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Wednesday, 16th April 2014

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BBC poll shows Western public opinion hardening against Israel

Only 14% of the British have a positive view of Israel, with 66% having a negative opinion, according to an international survey; and the number expressing negative views of Israel rose by 16% from the previous year. This increasingly unfavourable perception of the zionist state was shown also in the other Western countries included in the survey, even in the USA.

The survey, which is commissioned on an annual basis by the BBC World Service, asked 28,619 people in 27 countries to give their opinions, as 'generally positive' or 'generally negative' about the influence of a list of selected nations. Overall, Israel came out as the fourth most negatively perceived state, slightly ahead of Pakistan, Iran and North Korea.

In some less developed countries, opinions about Israel improved somewhat since 2010, according to the survey. One likely factor in this is the fading of the impact of Israel's invasion of South Lebanon in 2006 and the bombardment of Gaza in 2008-2009. But in the rich developed countries, whose support Israel relies on for its oppression and expropriation of the Palestinians- the views of the public are firming up against Israel.

The strength of public opinion in developed countries can be guaged from the following survey results on views of Israel:

Country          Generally positive     Generally negative

UK                   14%                           66%

Italy                 28%                          45%

France             18%                           56%

Portugal          10%                           52%

Germany         15%                           65%

Spain               11%                          66%

Australia          20%                          58%

Canada            23%                          52%

USA                  43%                          41%

Among the most striking findings of the survey is the change in perceptions within the United States, where the negative rating of Israel rose from 31% in 2010 to 41% in 2011, creating for the first time an approximate balance in US popular opinion. The recent factors causing Israel's declining appeal to people in Western countries are likely to include the raid on the aid convoy to Gaza, in which Israeli military forces killed nine solidarity activists, and the Israeli government's rejection of President Obama's proposal for a partial freeze on the construction of Jewish zionist settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Policy disconnect

What is also remarkable is the degree to which the policies of governments towards Israel are at variance with public opinion. This is shown at its most extreme in the case of Egypt, where only 5% have a positive evaluation, and 78% a negative evaluation of Israel- and yet, up to now, the Egyptian regime has been Israel's most important backer in the Middle East. However, in the developed democratic countries also, governments issue only occasional and mild criticisms of Israeli actions, despite the clear feeings of the majority of people.

The UK government is committed to changing the law to prevent Israeli war crminals being arrested when they visit the UK, although the results of another opinion poll show that only 7% of people in Britain agree with such a change. The same poll found that only 10% of respondents in six major European countries (Britain, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy) believe that their governments should support Israel rather than the Palestinians. Despite the majority opinion in Germany, the German government has provided Israel with five 'dolphin class' submarines, designed to be equipped with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. Two of the subs were donated free, and three sold at massively subsidised prices. A sixth German submarine is currently being readied for delivery to the Israeli military.

Nevertheless, as Jonathan Cook noted on 10th March, Israel's increasing unpopularity among the electorate of its key diplomatic backers- alongside the mass rebellions in Arab countries- is eroding the confidence of Israel's right wing government.

Futher, it provides fertile ground for campaigns in the West in support of the Palestinians, including the increasingly influential movement for a boycott of Israel.