Israel attitudes survey: Most are happy to be Zionists

Co-author David Graham and (right) Trevor Pears, who commissioned the survey

Co-author David Graham and (right) Trevor Pears, who commissioned the survey

British Jews display a "great attachment" to Israel, with a mere five per cent believing it irrelevant to their Jewish identity, according to the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) report published this week.

The strong place that Israel retains in Anglo-Jewish hearts is evident from the fact that 29 per cent say it is central to their identity; 53 per cent, that it is "important but not central"; and 13 per cent that it plays "a small part".

An overwhelming majority, 95 per cent, have visited Israel at least once, compared to 78 per cent who has done so in 1995.

More than one in five (22 per cent) think it "very" or "fairly likely" that they will settle in Israel, with those who are religious or under 40 more ready to consider aliyah. Twenty percent of respondents to the survey have lived there at some stage.

Just over half, 53 per cent, think that diaspora Jews have a right to judge Israel, compared with 45 per cent who think they do not have the right since they do not live there.

But there is broader support for expressing public criticism of Israel: 35 per cent say that Jews should always feel free to criticise Israel in the British media when they feel it justified, and another 38 per cent believe that it is acceptable "in some circumstances", compared with a quarter who think that Jews should hold their tongue.

While 72 per cent are happy to say they are Zionists, only 21 per cent say they are not.

But the report's authors note: "Many of those who define themselves as non-Zionist are using the term to mark their disagreement with contemporary Israeli government policy, rather than to signal a lack of support for the concept of Israel as an expression of Jewish nationhood."

Almost half of British Jews - 48 per cent - believe that the land of Israel is "God-given".

How the poll was conducted

The online poll, taken in January and February, attracted 4,081 answers, the "largest sample" ever taken among British Jews, according to JPR. Polling experts Ipsos-Mori managed the data collection. JPR is confident that the results are "likely to be close to the true percentages in the Jewish population as a whole".

Initially, Liberal, Masorti and Reform Jews were over-represented, as well as the more highly educated; central and strictly Orthodox Jews were under-represented. But the results were then adjusted in line with the religious profile of the community, based on other sources.

Last updated: 12:50pm, July 15 2010