By Murray Dobbin
February 17, 2017
As the future of Israeli Jews and Palestinians spirals down into an inevitable and inexorable apartheid struggle, Canadians are being denied their fundamental right in a democracy. That is the right to an honest and frank debate about one of the most important issues faced by the international community — the ongoing illegal occupation of Palestinian land and the brutal suppression of Palestinian human rights.
It’s not that Canadians don’t care or don’t try to inform themselves. It’s that both the media and federal governments are loath to even talk about it. With these two institutions maintaining a steadfast silence there can be no genuine debate. And so we betray both Israelis and Palestinians by condemning them to a future of violence.
For the past 40 years the governments in Ottawa have revealed an abject cowardice when it comes to any effective action to promote peace. While on the books Canada is committed to a “two-state” solution our total failure to act means that that this solution is now hanging by a thread. The most recent madness coming out of the Netanyahu government is the “land grab” law — its popular name in Israel. It empowers the state to legalize the illegal settler outposts retroactively and could be used to annex the West Bank. It will, if ever used, have catastrophic results.
At least that is the opinion of most commentators in Israel, across Europe and among EU governments — even Germany. In Canada the best we could do was a buried 152-word Global Affairs news release five days after the fact saying our government is “deeply concerned” and calling the law “unhelpful.” It is pathetic and irresponsible.
It is hardly new but we can now say with some certainty something we could not say until yesterday with the release of a new public opinion survey, conducted by EKOS and Associates, exploring Canadian attitudes towards Israel and Canadian government policy. The poll was commissioned by a coalition of organizations and individuals (including me).
The survey is critically important because the carte blanche, pro-Israeli government policy of federal governments (Conservative and Liberal) is built on a foundation of untested assumptions about Canadian attitudes. The conventional wisdom, conveniently promoted by the government, the Israeli lobby, and many in the media, is that Canadians are massively sympathetic to Israel.
That’s convenient but quite false. Rather than expressing an uncritically positive view of Israel, Canadians demonstrate the opposite. Of those expressing a view, 46 per cent expressed a negative view while 28 per cent expressed a positive view (26 per cent had neither). As with all the survey questions, when results were broken down by party preference, Conservative Party supporters were radical outliers in favour of Israel with a 58 per cent positive view. The average for supporters of the other four parties was 11 per cent positive and 63 per cent negative.