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Poll: Jewish support for Obama falling

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Answers to question No. 5 in the American Jewish Committee poll indicated falling support for Obama’s handling of the U.S.-Israel relationship American Jewish Committee

WASHINGTON – Jewish approval of President Obama is dropping, a new national survey has found.

Some 51 percent of American Jews approve of the job Obama is doing, compared to the 44 percent who disapprove, according to a just-completed American Jewish Committee survey. The numbers represent a drop from the 57 percent approval rating Obama got from Jews the last time the AJC did a survey, in March, and a sharp decline from the 79 percent approval rating Obama had among Jews in a May 2009 poll. Obama captured 78 percent of the Jewish vote in the presidential election two years ago.

The survey also showed 49 percent approving of the Obama administration’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations and 45 percent disapproving. The AJC’s March survey registered a 55 percent approval rating for Obama on that issue, with 37 percent disapproving.

The differences between the two polls taken six months apart show both waning Jewish support for Obama and a narrowing of the gap between Jews and non-Jews regarding their opinion of Obama. Until now, Jewish approval of Obama has usually exceeded that of the general population by more than 10 points; this latest poll puts Obama’s Jewish approval rating at just 6 points higher than the national average of 45 percent.

The poll also showed a spike in Jewish support for Republicans in Congress — from percentages in the low 20s in previous elections to 33 percent in this poll.

The margin of error for the poll is 3 percent. For the survey, Synovate, formerly Market Facts, interviewed 800 self-identified Jews selected from a consumer mail panel between Sept. 6 and Oct. 10.

Regarding the issue of Obama’s handling of the economy, Jewish approval has declined since the March survey. In the current poll, 45 percent approve and 51 percent disapprove of Obama’s actions. In March, the numbers were 55 percent approving and 42 percent disapproving.

David Harris, executive director of the AJC, said the downward trend of Jews’ opinion of Obama is a reflection of “Where are we?” anxieties.

“To me, the common denominator pretty much across the board is a sense of growing anxiety and apprehension,” Harris said, noting the decline in Obama’s approval ratings on the economy and foreign policy since the March poll. “There’s a sense that things here and abroad are not necessarily getting better.”

By contrast, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approval has risen: 62 percent of the respondents approve and 27 percent disapprove of his handling of U.S.-Israel ties, compared to 57 percent approving and 30 percent disapproving in March.

Harris said the most surprising result of the poll is that a majority of Jewish voters back Arizona’s new immigration law, which encourages police to check the immigration credentials of persons being questioned on other matters. The law already has sparked an exodus of undocumented workers from the state.

The survey asked its Jewish respondents: “A new law in Arizona gives police the power to ask people they’ve stopped to verify their residency status. Supporters say this will help crack down on illegal immigration. Opponents say it could violate civil rights and lead to racial profiling. On balance, do you support or oppose this law?”

The result was a slim majority in favor of the law: 52 percent to 46 percent.

“That one elicited the most surprise here,” Harris said. “You form a notion in your mind of what you think the likely response is to each question and then you check it against the reality. We did not expect to see majority support for the Arizona law.”

The poll also showed that American Jewish confidence in Obama’s approach to Iran has fallen, with 43 percent approving of the administration’s handling of the Iran nuclear issue compared to 47 percent in March. Some 46 percent disapprove, up from 42 percent. In a related question, about 59 percent of respondents support and 35 percent oppose the idea of the United States taking military action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. And about 70 percent support and 26 percent oppose the idea of Israel taking such military action.

A series of questions regarding the Arab-Israeli peace process yielded results similar to those of previous surveys, showing continuity in American Jewish views regarding a Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem, and west bank settlements.

Matching the March results, the new survey found that 48 percent favor and 45 percent oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state.

A majority of American Jews, 60 percent, continue to support a united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while 35 percent said Israel should compromise on the city’s status in a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Regarding the dismantling of west bank settlements as part of a permanent agreement with the Palestinians, 6 percent said that all such settlements should be dismantled, while 56 percent called for some and 37 percent called for none to be dismantled.

American Jews remain nearly unanimous, at 95 percent, in supporting a proposal requiring Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in a final peace agreement. In March and in 2009, the figure was 94 percent.

JTA

 
 

Argentine Jewish community jobs’ program wins praise

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Rarely if ever had an Argentinean president praised work done by the Jewish community in front of so many people.

An employment program launched more than 35 years ago by AMIA, the main Jewish community organization in Argentina, has been a godsend for thousands of Argentineans — and like most of AMIA’s programs, the beneficiaries haven’t just been Jews.

“AMIA is a formidable ally of this government, and AMIA’s Employment Network is an honor for all of Argentineans,” President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner told an audience of 800 earlier this month at the annual fund-raising dinner for the program at the Buenos Aires Hilton Hotel.

The Employment Network, now Argentina’s largest, started in 1974 as part of AMIA’s Social Service Department to help unemployed Jews looking for jobs and provide a free hiring service for Jewish-owned businesses seeking personnel.

During the Argentinean economic crisis of the late 1990s, the program grew rapidly and widened the range of beneficiaries to non-Jews. It also became vital during the economic crisis of 2001, when Argentina experienced an unemployment rate above 25 percent and an estimated 40 percent of the country fell below the poverty line.

“You don’t have to be a member of the Jewish community to benefit from the services,” said Pablo Devita, who found a job through the network. “This is something highly remarkable.”

The program’s work during the 2001 economic crisis was supported by the Inter-American Development Bank, which helped enlarge its jobs network with a budget of approximately $3.5 million. Half is provided by the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund and the rest is financed by AMIA.

Between 2002 and 2008, 16,000 placements were made at more than 9,000 companies. The Employment Network now has 10 offices throughout Argentina and an estimated budget of $1 million for this year.

In addition, it works with companies and nongovernmental organizations on joint actions to help the unemployed.

Juan Heredia was one of them. He lost his job when his security doors company Pentagono downsized, and turned to the Employment Network for a course in facilities and electricity appliance. Eventually he landed a job as chief of maintenance in a major community center called the Hurlingham Club, in the facilities areas.

“We are not Jews and they never asked us if we were,” Heredia’s wife, Silvina, told JTA, adding that “I am very grateful to the job service of the Jewish community.”

Heredia lost 46 pounds because of the depression he fell into during his two years without a job.

“Juan not only regained self-confidence but also thanks to this new job, we were able to keep our house,” Silvina said.

Some 10,000 people a year now use the network’s free services and workshops, and about 2,000 find a job through the service — on average nine a day. The Employment Network has a database of more than 600,000 job seekers.

Within the Employment Network, the Subsidized Employment Program is one of the more unusual initiatives. It matches unemployed people who have registered in AMIA’s database with companies that are looking to hire. The program subsidizes 30 percent of the new employee’s salary for the first six months and covers the cost of recruitment.

AMIA provides a team of expert interviewers who assess the profiles of candidates according to companies’ needs. The team presents its choices to the companies and based on the information, the companies decide which candidate suits them best. “They have the final say,” said Veronica Albajari, the program’s leader.

Since 2004, some 1,500 people who have come to AMIA asking for social assistance and food have ended up also finding a job through the program. For those in need that were offered a job and rejected it, AMIA discontinued the social assistance.

The Employment Network has become a model for employment agencies, the director of AMIA’s Employment Department, Ernesto Tocker, told JTA.

“We became a role model in terms of performance, services offered to both companies and candidates, and work efficiency of care, referral, and job placement,” he said.

The executive director of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris, who received an award from AMIA in recognition of AJC’s support for the Jewish community in Argentina, echoed that sentiment, saying it’s an interesting model for agencies in the United States.

“I came here only for one day, only for this event, because it is very important for me to support the Argentinean Jews and to also express our admiration for this employment program,” Harris told JTA. “We stood here in bad and good times, and we will stand here in the future.”

As a sign of the importance of the program to Argentina’s economy, the fund-raising dinner drew not only President Kirchner but the ministers of justice, education, foreign affairs, and labor. Also on hand were Israeli Ambassador Daniel Gazit and Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor of the unit that is investigating the deadly 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center.

JTA

 
 

After U.N. votes for Durban III, battle lines are drawn

Marcy OsterWorld
Published: 31 December 2010
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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at the Durban Review Conference in Geneva on April 20, 2009 prompted walkouts by numerous European countries. Michael J. Jordan

When the original U.N. anti-racism conference, held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, devolved into an anti-Israel hate fest, Jewish groups around the world were caught unaware.

So when the Durban Review Conference was called for Geneva in 2009, Jewish activists started their fight early, persuading numerous countries to boycott the conference, dubbed Durban II, effectively blocking it from becoming a repeat of Durban I.

Now, with last week’s U.N. vote to authorize Durban III — a U.N. General Assembly session planned for September 2011 to commemorate the original Durban conference — the battle lines again are being drawn.

“The vote of the U.N. General Assembly, while not unexpected, sets the stage for a celebration of the outrageous events that took place during Durban I, which were permeated by manifestations of bigotry and hatred,” said a statement from the leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “The event is scheduled to be held shortly after the 10th anniversary commemoration of September 11th. It is hard to imagine a more insensitive action, recalling that the attack on the World Trade Center that killed thousands was carried out by those influenced by the same hateful ideologies that Durban I came to represent.”

The first plans to boycott Durban III already are taking shape. Canada announced in November that it would boycott the September 2011 session on “Combating racism and follow-up of the Durban Program of Action.”

“Canada will not participate in this charade,” Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said at a Nov. 25 news conference. “Canada is clearly committed to the fight against racism, but the Durban process commemorates an agenda that actually promotes racism rather than combats it.”

Both the United States and Israel have warned about Durban III turning into another occasion for gratuitous Israel-bashing.

When the matter came to a vote last Friday, the vote was 104-22 in favor of the special General Assembly session; 33 countries abstained.

“We voted ‘no’ because the Durban Declaration process has included ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and we do not want to see that commemorated,” said a statement by the American ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice. “The United States is fully committed to upholding the human rights of all individuals and to combating racial discrimination, intolerance, and bigotry. We stand ready to work with all partners to uphold human rights and fight racism around the world.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement announcing its intention to skip the session.

“Under the present circumstances, as long as the meeting is defined as part of the infamous ‘Durban process,’ Israel will not participate in the meeting,” the statement said. “Israel expects the participants to deal appropriately with the serious manifestations of racism throughout the world, and to reject attempts to once again divert world attention from this dangerous phenomenon by means of cheap politicization.”

Condemnation of the U.N. vote by Jewish groups was fast and furious.

“The original Durban conference attempted to validate the perverse theory that Zionism is racism,” the B’nai B’rith International executive vice president, Daniel Mariaschin, said. “Durban’s legacy of hate, intolerance, and double standards should never be forgotten, and should certainly never be celebrated.”

The Anti-Defamation League called for a boycott of Durban III.

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said the anti-racism agenda has been misappropriated. “The global campaign against racism has been hijacked by countries that have little regard for human rights and whose primary goal is to advance highly political agendas,” Harris said. “To bring this traveling show of hatred to New York is scandalous and will not advance the noble U.N. mission of defending and protecting human rights.”

At the original U.N. conference against racism in Durban, the United States and Israel walked out when it became clear that it had devolved into little more than an opportunity for vitriolic Israel-bashing that many said bordered on anti-Semitism. The conference’s final document singled out Israel for special condemnation.

In Geneva in 2009, several European and North American countries announced ahead of time that they would not attend the conference out of concern that its special focus on Israel would make a mockery of the issue of fighting racism, and several more walked out of the conference when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used the occasion to bash Israel.

The countries that voted last week against the Durban III session were Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, the Netherlands, Palau, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Among the countries abstaining were Austria, Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary, and Spain.

JTA Wire Service

 
 

Honor Holocaust victims by preserving their mass graves

_JStandardOp-Ed
Published: 28 January 2011
 
 

Do hearings on Muslim radicalization leave room for nuance?

WASHINGTON – Are the congressional hearings on radicalization among American Muslims an instance of McCarthyism, or is the opposition to them political correctness run amok?

Jewish groups may disagree on why, but there appears to be wide consensus that the congressional hearings led by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, are off on the wrong foot.

The differences are over whether hearings, which began March 10, are needed at all — and if they are, what they should address.

The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee agree that examining Muslim extremism is a proper issue for Congress, and AJC went a step further by saying that lawmakers should not bend to political pressures.

An AJC official, Yehudit Barsky, director of the organization’s division on the Middle East and International Terrorism, submitted written testimony to the hearings, which officially are called “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community’s Response.”

In her testimony, Barsky said it was “essential that we all tread carefully so as to avoid rhetoric that smacks of stereotyping members of a particular faith and similarly avoid actions that amount to discrimination against, much less persecution of, members of a faith group based on their identity or beliefs, as opposed to their actions.”

In a statement, the ADL echoed that sentiment.

“Homegrown Muslim extremists pose a real threat to the United States, but the issue is one that may be difficult to explore seriously in a hearing that has engendered an unfortunate atmosphere of blame and suspicion of the broader American Muslim community,” the ADL said. “We need to be careful not to single out an entire community for special scrutiny or suspicion.”

The Reform movement called on congressional Democrats to expand the hearings to encompass all forms of terrorism.

The National Jewish Democratic Council and J Street said the hearings are indelibly tainted.

Critics of the hearings say King seeks to smear American Muslims. They note that in the lead-up to the hearings, King said there are “too many mosques” in America. King also has suggested that Muslim leaders do not cooperate with authorities and that the vast majority of clerics are radicalized.

The Republican Jewish Coalition said King was fulfilling his proper mission.

“The hearings have met with strong resistance from the left, but they are critically needed,” the RJC said in its newsletter.

King was unrepentant as the hearings began last week.

“To combat this threat, moderate leadership must emerge from the Muslim-American community,” he said.

Yet King failed to invite to the hearings major Muslim-American groups, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, to defend themselves against charges that they coddle terrorist sympathizers. The council criticized the King hearings as tainting all American Muslims.

But the hearings also did not invite those who maintain that much if not all of the Islamic world has been radicalized.

If anything, the hearings provided an opportunity to hear a range of voices, including both those who praised the American Muslim community’s stance against radicalism and parents of American Muslims lured into terrorism. There were also a number of Muslims who have criticized insularity among Muslim Americans.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim elected to Congress, testified before the committee. So did Leroy Baca, the Los Angeles County sheriff who praised the Council on American-Islamic Relations as cooperative.

In her testimony, Barsky, who listed recent planned attacks by Muslim extremists on U.S. Jewish targets, cautioned against viewing the hearings as an assault on all Muslims.

“Some Muslim organizations, joined by well-meaning supporters, have reacted to the idea of discussing the threat posed by Islamic extremist terrorists by raising the specter of McCarthyism,” Barsky said. “They and others have demanded that any discussion or investigation of this national security threat be broadened to include all extremists in all communities.

“Logic and experience, however, dictate that any meaningful inquiry focus on particular organizations and extremists that currently pose a national security threat.”

The Reform movement said the failure to broaden the inquiry unfairly singled out Muslims.

“A wide-ranging exploration of radicalism writ-large is necessary, and we would welcome it,” Mark Pelavin, the associate director of the movement’s Religious Action Center, said in testimony submitted to the committee. “But today’s hearing is not that exploration. It is a narrow, myopic investigation into the American Muslim community which unfairly targets one group of citizens in congressional proceedings.”

Pelavin joined a Capitol Hill protest that included representatives of Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim bodies and described the hearings as “anti-Muslim.” Also appearing at that event were a prominent Conservative rabbi, Jack Moline, who has advised the Obama White House, and Marc Schneier, an Orthodox rabbi and co-founder of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.

Steve Emerson, who heads the Investigative Project on Terrorism, a research organization that has consulted with a number of pro-Israel groups, said the concerns were overblown.

“Those involved in terrorism are a tiny sliver of the overall Muslim-American population,” he wrote in a New York Daily News Op-Ed. “But one ought to be able to focus on a very real problem — homegrown terrorism fueled by Muslim extremism — without being accused of painting the entire U.S. Muslim population with a broad brush.”

Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), perhaps the most passionately pro-Israel lawmaker in Congress, said in a statement that King’s tone mitigated against a sober assessment of domestic Muslim extremism.

“Instead of singling out this particular community for investigation, our focus should remain on the many sources of terrorism and violence that threaten our nation and its residents,” she said, noting her concerns about the “tone and substance” of the hearings.

“I ask,” she said, “if this hearing were focused on the Jewish community, Japanese community, or the African-American community, or any other community, would we not be justifiably outraged?”

JTA Wire Service

 
 

‘Miral,’ Israel, and the AJC

 

The Human Rights Council and the rest of us

 
 
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