Israel, already one of the world’s most negatively viewed countries, according to an annual BBC survey, has seen its reputation sink even lower in 2012.
The result will come as a blow to Israeli officials and organizations who have been attempting to improve the country’s image through intensive hasbara – propaganda – campaigns.
The 2012 Country Ratings Poll, conducted by GlobeScan/PIPA for the BBC among 24,090 people around the world, and published on 10 May, “asks respondents to rate whether the influence of each of 16 countries and the EU is ‘mostly positive’ or ‘mostly negative.’”
The press release accompanying the full report notes briefly that “The most negatively rated countries were, as in previous years, Iran (55% negative), Pakistan (51% negative), and Israel and North Korea (both 50% negative).”
Israel: a negative influence
Evaluations of Israel’s influence in the world—already largely unfavourable in 2011 — have worsened in 2012. On average, in the 22 tracking countries surveyed both in 2011 and 2012, 50 per cent of respondents have negative views of Israel’s influence in the world, an increase of three points from 2011. The proportion of respondents giving Israel a favourable rating remains stable, at 21 per cent. Out of 22 countries polled in 2011, 17 lean negative, three lean positive, and two are divided.
Not surprisingly, it was only in the US where Israel’s image improved among “Western country” publics:
Fifty per cent of Americans have a favourable view of Israel in 2012, and this proportion has increased by seven points. At the same time, the proportion of negative ratings has gone down six points to 35 per cent and, as a result, the US has gone from being divided in 2011 to leaning positive in 2012. These are the most positive views on Israel’s influence expressed in the US since tracking began in 2005.
Apart from the US, only in Nigeria and Kenya did views of Israel lean positive.
Israel loses ground among traditional allies and emerging powers
Israel’s position deteriorated in the EU as well as in emerging powers:
In the EU countries surveyed, views of Israeli influence have hardened in Spain (74% negative ratings, up 8 points) and in France (65%, up 9 points) — while positive ratings remain low and steady. Negative ratings from the Germans and the British remain very high and stable (69% and 68%, respectively). In other Anglo-Saxon countries, views have worsened in Australia (65% negative ratings, up 7 points) and in Canada (59%, up 7 points).
What’s remarkable – especially about Canada and Australia – is how out of step public perceptions are with official government policy, which in both countries has become ever more pro-Israel in recent years.
Significantly views of Israel deteriorated sharply too in South Korea, whose government has been traditionally close to Israel:
This hardening of opinion towards Israel’s influence in the world is strongly apparent in South Korea, where negative views have risen (69%, up 15 points) while positive views have decreased by 11 points (to 20%).
BRICs view Israel negatively
And the news is no better for Israel among the so-called BRICs:
Negative attitudes have also increased among the Chinese, the Indians, and the Russians. In China, a 9-point drop in positive ratings (to 23%) makes the overall balance of views even more negative (23% positive vs 45% negative). In India, negative perceptions have gone up 11 points (to 29%), and overall opinion has shifted from being divided in 2011 (21% vs 18%) to leaning negative in 2012 (17% vs 29%). In Russia, public opinion has shifted from leaning positive in 2011 to being divided in 2012 (25% positive vs 26% negative).
As for the Latin American power house, the report notes, “Brazilians continue to be strongly unfavourable to Israel’s influence, with a stable majority of 58 per cent who rate it negatively,” a picture repeated in other countries of South America.
Israel is most unpopular in Egypt
The past year of political change in Israel has also done little for Israel’s image:
Among the Muslim countries surveyed, perceptions of Israel have deteriorated in Egypt (85% negative ratings, up 7 points and the highest negative percentage in the survey), and remained largely negative but stable in Pakistan (9% positive vs 50% negative) and in Indonesia (8% vs 61%).
Israel’s behavior shapes views
Can all this be put down to “anti-Semitism” as Israel’s propagandists like to insist? Not according to the BBC survey. The factors shaping views of Israel are largely political, according to the report’s analysis:
For those who held negative views of Israel influence in the world, the foreign policy of the Israeli State is by some distance the main reason explaining their negative rating (45%). The way Israel treats its own people stands out as the second most important reason (27%). Of those holding positive views, Jewish traditions and culture are cited by 29 per cent globally, closely followed by foreign policy (26%).