- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Americans Jews say they are relieved that there has been no public backlash against U.S. support for Israel since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed more than 6,000 Americans.
"There is some small concern about attempts by some pundits and others to somehow say Israel or Israeli policies are to blame for this attack on America," said Alex Safian, associate director of Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, a Jewish watchdog group. "But these are fringe opinions being expressed, and polls show that support for Israel actually increased after the Sept. 11 attacks."
Despite polls showing a majority of Americans sympathize with Israel, some Jewish leaders fear there may yet be an anti-Israel backlash as the Bush administration pursues the war on terrorism.
"There will be those here and abroad who will try to divert our government and people from its necessary mission," wrote Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham H. Foxman in a Sept. 21 column in the Jewish Standard of New Jersey.
"One way is the suggestion that this happened because U.S. support of Israel breeds hatred of us in the Arab world," Mr. Foxman said. "If only America had backed off from Israel, it is said, none of this would have happened."
Mr. Foxman warns that while such "distortions" are scarcely being heard now, "inevitably as time goes on more voices to this effect will surface."
Other Jews are more confident that Americans will reject the anti-Israel line. In a Wall Street Journal column, Norman Podhoretz asked: "Is American support of Israel behind the hatred of this country that pervades the Arab world and that literally exploded into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11?"
Mr. Podhoretz, editor at large of Commentary magazine and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, noted how few prominent Americans were blaming Israel.
"Certainly this is what many in Europe believe, though thus far in the United States only a few anti-Israel intransigents … have voiced any such sentiment in public," Mr. Podhoretz wrote.
Phil Baum, director of the American Jewish Congress, said that although his organization is not concerned about a backlash, "we are cognizant that it could happen. At the time of the [1991] Gulf war and the oil shortages, that presumed backlash never occurred."
The latest polls suggest that although most Americans see a connection between U.S.-Israel policy and attacks on the United States, public sympathy toward Israel has increased.
A large majority of Americans, 68 percent, think opposition to U.S. ties to Israel and U.S. policies toward the Palestinian situation are "a major reason" that the terrorists targeted the United States, according to a Sept. 20-21 Newsweek survey of 1,005 adults.
Another 21 percent in the poll said the Israel-U.S. connection was a minor reason. Only 28 percent said resentment of the impact of American movies and other popular entertainment in Muslim countries was a major reason for the attacks.
But 55 percent of Americans "say their sympathies in the Middle East situation lie more with the Israelis than with the Palestinian Arabs," according to a Sept. 14-15 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of 1,032 adults.
That support is up from the mid-40s percentage range that was the average from 1993 through last month in the same poll.
The greater sympathy for Israel is found in every key subgroup in the poll except among liberals only 39 percent of them are sympathetic to Israel, Gallup analyst Jeffrey M. Jones notes.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, noted that unlike the 1991 Gulf war the Sept. 11 attacks "hit us at home, forcing people to examine this in a different way."
"Now people are asking, why they are doing this to us?" he said. "People look for easy explanations of terrorism."
Mr. Podhoretz said anti-American terrorism is driven by a hatred of the Western democratic culture that Israel shares with its chief protector, the United States.
"The hatred of Israel is in large part a surrogate for anti-Americanism," he said. "Israel is seen as the spearhead of the American drive for domination over the Middle East."

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