Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jewish philanthropy

What Alienation? Donations to Israel Rise

More proof, as if any was needed after Sol Stern’s merciless evaluation in April’s COMMENTARY, that the alleged crisis in American Zionism is a psychodrama playing out inside Peter Beinart’s head and few other places:

Donations by U.S. Jews to Israeli nonprofits have doubled during the past 12 years, according to a first-of-its-kind study conducted by professors at Brandeis University. The study, scheduled to be completed in late April, disproves the widely held view by many Israelis that philanthropic donations from the United States have dropped over time due to economic and political reasons… [it] suggests quite the opposite.

The numbers are overstated a little bit – Ben Smith quickly noticed that the “doubled” claim doesn’t account for inflation — but otherwise conclusive.

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More proof, as if any was needed after Sol Stern’s merciless evaluation in April’s COMMENTARY, that the alleged crisis in American Zionism is a psychodrama playing out inside Peter Beinart’s head and few other places:

Donations by U.S. Jews to Israeli nonprofits have doubled during the past 12 years, according to a first-of-its-kind study conducted by professors at Brandeis University. The study, scheduled to be completed in late April, disproves the widely held view by many Israelis that philanthropic donations from the United States have dropped over time due to economic and political reasons… [it] suggests quite the opposite.

The numbers are overstated a little bit – Ben Smith quickly noticed that the “doubled” claim doesn’t account for inflation — but otherwise conclusive.

They’re also in line with overwhelming polling demonstrating that American Jews are as sympathetic or more sympathetic to Israel than they’ve ever been. Their identification with the Jewish State has remained inside a ten-point range, roughly between the upper 60′s and upper 70′s, for more than 10 years. There hasn’t been much work done on why the number fluctuates inside that range, e.g. if the changes are random noise or if they track with military and diplomatic conflict or if they follow the rest of America in dropping when Israel offers dangerous concessions. But overall American Jewish support for Israel simply hasn’t changed very much.

These findings should put an end to the pretenses of the anti-Israel American Jewish left. If American Jews were increasingly alienated from Israel, then J Street and Beinart and similarly minded partisans would be justified in trying to provide them with a “route into the pro-Israel world.” If the premise is false, then those partisans are bombarding broadly pro-Israel Americans with anti-Israel propaganda, with the only risk being that they decrease rather than increase sympathy for the Jewish State.

It can’t be emphasized enough how this part of the debate is no longer theoretical. It’s not a matter of two sides having different assumptions, each of which is backed by plausible arguments. Empirical evidence converges on the conclusion that American Jewish support for Israel is stable. Eventually, pretending otherwise goes from being understandable denial – after all, left-wing American Jews have invested a lot in the Alienation Thesis, literally and metaphorically – and slips into being willful dishonesty. We’re fast approaching that point.

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