Monday, January 16, 2012

Jewish Students: Anti-Semitism a Challenge, Not Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions against Israel

Jewish Students: Anti-Semitism a Challenge, Not Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions against Israel

January 16, 2012
Contact: Zachary Scheinerman
Tel: 301-565-3918

Washington, Jan. 16 - Nearly eight-in-ten (78 percent) Jewish undergraduate students report either witnessing (66 percent) or being subject to (46 percent) anti-Semitism in their lifetime. This alarmingly high number belies the idea that anti-Semitism is no longer a challenge for the younger generation.

And, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Jewish undergraduates characterize the criticism that they hear regarding Israel to be unfair. When hearing criticism of Israel, only 14 percent of respondents characterize it as legitimate, compare to 27 percent who deem it anti-Israel, and 44 percent anti-Semitic.

Although the exact definition of "anti-Semitism" in this context is not explored, the survey begins to examine the line between legitimate criticisms of Israel compared to anti-Israel/anti-Semitic rhetoric. These students reject the idea that criticism related to Israel's security or settlements cross the line. But, they believe that questioning Israel's right to exist, demonizing Israel using offensive caricatures, attacking an individual rather than a policy, or imposing a double standard DO cross the line defining legitimate political debate.

This sophisticated differentiation in types of debate shows that these students are not merely 'crying wolf,' but rather have concerns about rhetoric aimed at Israel that is over the line.

Mitchell Bard, Executive Director of the nonprofit American Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) and co-funder of the research, notes, "Administrators at universities claim that anti-Semitism is not a problem on their campuses, and frequently do little or nothing in response to student complaints. The shocking results in our survey show that students across the country are experiencing and witnessing acts of anti-Semitism. It is time that college officials took action to put a stop to the discrimination against Jewish students and adopted a no-tolerance policy toward anti-Semitism on their campuses, including thinly veiled attacks on Jews by students and faculty delegitimizing Israel."

While anti-Semitism and anti-Israel rhetoric are clear challenges for these students, support for boycott, divestment, and sanction (BDS) efforts against Israel are not. Many would seek to imply that young Jews are turning against Israel based on current policies from which they disassociate. As we have seen in previous analysis, among Jewish students, 66 percent say they feel close to Israel, compared to 68 percent of national Jews. The data also clearly shows that there is little support for BDS to place any type of pressure on Israel.

While only 1 percent of Jewish students strongly support the BDS movement, 59 percent strongly oppose the effort. And, after hearing this description of BDS support does not increase at all, while opposition rises to 81 percent (71 percent strongly oppose):

"The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign seeks to force Israel to make political concessions to the Palestinians by ostracizing Israel through a series of measures including labeling it an "apartheid" state, calling on universities to divest from companies that do business in Israel, boycotting the sale of goods produced in West Bank settlements, and boycotting Israeli universities and professors."

Only 4 percent of respondents indicate that they believe these efforts would make peace more likely, and only 5 percent think either American universities or their specific university should support boycott efforts.

Respondents highlight the most convincing reasons to oppose the boycotts as having better ways to express concern (74 percent), and noting that it is a propaganda tool rather than helping to bring real peace (73 percent).

The survey (click here for data) was conducted online by Public Opinion Strategies from October 28-November 20, 2011. Interviews of 400 self-identified Jewish were collected. The margin of error is +4.9 percent.
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