More than half of Canadians polled who expressed an opinion also oppose their parliament’s condemnation of the BDS campaign, which aims to pressure Israel to respect Palestinian rights and international law, and two-thirds say government sanctions on Israel would be reasonable.
These results are remarkable evidence that efforts by the Canadian government, backed by Israel and its surrogates, to demonize the Palestine solidarity movement are failing.
The poll, conducted by EKOS Research Associates from 25 January to 2 February, was commissioned by Independent Jewish Voices, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East and journalists Dimitri Lascaris and Murray Dobbin.
Partial results released last month found that large numbers of Canadians see Israel’s government negatively, and Canadians almost unanimously reject the view that criticizing Israel is anti-Semitic.
Backing for BDS
According to the newly released findings, 78 percent of respondents expressing an opinion say BDS is reasonable, but that shoots up to 88 percent among those who identify with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party.
Even supporters of the staunchly pro-Israel Conservative Party are evenly split: 49 percent say the BDS call is reasonable, while 51 percent say it is not – a difference that is within the poll’s margin of error.
Between 14-22 percent of respondents did not express an opinion on the questions about BDS and sanctions, according to the pollsters.
Out of step
These findings provide another stark indication of how out of step Canada’s political elites are with public views on Palestine.
In February 2016, Canada’s parliament overwhelmingly passed a motion condemning BDS.
But Canadians feel very differently from their representatives. More than half of those surveyed say they oppose the parliamentary motion, while just a quarter support it.
Opposition to the condemnation of BDS was strong among backers of all the left of center parties – ranging from 55 percent among Liberals to 78 percent among Greens.
Only among Conservatives did more people support the motion (46 percent) than oppose it (33 percent).
Consistent with generational trends seen in the United States, younger Canadians appear more sympathetic to Palestinian rights. Two-thirds of respondents aged 18-34 expressing an opinion opposed the parliamentary condemnation of BDS, a number that drops to 46 percent among those aged over 65.
Similarly, 84 percent of the 18-34 age group said the BDS call is reasonable, a number that fell to a still impressive 72 percent for those aged over 65.
Sanctions on Israel
Overall, 91 percent of respondents expressing an opinion agreed that in general sanctions are a reasonable way for Canada to censure countries for violations of international law or human rights.
Two-thirds agreed that sanctions specifically targeting Israel over its construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian land in violation of international law would be reasonable, with one-third indicating opposition.
Three-quarters of respondents who identify with Trudeau’s Liberals support sanctions. That support rises as high as 94 percent among backers of Canada’s other left of center parties.
Among Conservatives support for sanctions plummets to 30 percent – highlighting a sharp partisan divide over Israel also seen in the United States.
“These numbers are breathtaking,” Lascaris, a lawyer, journalist and former justice spokesperson for the Green Party, told The Electronic Intifada.
“Our government’s support for Israel is not just immoral and unjust, it’s irrational, because it’s not a vote winner to be pro-Israel – the opposite is true,” Lascaris added.
Lascaris said he suspects that major pro-Israel groups have conducted private polling on Canadian attitudes toward Israel, but have never published the results. “That’s a suspicion,” he said, “but the conventional wisdom – absent any scientific poll to back it up – is that there is strong public support for the Canadian government’s pro-Israel leanings. This poll explodes that myth.”
Lascaris asserted that the poll reveals the “misapprehension of the Canadian political class,” whose unquestioning support for Israel borders on “fanaticism.”
He added that it also contravenes Canada’s treaty obligations and policy under the Fourth Geneva Convention to take reasonable measures to halt Israel’s violations, including its construction of settlements.
But Lascaris hopes that the results will serve as a tool for activists and lawmakers who are sympathetic to Palestinian rights to push their parties in the right direction.
“There’s overwhelming public support for Palestinian rights and bringing an end to Israel’s egregious, decades-long violations carried out with impunity,” Lascaris said. “That’s what the Canadian public wants.”
Note: this article has been updated since initial publication with links to the full survey, and information about respondents who did not provide an opinion.