Commentary Magazine


Kristof Recycles Old and Discredited Nonsense About Israel and America

It can get repetitive to criticize every Nick Kristof column that dishonestly maligns Israel, but his column in today’s New York Times goes after American supporters of Israel–and falls flat.

It is based on J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami’s new book, and is a particularly illuminating example of the pretzel-like shape you’d have to twist yourself in to demonstrate some vague presence of support for the Kristof-Ben-Ami approach to Israel.

Kristof first chastises Congress for overwhelmingly passing resolutions in support of Israel’s right to defend herself, taking specific aim at Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s counteroffensive in the month just before Obama’s swearing-in. Despite Israel’s vast popularity among the people’s representatives, Kristof seeks to paint them as being out of step with American opinion:

American Jews have long trended liberal, and President Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008. Yet major Jewish organizations, like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, embrace hawkish positions.

That’s because those Jews who vote and donate based on Israel are disproportionately conservative (the same is true of Christians who are most passionate about Israel issues). Ben-Ami argues that “the loudest eight percent” have hijacked Jewish groups to press for policies that represent neither the Jewish mainstream nor the best interests of Israel.

Those two statistics Kristof throws at us are intended to show support for Israeli hawkishness is at most 22 percent, but probably much closer to Ben-Ami’s ridiculous 8 percent.

Since Kristof puts the fish in the barrel for us, we might as well do the rest, and point out that public opinion polls show Kristof, not the hawks, to be the outlier. One poll by Stan Greenberg during Cast Lead showed Americans blamed the Palestinians for the Gaza conflict by a margin of 56 percent to 18 percent. A Pew poll at the same time asked the same question and found that 41 percent blamed Hamas while only 12 percent blamed Israel. But here’s the kicker:

The Pew poll also found that Americans approve of Israel’s actions in Gaza by a 40-33 margin, but 50 percent of those surveyed said Israel had “responded about right” compared to 24 percent who felt the Jewish state had “gone too far.” And only 9 percent of those polled felt the United States should publicly criticize Israel, while 39 percent said the U.S. should give Israel public support and 38 percent felt it should “say or do nothing.”

Kristof is simply lying to his readers when he suggests policy is being driven by a few “loudmouths,” in Kristof’s words. Kristof and Ben-Ami remain in the vocal, but utterly discredited, minority.