British Jewry on questions relating to the Jewish state. Simon Gordon is not convinced:

The available data does not indicate a leftward shift. [The left-wing British Zionist organization] Yachad’s own survey of the attitudes of British Jews toward Israel . . . found that 60 percent agreed that there is no Palestinian partner for peace, 70 percent said Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state if they want peace, and 93 percent thought Israel was entitled to take military action to combat Hamas rockets and tunnels. Such views are hardly out of step with those of the Israeli government. This may explain why the Jewish Chronicle’s poll of British Jews prior to the 2015 Israeli elections . . . found that 67 percent would vote Likud, with just 22 percent backing the Zionist Union. . . .

If communal leaders are out of step with the Jewish community on Israel, the misalignment is not the one suggested in the open letter. Far from marginalizing the New Israel Fund, [a group dedicated to making Israel reflect “progressive values”], and progressive youth groups, as the open letter alleges, the institutions of Anglo-Jewry have been all too receptive. The limp defense of Israel by the Board of Deputies [the most important lay representative of organized British Jewry] during the 2014 Gaza War prompted a furious backlash from Jews at a townhall event, who felt [the Board] should have adopted a much more muscular stance. . . .

Misalignment between Jewish institutions and the Jewish community occurs when the leadership mistakes the views of a vocal minority for those of the silent majority. The available evidence suggests that mainstream Anglo-Jewry supports Israel, its government, and the actions of its military, much as it has done for decades.

Read more at Fathom

More about: British Jewry, Israel & Zionism, Israel and the Diaspora, New Israel Fund


Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy