Canadians split on support for Israel, Palestinians

Frank Dimant

Despite Canada having the most pro-Israel government in its history,Canadians are evenly split in their support for Israel and the Palestinians, according to a new poll.

The survey by the Toronto-based Forum Research found that 17 per cent of respondents sided with Israel in the Middle East conflict, while 16 per cent favored the Palestinians. Fully 64 per cent said they lean toward neither side, and three per cent said they did not know.

The findings reflected a drop in support for the Jewish state since the question was last asked in December 2012, when Canada voted against recognizing Palestine at the United Nations. At that time, 22 per cent of those polled favored Israel and 15 per cent leaned toward the Palestinians.

However, the latest figures closely resembled results in July 2012, when 16 percent of respondents leaned toward Israel and 17 percent toward the Palestinians.

Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, sees a “disconnect” between the latest survey results and past public opinion polls on Israel.

“In the past, there was a much stronger sense of identification with the Israeli cause,” he told JTA. The newest figures “give us cause to be concerned.”

But Dimant predicted a “dramatic” shift toward Israel in Canadian public opinion in light of current developments in the Middle East, including a Sunni insurgency in Iraq and the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers by Palestinian terrorists.

“I think the jolt to Canadians is going to be massive,” he said.

The numbers were culled from an automated telephone survey of 1,694 randomly selected adults. The margin of error is 2 percentage points.

In the poll, support for Israel was especially common among Canadians aged 55 to 64, at 23 per cent; among males and middle-income earners, each at 21 per cent; in Alberta and British Columbia, 20 per cent; and among Conservative voters, 37 per cent.

The survey suggested that support for the Palestinian side was most common among the young, at 20 percent; males, 19 per cent; lower-income groups, 21 per cent; and those earning $80,000 to $100,000 annually, 24 per cent.

Support for Palestinians was high in Quebec at 22 per cent and Alberta at 19 per cent; among left-leaning New Democrats, 27 per cent; those with a post-graduate education, 23 per cent; non-Christians, 20 per cent; those with no religion, 27 per cent; and Francophones, 23 per cent.

Steve McDonald, a spokesman for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said the survey reflects numbers found in past polls on support for Israel. 

It also "reflects the fact that there is a broad swath of Canadians – what we call the 'moveable middle' -who are effectively in neither camp. That's to whom we target our advocacy work."