UK poll shows strong backing for Israel boycott

More than two in five of the British public view BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights – as a reasonable response to Israel’s behavior, according to a newly published poll.

Carried out by YouGov in May, the poll shows cross-party support for the Palestinian cause, according to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which commissioned it.

Asked if the 2005 Palestinian call for BDS is reasonable, 43 percent of respondents said it was – more than three times as many as the 13 percent saying it is unreasonable.

Majorities of voters for the opposition Labour and Liberal Democratic parties said BDS is reasonable – 51 percent and 54 percent respectively.

But even two in five of voters for the ruling Conservative Party also agreed BDS is reasonable.

The poll is another sign of the growing divide between Prime Minister Theresa May and her own voters.

Opinion polls

In December, May told the Conservative Friends of Israel’s annual business lunch that “this party and this government will have no truck with those who subscribe to” the BDS movement.

In April, May called a general election, on the back of opinion polls showing the Labour Party trailing by as much as 24 points.

Since then, left-wing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – who supports aspects of BDS – has led an insurgent election manifesto, which has proved far more popular than Conservative policies.

Corbyn has closed the gap to as little as three points in some polls.

Most polls still show May likely to remain prime minister after election day on 8 June, however.

“This poll demonstrates the growing support for the campaign for justice for the Palestinian people,” Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said. “This support is cross party and the polling suggests increasing levels of support amongst younger generations.”

Ban settlement goods

The new YouGov figures also show more than half of Labour and Liberal Democrat voters, and 44 percent of Conservative voters, calling for a review of financial and trade relationships with Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank, which are illegal under international law.

Overall, 45 percent supported such a review. And 29 percent of respondents agreed there should be an outright ban on goods imported from settlements.

The new poll shows that twice as many people in Britain (20 percent) have sympathy for Palestinians as opposed to the Israelis (10 percent).

But reflecting a generation gap also seen in other countries, the sympathies of younger Britons were four to five times more likely to lie with Palestinians.

The poll in the UK follows the pattern of recent surveys in Canada, Australia and the United States showing surging support for measures to hold Israel accountable for violating Palestinian rights and international law.

“Despite Theresa May’s protestations, the results show significant numbers of Conservative voters see boycott, divestment and sanctions as a reasonable response to Israel’s policies of oppression,” the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s Jamal said. “There is no excuse not to call for a review of trade with illegal settlements now that polls show there is huge popular support for this measure.”

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The Al Jazeera documentary "The Lobby" opened many eyes in Britain. As have the successive slaughters carried out by Israel in Gaza. When you get right down to it, few in the U.K. have a vested interest in the continued oppression of the Palestinian people. The recent suicide bombing in Manchester has also brought home the consequences of ruinous wars of aggression in the Middle East. There comes a time when looking squarely at reality is the only remaining course. And that leads us to renewed support for the nonviolent BDS movement, among other policy initiatives.

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He lives in London. Biography here.