Israel Increasingly 'Divisive' Among American Jews, Study Shows

Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and its dismissive attitude toward non-Orthodox Jews are key factors in the growing rift.


As American Jews become more engaged with Israel, they also become increasingly divided in their attitudes toward the country, a research study published on Thursday by a former Israeli diplomat claims.

"Herein lies a paradox: The more that American Jews visit Israel, read about Israel, develop and understanding of the complexities and nuances of Israeli politics, policies, and society, the more engaged they are," writes Alon Pinkas, former consul-general in New York and adviser to three foreign ministers. 

"But the more engaged they are the less content and willing to tag party lines they become," Pinkas writes. "So the engagement breeds division, with the conspicuous exception of Modern Orthodox American Jews who grow increasingly attached to Israel."

The paper, which examines changing attitudes toward Israel among American Jews since the establishment of the state in 1948, was published through a grant from the Ruderman Program for American Jewish Studies at the University of Haifa. 

Pinkas notes that while Israel has always been both a unifying and divisive force among American Jews, the balance has shifted in recent years. "The equilibrium between the ‘unifying’ and the ‘divisive,’" he writes, "is showing signs of trending toward a more divisive role for Israel."

Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and its dismissive attitude toward non-Orthodox Jews have been key factors in the growing rift, but according to Pinkas, "the divisiveness is just as much about American Jews, their development, identity and place in American society as it is about their changing and sobering attitudes regarding Israel."

This divisiveness, Pinkas writes, is most pronounced in American Jews born after the 1967 Six Day War, when Israel became an occupying force. "Israel is increasingly losing its centrality in the minds of American Jews under the age of fifty," he argues.