Brandeis University study shows American Jewish young adults overwhelmingly support Israel in war with Hamas

by | Sep 5, 2014 | Other News

79% of respondents say Israel’s response is “justified”

NEW YORK—Researchers from Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies (CMJS) released a study that finds that while American young adults may hold Israel responsible for the recent conflict in Gaza, American Jewish young adults do not, and in fact, overwhelmingly support Israel’s military response.

Between August 6–11, 2014, nearly 2,000 Taglit-Birthright Israel applicants were surveyed, including young adults who participated in Taglit-Birthright Israel’s 10-day educational program and others who did not. The survey drew questions from recent surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center and Gallup, and new queries developed by CMJS.

The widely discussed Pew Research Center poll conducted at the end of July 2014 found that more American young adults (ages 18–29) blamed Israel for the summer’s conflict in Gaza than blamed Hamas (29% vs. 21%). CMJS posed the same question to Taglit-Birthright Israel applicants and found that both participants and nonparticipants were overwhelmingly less likely to hold Israel primarily responsible for the violence. Only 6% of participants and 11% of nonparticipants believed Israel was primarily responsible for the conflict. By contrast, 60% of participants and 50% of nonparticipants believed Hamas was primarily to blame. The CMJS study found that young Jewish Americans were more likely to assign blame to both groups (27% of participants and 32% of nonparticipants) than was the broader young American sample in the Pew Center poll (15%).

Taglit-Birthright Israel applicants were also more likely than U.S. young adults, in general, to believe that Israel’s actions in the conflict were justified. A recent Gallup poll (conducted July 22–23, 2014) found that only 25% of young Americans believed that Israel’s actions were justified, while 51% believed the action unjustified. In contrast, 79% of Taglit-Birthright Israel participants and 67% of nonparticipants felt Israel’s actions were justified. Although the majority of all Birthright Israel applicants felt Israel was justified in its actions, some felt otherwise: 20% of participants and 32% of nonparticipants felt Israel’s actions were unjustified.

Professor Leonard Saxe, director of the Cohen Center and one of the study’s authors, says Taglit-Birthright Israel applicants represent the diversity of young adult American Jews. “More than half a million young Jews have applied to participate since the inception of the program 14 years ago,” he says. “They include many who had little contact with the Jewish community prior to the program and a majority who consider themselves politically liberal.”

Along with the findings about the attitudes of young adult American Jews regarding Israel and the conflict with Hamas, the study also revealed that most follow the news about Israel closely. Although almost all get their news from American news sources, social media was a significant source of news and more than half reported getting their news directly from Israeli sources.

Taglit-Birthright Israel offers a 10-day trip to Israel for Jewish adults between the ages of 18 and 26. The trip aims to strengthen each participant’s identity as a Jew; to build understanding, friendship and a lasting bond with the land and people of Israel; and to reinforce the solidarity of the Jewish people worldwide.

“The results of this survey demonstrate that Jewish young adults who participate in Taglit-Birthright Israel come away from the experience not only with a connection to Israel, but a strong interest and a commitment to being informed about its people and its challenges,” says Taglit-Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark.

Taglit-Birthright Israel has sent more than 400,000 young Jewish adults to Israel from more than 66 countries and from all 50 U.S. states, including students from nearly 1,000 North American college campuses. Attendees are immersed in an active educational experience that includes visits to Jewish historical sites, history museums, Holocaust remembrance sites, the Western Wall, arts, and culture programs as well as touring, hiking, discussions, social events, camel, and jeep rides in the desert, and more.

Taglit-Birthright Israel has a unique, historical and innovative partnership with the Government of Israel, thousands of individual donors and private philanthropists, and Jewish communities around the world through Jewish Federations of North America, Keren Hayesod, and the Jewish Agency of Israel.