Israel's Settlement Policy Pushing Away Liberal U.S. Jews, Report Warns

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A pro-BDS student attending the first Open Hillel conference in Harvard, Oct., 2014. Illustrative.
A pro-BDS student attending the first Open Hillel conference in Harvard, Oct., 2014. Illustrative.Credit: Gili Getz

Continued settlement expansion is pushing growing numbers of non-Orthodox and progressive-minded American Jews away from Israel, a new report warns.

Presented on Sunday at the weekly cabinet meeting, the Jewish People Policy Institute Annual Assessment of the Situation and Dynamics of the Jewish People found that “younger and more progressive Jews, especially in the Democratic Party, are being influenced by what they define as objectionable Israeli policies.” 

With the Palestinian cause gaining more sympathy among this demographic and Israel, at the same time, showing little initiative in promoting a two-state solution, the report cautions that this trend “may continue to worsen.”

In its annual assessment, the Jerusalem-based think-tank notes that based on certain indicators, American-Jewish engagement with Israel would appear to be at an all-time high. Those indicators include the number of visitors to Israel, and in particular, the number of participants in the Taglit-Birthright program, which brings young adults on free, 10-day trips to the country. It also includes the expansion of pro-Israel advocacy activities around the country and higher levels of engagement in the Orthodox community. 

At the same, the reported points to another conflicting trend. “The more liberal, Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative and secular parts of the American Jewish community may become more distant as Israel demographically becomes more Orthodox and nationalistic,” it says.

Noting that “diplomatically, Israel is more isolated that at any time in recent memory,” the report criticizes leaders of the Jewish state for not initiating any steps on the ground to improve the lot of the Palestinians. 

Israel’s supporters abroad, the annual assessment notes, are facing growing challenges fighting the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement because of this state of affairs. “So long as Israel’s settlement activity does not appear consistent with a two-state outcome,” it warns, “Israel will find it difficult to blunt the de-legitimization movement – and this is a factor in the new geopolitical reality. It is also affecting at least part of the triangular relationship of Washington-Jerusalem-American Jewry.”