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Israel is an 'apartheid state', 25 percent of US Jewish voters say in new poll

Survey shows variety of opinions among Jewish voters, with 22 percent of respondents agreeing that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians
Palestinian women wait at the Israeli Qalandia checkpoint to enter Jerusalem to attend Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, 16 April 2021 (AFP/File photo)
By MEE staff in Washington

A survey of US Jewish voters taken after Israel's latest offensive on Gaza has found that a quarter of respondents agree that "Israel is an apartheid state", and a plurality of voters - 28 percent - do not find the statement to be antisemitic.

Thirty-eight percent of respondents said "Israel's treatment of Palestinians is similar to racism in the US", challenging the narrative that denouncing Israel is a manifestation of bigotry against Jews.

The study, based on interviews with 800 Jewish voters, was commissioned by the Jewish Electorate Institute, which tracks the views of Jewish voters. It was released on Tuesday.

The survey showed that the opinions of US Jewish voters are split on contentious issues around Israel, and what is considered antisemitic when it comes to criticism of Israeli policies.

According to the survey, 22 percent agreed that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians. And respondents were evenly split at 31 percent on the question of whether accusing Israel of genocide is antisemitic. 

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However, a strong majority of 67 percent said denying Israel's "right to exist" is antisemitic. 


The survey comes amid a growing debate about the limits of acceptable speech when it comes to Israel. 

Human Rights Watch and B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, have accused Israel of practising apartheid against Palestinians - a governing system that ensures the domination by one racial group over another through systemic oppression.

Former United Nations' chief Ban Ki-moon also suggested late last month that Israel is imposing apartheid on Palestinians.

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Ban said in a Financial Times column that Israel is seeking to make its "structural domination" of the Palestinian people permanent.

"This gives the dual legal regimes imposed in Palestinian territories by Israel - together with the inhumane and abusive acts that are carried out against Palestinians - new significance, resulting in a situation that arguably constitutes apartheid," he wrote. 

But Israel's defenders fiercely reject the label. Last month, four Jewish Democratic members of Congress accused their colleagues who describe Israel as an apartheid state of antisemitism.

"These statements are antisemitic at their core and contribute to a climate that is hostile to many Jews," the lawmakers wrote in a letter.

Some Democratic US lawmakers, including Cori Bush, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, have accused Israel of apartheid, citing the findings of human rights groups.

Still, the administration of US President Joe Biden remains unquestioning in its backing of Israel.

Support for two states

Tuesday's survey highlighted that Biden enjoys strong support amongst Jewish voters, with 80 percent approving of his handling of the job in the White House.

A majority of respondents, 62 percent, said they were emotionally attached to Israel; 38 percent said they were not. Only four percent said Israel should be a pressing matter for the US government to focus on. 

Global warming and voting rights should be the top issues, a plurality of the respondents said.

While 72 percent of survey-takers said US aid to Israel is important to them, 58 percent said they support restricting American assistance to prohibit it from being spent on expanding settlements in the West Bank.

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Jewish voters also back restoring US aid for Palestinians, the survey showed, with 62 percent saying that they support resuming the assistance.

Former President Donald Trump had suspended virtually all American financial support for Palestinians. Biden partly restored it earlier this year. The current US administration also says it wants to facilitate relief efforts for Gaza after the recent conflict.

During the war in May, Israeli bombardment of Gaza killed 256 Palestinians, including dozens of children. Rockets by Hamas and other Palestinian groups killed 12 Israelis.

Biden had voiced unconditional backing for Israel throughout the conflict, failing to denounce Israeli actions, including efforts to forcibly remove Palestinian families from East Jerusalem.

Seventy-four percent of respondents to the Jewish Electorate Institute's survey said they approve of Biden's handling of US ties with Israel.

Despite fading prospects for the two-state solution, with continuous Israeli settlement expansion in the Palestinian territories, 61 percent of respondents said establishing two separate states - one for Israelis and one for Palestinians - is the best resolution to the conflict.

Twenty percent said they favour a single binational state with equal rights, and 19 percent voiced backing for annexing the Palestinian territories without giving Palestinians the right to vote in national elections.

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