Taglit-Birthright participants (file)
Taglit-Birthright participants (file) Flash90

Prof. Len Saxe, a social psychologist at Brandeis University, is convinced that a report which found that support for Israel among US college students is taking a nosedive is not reliable.

That research, conducted by a group of marketing and advertising executives known as the Brand Israel Group (BIG), had found that, while in 2010 support for Israel with the respect to the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict among US college students stood at 84%, in 2016 that percentage had taken a dive to 57%.

Speaking with The Times of Israel, Saxe related how, over the past 15 years, he has been collecting data on the opinions of Jewish young adults who went on Taglit-Birthright Israel trips.

Saxe, who heads Brandeis’ Jewish Studies department, said that over the past 2 years his staff of 30 researches conducted 6 projects - which showed that there is no evidence that support for Israel among US Jewish young adults has gone down.

He noted how, over the past year alone, almost 50,000 young adults have visited Israel within the framework of Birthright Israel programs.

“If they were disaffected, they wouldn’t come,” Saxe emphasized.

Similarly, Saxe claimed that the negative impact of the anti-Israel BDS movement on college campuses is being blown out of proportion.

“One finding from our national studies of dozens of campuses is that there are only a few that have environments that are perceived as hostile to Jewish students and/or Israel. But, interestingly, even on these campuses, anti-Israel sentiment does not deter students from applying to Birthright Israel, taking Israel studies courses, or participating in Jewish activities on campus,” he said. He also dismissed the numbers of Jewish students recruited into the ranks of the BDS movement as “so few they can hardly be measured.”

According to Saxe, the real division among young Jewish adults in the US “is not between those who support or do not support Israel,” but rather “between those who know something [about Israel] and those who don’t.”

“Having traveled [to Israel] is the strongest predictor of attachment,” he said, asserting that, today, nearly 50% of Jews who are at least 25 have been to Israel - up from 25% in 1990.

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