KIM BROWN: Welcome to The Real News Network, in Baltimore. I’m Kim Brown.
A new report has just been released on changing attitudes of Canadians, towards Israel-Palestine. The report, which is entitled, “Canadians’ Views of the Israeli Government vs. Canadian Government Policy towards Israel and Palestine,” echoes the result of previous Canadian surveys over the past five years. It reflects a clear rising sympathy for Palestinians, and declining sympathy for the State of Israel.
They also expose a growing and sharp divide between those identify as pro-Palestinian, as opposed to Pro-Israeli views. It is also, apparently, the published survey that examines whether Canadian consider criticism of the Israeli government to be anti-Semitic.
And joining us today to discuss the report, and its implications, is Earl A. Washburn. Earl is a senior analyst at Ekos Research Associates, and played a crucial role in guiding and designing and analyzing the survey behind the report.
And we’re also joined today by Dimitri Lascaris. Dimitri is a lawyer, journalist and activist. He’s also a Board member here at The Real News. Gentlemen, thank you both for being here.
EARL A. WASHBURN: Thank you.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: Thank you.
KIM BROWN: So, Dimitri, let’s start off with you, and why was the survey conducted, and what did you discover?
DIMITRI LASCARIS: Well, first of all, I’m a part of a small coalition that came together to sponsor this survey, to ask Ekos to perform this survey. The other members of the coalition are journalists, and social activists, by the name of Murray Dobbin, an organization called Independent Jewish Voices Canada, and another organization called, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East.
All of us have been active in trying to educate the Canadian public about violations of Palestinian human rights, because frankly, the mainstream media did not do a particularly good job of keeping the public informed on that issue. And we were, you know, quite cognizant of the fact, and have been for quite some time, that the government of Canada has historically had a position of unqualified support for the government of Israel.
And in our work, in the course of our work in trying to educate the public, about the situation in the Occupied Territories, you know, we came to believe that there was a very significant degree, and growing degree, of sympathy amongst Canadians, that was not consistent with the unqualified support for the government of Israel that the Canadian government has been showing over the last several decades.
And we wanted to test that, and see whether, in fact, you know, if a scientifically, validly robust survey would bear out, that in fact there is a growing level of sympathy for the Palestinian people, a growing recognition that the government of Israel is consistently violating their rights. So, that’s what ultimately brought us together to commission this survey.
KIM BROWN: So, Dimitri what were the questions and the subject matters that were put into this survey, and put to those people who were questioned?
DIMITRI LASCARIS: Well, the first one is, we asked people whether they had a positive or negative view of the Israeli government? And I just want to preface this by saying, for those who aren’t from Canada, or know Canada’s political systems; there are basically five parties in our parliament. You know, there’s the Conservative Party, which is a right-wing party; the Liberal Party, which has currently got a majority government, and they are center to just center-right. Then you have the NDP, traditionally a social democratic party; the Green Party, the party of which I am a member, and the Bloc Quebecois, which is confined to Quebec and is a Separatist Party.
So, with that as background, we asked people, you know, which party they support, and how they viewed the government of Israel? And the numbers were quite striking, when you compare it to government policy in Canada. Of those who expressed an opinion, 46% of Canadians had a negative view of the Israeli government, and only 28% had a positive view.
And when you broke that down by party support, it was really striking. The Conservative supporters were way out in the fringe, 58% of them said they had a positive view, but 55 to 78% of the supporters of the other parties said that they had a negative view. And only 5 to 22% of the supporters of the other parties said they had a positive view of the government of Israel.
Interestingly, the negativity increased the younger the respondent. And also the higher the education level of the respondent, the more they tended to view the government of Israel negatively. So, we also asked respondents whether or not they thought the government of Canada was pro-Israel, or pro-Palestinian? And far more Canadians believed, according to the survey, that the Canadian government is pro-Israel, 61% than is pro-Palestinian, only 16% believe that. And again, that number rises considerably amongst supporters for the center, center-right, and left leaning parties.
The Conservatives are kind of out on the margins on that issue. On the question, we asked people about media bias. Did they think the Canadian media is biased? And 45% didn’t think that they were biased one way or the other. More of the Liberal, NDP, Bloc and Green respondents tended to view the media as pro-Israel, ranging from 36 to 43%. Only 8 to 11% of those groups thought it was pro-Palestinian.
And then finally, and I think this may be the most striking result of the survey, we asked people whether criticism of the Israeli government was anti-Semitic? And overall 91% of respondents accepted the view that criticism of the Israeli government is not necessarily anti-Semitic. For a couple of the parties, supporters of the NDP, and the Bloc Quebecois, I believe, 100% said it was not necessarily anti-Semitic. Even in the Conservative Party, the supporters of the Conservative Party, 80% of those respondents said it was not necessarily anti-Semitic.
And there are a whole bunch of reasons why, you know, this has very significant implications for government policy. One of them is that the Federal Parliament, specifically; the Conservative and the governing Liberal Party, within the last year, adopted a motion condemning quite stridently, the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions. And although that motion, that resolution, didn’t specifically say that supporters of the BDS movement are anti-Semitic, the debates in Parliament clearly contained allegations to that effect.
And also in Canada’s most populace province, Ontario, the Legislature, the Provincial Legislature, a little later, adopted a similar resolution, and again it doesn’t specifically say that the support for BDS is anti-Semitic. But in the debates there were a lot of assertions to that effect. And even one MP, a Conservative MPP, in the Ontario Legislature, went so far as to compare the BDS movement to the Klu-Klux-Klan.
This is really remarkable, and shameful really, when one considers what’s being done to the Palestinian peoples. So, how does one reconcile the overwhelming public opinion, that criticism of the Israeli government is not necessarily anti-Semitic? With these allegations being made by the political class in the Ontario Legislature and, you know, amongst the Liberals and the Conservatives in the Federal Parliament?
To the effect that people who support the BDS movement, which is a peaceful call for economic sanctions on Israel, for them to say that the supporters of this movement are anti-Semitic, is simply profoundly inconsistent with public opinion.
KIM BROWN: So, Earl, the report is based on a survey of 1,000 Canadians. So, to what extent can this be said to be a statistically sufficient representation of the Canadian population as a whole?
EARL A. WASHBURN: Sure. Basically, how we did this survey is, we have a panel, an online panel. Well, it’s an online/phone, hybrid panel that we use to survey the Canadian population. This particular survey was conducted using our online panel. But you know, 80, 90% of Canadians have access to the internet, so we find that being able to survey members of our panel that are online, we think is a very statistically significant population that we’re able to poll.
So, we do have good confidence in this particular survey. We weighted the data by gender, by age, by education, and by region, to make sure that all of the distribution of this sample is as close to as possible, the natural population of Canada based on the 2011 Census. Which is the last census that we have the information on the gender, and age, and the population of the country, based on those parameters and education, as well.
So, based on our statistical methods, we find that the survey results are definitely representative of the Canadian population. Our particular panel, compared to other online panels that are used by other companies in the country, is not an opt-in panel. That means that we can use statistical weighting. We can use statistical reporting on it, using things like margin of error, which is not supposed to be used for other online panels. Because other online panels are what they call, opt-in panels, where you can just sign up on their websites to join their panels. But what we do, is we randomly recruit members of our panel by using — phone people across the country, asking them to join the panel.
And that way they’re randomly recruited, and we feel that based on that method, doing the surveys with our particular online panel, is statistically significant. And we can use proper statistical measurements on it, such as the margin for error.
KIM BROWN: So, Earl, what, if anything, surprised you the most about what you discovered?
EARL A. WASHBURN: Well, I can’t really speak too much into the breakdowns, and that kind of thing, but I did find this particular topic to be quite interesting. I think Dimitri mentioned how the partisan breakdown is quite interesting, in my opinion. My background is in political science, so, it was interesting to see the particular divide between the Conservatives, and the non-conservative parties in the country. And the supporters of those parties, and how they broke down on the various questions, I found very fascinating.
KIM BROWN: Well, let me ask you this, phrase it a different way. Earl, who was more likely to actually respond to the survey, like, which demographic? Which party member? Which region of Canada?
EARL A. WASHBURN: Sure. The way we worked with these particular surveys is, we stratify the sample based on responses to previous surveys that we do for other clients, of course. So, there are certain demographics that are more likely to respond to surveys just based on, you know, historical precedent. Older people tend to do more surveys, things like that. And so, when we sampled for this particular survey, or surveys in general, we make sure that people who are less likely to do surveys, that we would sample more of those people, so they have more of them are able to do the survey if they want to.
And with the end goal of having a distribution that mirrors the Canadian population. So, yeah, this particular survey is generally quite balanced, in terms of age, gender and region, because that was our intention going in. We stratified the sample to make sure that the demographic breakdown of the results matched the Canadian population.
KIM BROWN: So, Dimitri, your report found that higher sympathy for Palestinians tends to occur among supporters of the Liberal, NDP, Green and Bloc Quebecois parties. So, people under 35 also expressed higher sympathy for Palestinians. People who were higher educated as well; people from Quebec, visible minorities, and non-religious people.
So, why do you suppose that is? Why do these demographics tend to view the Palestinian, and the Palestinian plight, in more of a sympathetic way?
DIMITRI LASCARIS: Well, I think one reason for the higher levels of support amongst younger persons is that, you know, for a long time, there was a certain narrative about the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, that the mainstream media had really very much repeated over and over again, and it had become firmly entrenched in Canadian political thinking.
But, you know, younger voters tend, in my experience, to rely more upon independent media. Online sources of information, which are revealing to them information about the conflict that is not necessarily available to them in, for example, Post Media, the largest newspaper publisher in Canada, which is a very, very stridently pro-Israel editorial perspective. So, they’re getting their information from somewhat different sources, which are giving them better insight into what is going on.
I think that’s also true of, you know, people who are higher educated. They tend to have a better understanding of what is going on, and that’s reflected in the levels of sympathy. Ultimately, you know, these parties, and I want to really sort of focus on the Liberal Party, because that’s the current governing party, and it’s the party that likes to promote itself as being progressive. Even though the substantive policies of the party, I think, can fairly be described as center-right.
You know, that party came to power most recently in late 2015. Of course, our viewers will know The Real News reviewed this, will know the Prime Minister is Justin Trudeau, who just came to Washington to visit President Trump. In the less than 18 months Prime Minister Trudeau has been in office, the Canadian government has voted against no less than 16 resolutions, at the United Nations, that were critical of Israel. And one of them, for example, it was adopted by the general assembly in late 2015. It simply reaffirmed the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and to have an independent state.
And so, as I say, you know, to vote against 16 of these, and the country was only joined by the United States, Israel and four tiny island states, in opposing the December 2015 self-determination resolution — 177 states voted for that resolution. The UN Security Council, at the end of 2016, adopted a resolution calling Israel’s settlements a flagrant violation of international law, and a serious obstacle to peace, 14 to nothing was the vote in the Security Council. The U.S. government abstained.
For weeks on end, the Trudeau government remained very quiet about this. Said nothing, and finally its hand was forced a few days ago, when the Israeli Knesset adopted something called, “The Settlement Regulation Law”, which purports to legalize the settlements that are almost universally recognized to be a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
And at that point, very quietly, the Trudeau government issued a statement to the effect, that this was not helpful. That was as far as it was prepared to go. And I think only because it had to say something. The Knesset legislation was so Draconian, and so contrary to international law. The other thing about Canada, you know, we’re one of the few countries in the world, relatively few, that have not recognized the State of Palestine. Over 75% of the states in this world, representing the vast majority of the human population, recognizes the State of Palestine.
So, the government, you know, the base of the Liberal Party, clearly this is what this survey demonstrates is, predominantly has a negative view of the Israeli government. And you have a political elite within the Liberal Party that is not prepared to do anything evidently, to ensure the respect for Palestinian rights by the Israeli government. And will support the Israeli government, almost no matter what it does.
There’s a real disconnect here. And I think that disconnect is going to grow over time, and as the public in Canada comes to understand better and better, what is actually being done. And it raises real sort of troubling questions about, you know, democratic legitimacy, and whether we really have a government in our country, that is responsive to the needs and desires of the population — even its own party members, and supporters.
And it says something about the strength of the Israel lobby in this country. It’s very well financed. It’s very well organized. And has a degree of influence that is not proportionate to the level of support that the Israeli government enjoys amongst the Canadian population. I think that’s quite clear.
KIM BROWN: Indeed. We’ve been speaking with Dimitri Lascaris, and Earl Washburn. We’re going to take a quick break, and we’re going to come back with part two of our discussion about the findings of a recent survey, asking Canadian their opinions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It appears from the results of this poll that Canadians’ opinions, or Canadians’ feelings towards this conflict in the Middle East, is not necessarily in step with the party in power, and their policies towards Israel and Palestine.
So, we’re going to come back with part two. You’re watching The Real News Network.
KIM BROWN: Welcome back for part two of our conversation. You’re watching The Real News Network. I’m Kim Brown.
We’re joined with Dimitri Lascaris and Earl Washburn. They conducted a survey amongst Canadians, a survey entitled, “Canadians’ Views of the Israeli Government Versus Canadian Government Policy towards Israel and Palestine.” And they found some very interesting, way about Canadians’ views towards this issue.
So, Dimitri, let me ask you, why was it important to ask people whether they thought criticism of Israel was anti-Semitic, and what were the results that you found?
DIMITRI LASCARIS: So, you know it is very difficult in Canada — certainly Canada’s not the only western country where this is the case — it’s very difficult to have a candid discussion about violation of Palestinian rights by the government of Israel. No matter how severe those violations may be, no matter how long-standing.
And the reason is quite simply, because just about anybody who tries to have that conversation, in a candid way, with reference to the facts and the realities of international law, is branded by a small, but very vocal group of apologists, for the Government of Israel. For example, an organization called, The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. Another organization called, B’nai Brith Canada, and there are a few others, you know, they’re immediately branded as being anti-Semitic and racist.
And nobody likes to have such a serious, and terrible accusation hurled against them, and so people are quite reluctant to have this conversation. And so, it was necessary, we thought, in order to test public opinion on that issue. Does the public actually agree, that criticism of the Israeli government is necessarily anti-Semitic? And clearly, virtually, no one in this country actually believes that. Eighty percent of the supporters of the right-wing conservative government do not accept the proposition that criticism of the Israeli government is anti-Semitic.
And I think that this finding, should embolden people to have the conversation that really needs to be had about, the violations of Palestinian human rights. The Canadian government is very complicit, and has been for a long time, in those violations. It supports the government of Israel economically, militarily, and politically. Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson played a key role. He’s viewed as being a human rights champion, surprisingly within Canada. He actually played a key role in the unjust partition of Palestine, as did a former Canadian Supreme Court Justice, named Ivan Rand.
And from that very moment, we’ve been promoting the Zionist project of the creation of a Jewish state, to the disadvantage of indigenous Palestinian population in that part of the world. And we have an obligation, a heavy burden, because of the complicity of the Canadian government, in the suffering of the Palestinian people, to speak out and to have that conversation.
And so, I’m very encouraged by the fact that the Canadian public just isn’t buying it. They aren’t buying the claim that those who criticize the State of Israel are anti-Semitic.
KIM BROWN: So, how much has media coverage of Israel/Palestine changed over the past few decades, in your opinion, or has it not really changed in Canada?
DIMITRI LACARIS: You know, I haven’t seen much of a change until very recently. The narrative that predominates here, even to this day, and certainly has predominated for decades, is that Israel is the Middle East’s only democracy. Even though it effectively disenfranchises a very substantial portion of the population, based on its ethnicity.
That Israel is surrounded by enemies, and is confronting on a daily basis, an existential threat, even though the dictator of Egypt, Sisi, and his predecessors were at peace with Israel, and essentially do as Israel likes, in terms of regulating the border of Gaza. Even though Jordan is at peace with Israel. Even though Syria’s such a mess, that it couldn’t possibly pose as a significant threat to the very powerful Israeli military. Lebanon’s military, including even Hezbollah, don’t have anywhere near the kind of firepower that the Israeli military has. Israel’s the only nuclear state in the entire Middle East.
By virtue of that alone, it is much better equipped to defend itself than any other state in the Middle East. But the narrative here is that Israel is threatened. Israel is on the verge of being wiped out, and we must do everything possible to protect the Middle East’s only democracy. That’s the narrative.
Now, I indicated at the outset, there’s been change. There have been, surprisingly, some quite critical articles appearing in the mainstream press over the last two to three months, about Israel’s human rights record. There was a piece in the Globe and Mail, by a well-known journalist named Gerald Caplan, in which he essentially compared, or suggested, that Israel may actually be an apartheid state, or on the verge of becoming an apartheid state. There was a similar piece in the Toronto Star, another mainstream organization that has a very wide readership. Again, there was a suggestion that Israel may actually be an apartheid state.
This is remarkable for these types of sentiments to be recited in the mainstream media here. And I think that the reason is, is that it’s no longer become even remotely plausible, that the Israeli government is interested in a just peace. Because it is not only confiscating, illegally, huge swaths of the best land in the West Bank, and it only has annexed East Jerusalem illegally. Like, there are people now within the Israeli government, like the Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, who openly declared that the two-state solution is dead.
They don’t want the Palestinians to have any state. They’re not even being subtle about it any longer; it’s just an open statement that key members of the government routinely make. And all the while, the suffering of the Palestinian people, for example, and particularly in Gaza, which the UN says is on the verge of becoming uninhabitable, there are 1.8 million people trapped in that enclave. It’s on the verge of becoming uninhabitable.
You know, it’s now become so obvious to the public, and to the media, and to the political elites of this country, that the government of Israel has no interest in a just peace. That they can’t, with a straight face, continue that narrative any longer. And I think that that’s why we’re starting to see this change in the tone, and the substance, of the reporting in the mainstream media.
KIM BROWN: And speaking of that, you know, the mainstream has been sort of changing over the last 25 years. Mainstream Israeli society has become more overtly right wing, chauvinistic, and jingoistic.
So, how much of a shift in Canadian attitudes towards Israel/Palestine do you ascribe to the changes within Israeli itself? And how much do you think is down to people simply learning more about the reality of what has been happening over there?
DIMITRI LASCARIS: Well, I think the part; there is absolutely an overtly racist tone to the discourse, in the Israeli government now. For example, the Justice Minister shockingly posted something on her Facebook page not too long ago, which described Palestinian children as little snakes. The Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, whom I just mentioned, openly boasted once about how many Arabs he’s killed.
The Deputy Defense Minister of Israel, the one who was appointed in 2013, stated, and this is reported widely in the Israeli press, that Palestinians are not human, that they’re basically like animals. Those were the words that he used. That language, which is astonishing, it’s astonishing that any Western government purporting to be a human rights champion, and a democracy, would support a government whose ministers make those kinds of statements. That language has not yet appeared in the mainstream press here.
What is appearing, is talk about the Settlement Regulation Law, which, as I say, it seeks to legalize these illegal settlements. The statements, to the effect, that the two-state solution is dead. That’s getting into the press.
But people are, nonetheless, finding out more and more about the overtly racist elements within the Israeli government, through the independent media. I think that’s where they’re getting that information. And they’re relying less and less on organizations like Post Media, the largest newspaper publisher in Canada, which cannot bring itself to say a negative thing about the State of Israel, no matter how bad it’s conduct may be.
KIM BROWN: So Earl, let’s switch back to the methodology of this survey for a moment. I’m curious, you know, what effect do you think, that the fact that this survey was conducted online, rather than by telephone or in person, would have? So, in other words, are there older demographics that may not have seen, or rather, may not have been as involved in this poll?
EARL WASHBURN: Sure. Certainly, as I mentioned, there’s a 10 to 20% of the population that still are not connected online. So, for this particular survey we weren’t able to go out to people via phone. So, yeah, they weren’t included in this survey, so there are certain demographics, of course, that are less likely to be aligned, certainly older demographics, older, and lower educated people for sure.
I feel very confident though, based on our weighting techniques, that we were able to account for that. As I mentioned, we weighted by education. And for a survey, particularly like this, I felt that education was very important to take a look at. And you could see it, there’s a lot of difference in education. The more higher educated you were, the more likely you were to be more skeptical of the Israeli side of things.
So, definitely education played a strong part in the breakdown of this, and I hope that by weighting the data based on the educational portions of the country, we were able to have the data come out to something that closely mirrors the Canadian public.
KIM BROWN: Indeed. Well, the results of your survey has certainly been very revealing about Canadian s’ attitudes, and shifting attitudes, towards Israel/Palestine.
We have been speaking with Earl Washburn. Earl is a Senior Analyst at Ekos Research Associates. And he also played a crucial role in guiding, and designing, and analyzing, the survey behind this report.
We’ve also been joined with Dimitri Lascaris, who is a lawyer/journalist and activist, also a Board member here at The Real News. And if you’re interested in the results of this survey, we have a link to it, available right underneath this interview.
So, gentlemen, thank you very much joining us and sharing the results of your findings.
EARL WASHBURN: Thank you very much.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: Thank you, Kim.
KIM BROWN: And thank you for watching The Real News Network.