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Israel and the Youngs

New report rebuts claims of generational seachange

Marc Tracy
August 26, 2010
Young Jewish Americans in Israel on a Birthright-Taglit tour.(Birthright Israel)
Young Jewish Americans in Israel on a Birthright-Taglit tour.(Birthright Israel)

Theodore Sasson and Leonard Saxe, who wrote about American Jewish attitudes toward Israel for Tablet Magazine, published an updated study that finds much the same thing at their previous ones: That where younger American Jews are found to feel less of an affinity for Israel, it is—contra Peter Beinart’s big essay—not because they are a new generation with new attitudes, but because they are, simply, younger: “Stages of the lifecycle rather than generational turnover” are to blame.

Other key findings:

• 52 percent believe U.S. support for Israel is “about right”; 39 percent believe it is too weak; nine percent believe it is too strong. I’m surprised that final number isn’t higher, especially since …

• President Obama’s approval/disapproval rating concerning his handling of the special relationship is 25-37; Prime Minister Netanyahu’s is 25-31.

• Younger American Jews still consider Israel important to their identities, they just feel less connected to the Jewish state than older Jews (which, again, is attributable to their being young rather than to their specific generation).

• “Political differences on the liberal-to-conservative continuum were unrelated to measures of attachment to Israel.” (Interesting!)

• The under-30 set are more likely to actually have been to Israel (thanks, Birthright!), which is an important positive correlative with attachment to Israel.

• 61 percent of American Jews blamed “pro-Palestinian activists” for the flotilla tragedy, while 10 percent blamed Israel; 72 percent agreed with the Israeli narrative, while nine percent agreed with the Turkish one. Conservatives and older Jews were more likely to believe the Israeli narrative.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.