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August 17, 2015

Supporters Flog Dated Poll as Proof of American Jewish Support for Iran Deal

Commentary presented as fact in The Washington Post by Professors Todd Gitlin and Steven M. Cohen misleads readers through omissions, distortions, and a lack of context (“The Jewish leaders who don’t speak for American Jews,” Aug. 16, 2015). The authors use a dated poll from The Los Angeles Jewish Journal to claim that a majority of American Jews support the Iran nuclear deal reached July 14 between the United States, Russia, France, China, United Kingdom, Germany and the Islamic Republic over the latter’s purported nuclear program.

A closer examination reveals significant problems with their presentation.

Gitlin and Cohen assert that a majority of American Jews support the Iran nuclear deal in its current form. They make this assertion based on a July 16-20 Jewish Journal survey, conducted mere days after the agreement was reached, purporting to show 63 percent of American Jews favoring the deal. However, other more recent polls indicate that as the particulars of the agreement have become more well-known, American Jews increasingly oppose it. This is similar to the rest of the American public.

A week after The Jewish Journal poll, The Israel Project—referred to only briefly by the professors—conducted a poll showing 51 percent of respondents opposed the deal. Further indication of this trend can be seen in a July 30-August 4 Quinnipiac University opinion survey showing 53 percent of New York Jewish voters opposed the deal.

Dismissing or ignoring more recent polls while citing as proof of Jewish majority support a poll conducted in the first week after the deal was announced—before controversial details were more widely reported—is misleading at best and disingenuous at worst.

The authors correctly noted that most major Jewish organizations oppose the deal. They explain away this contradiction to their claim of majority backing within the Jewish community by making the unsubstantiated claim that these organizations are not truly representative of American Jews. They point to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations denial of membership to J Street. But J Street seems to be the sole Jewish organization, self-described as pro-Israel but whose lobbying has been mostly pro-Palestinian, supporting the deal in its current form.

Yet, Gitlin and Cohen fail to mention that the reason for J Street’s exclusion may be the not-so thinly veiled anti-Israel character of some of the group’s alliances and backers. The latter includes a member of J Street’s board who has argued that Israel should not exist, the former partnership with the National Iranian American Council, an anti-Iran sanctions outfit whose researcher, Beheshteh Farsheshani, has falsely asserted “Israel spends our money on terrorism, war, fear, racism.”

The professors also omit that affiliated members of Jewish organizations—akin to “likely voter” categories in other politically oriented polls versus the general public—tend to be more involved and better informed regarding subjects of concern to the organized Jewish community, such as the Iran nuclear deal, than those with no affiliation or, in the specific case of the Jewish Journal poll, do not identify as religiously Jewish. Instead, they assert that differences in support can be explained by affluence of those affluent contributors polled. This overlooks that pro-deal organizations like J Street have received much of their funding from affluent contributors. Billionaire anti-Israel investor George Soros was a primary source of funding for J Street, a fact founder Jeremy Ben Ami initially denied.

By flogging a poll already overtaken by events—and explaining away its inconsistencies through omissions and canards, Gitlin and Cohen mislead Post readers both on the opinions of American Jews more likely to be informed and active on the Iran nuclear deal and on the representative nature of major Jewish organizations.

Are most black Americans members of the NAACP or the Urban League? No. Does The Post consider those organizations representative of African-Americans? Yes. Please drop the double standard when it comes to American Jews.—Sean Durns

Posted by ER at August 17, 2015 04:28 PM


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