What Canadians really think about Israel/Palestine

— and what major media won’t tell you

Michael Lesher
Reprinted from Times of Israel by permission of the author
As a citizen of a democracy, wouldn’t you want to know if the policy of your government ran directly contrary to the will of its electorate?

As a news reader, wouldn’t you prefer accurate information from your newspapers and TV news broadcasts about one of the prominent issues of the day?

As a law-abiding person, wouldn’t you want your government to allow its citizens to pursue peaceful means to promote worldwide adherence to the basic norms of international law?

If you’ve answered “yes” to these questions – and you’re Canadian – get ready to be angry. Because you’ve been had.

Three times over.

Canadians say yes to BDS
Canadians say yes to BDS

According to the results of a recent on-line survey of 1,000 Canadians, your government’s policy on Israel/Palestine, particularly with respect to sanctioning Israel over its occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem (which, according to a unanimous International Court of Justice in 2004, is “occupied Palestinian territory”), directly contradicts the opinion of the great majority of your fellow Canadians.

Canadians say yes to BDS

The results of the survey, conducted by EKOS Research Associates and issued by Independent Jewish Voices Canada and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, are as clear as they are startling. Canadians overwhelmingly believe boycotts divestment and sanctions (BDS) to be “reasonable” measures to secure Israel’s adherence to international law. Nearly all of the poll’s respondents (91%) do not believe that criticism of the Israeli government is evidence of anti-Semitism. In fact, even most respondents who identified themselves as Jewish consider the Palestinian call for boycotts to be “reasonable.” Two-thirds of all the respondents said that sanctions on Israel would be reasonable and more than three quarters said the Palestinian call for BDS was reasonable.

Take a moment to allow those findings to sink in. According to the poll results, the great majority of Canadians of all political persuasions and ethnicities, despite decades of indoctrination to the contrary, still believe Israel should be treated like other states whenever it deviates from international norms. Yet the Canadian government — including the leadership of the now-dominant Liberal Party — consistently works to protect Israel from the standards of international law at the United Nations, supports Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestinian land, and demonizes Canadians who urge the use of boycotts to defend Palestinian rights…even claiming that such measures are expressions of anti-Semitism.

Which means that your “democratic” government is thumbing its nose at public opinion; and the officials supposedly responsible for the administration of justice are helping a foreign power defy international law. Not to mention slandering those who support justice.

MSM in denial

And mainstream Canadian news media? Well, their performance completes the outrage. Major news outlets in Canada have virtually ignored the EKOS survey. Anyone interested in knowing what Canadians actually think about the measures taken by their government, in connection with one of the most sensitive regions in the world, have to look to “alternative” media to find out: Ricochet Media, the Real News Network, the Hill-Times, Rabble.ca, Huffington Post Canada, Journal de Montreal, and Counterpunch are among the outlets that have picked up the story. By contrast, the Canadian Broadcasting Company carried nary a word about the poll; nor did Postmedia, Canada’s largest newspaper publisher. Global News online did mention the survey results, but its article was posted shortly before midnight on a Friday, when few people were paying attention.

That’s about as fundamental a lapse as one could reasonably imagine in what is supposed to be a functioning democracy.

After all, it’s not just that the political leadership of North America’s two largest countries continues to support a rogue state in the Middle East, no matter how blatant its crimes. And it’s not just that the leadership is doing this – as far as we can tell from the evidence – directly against the will of its constituency, at least in Canada.

No, that’s not all. The ugly truth is that most of you haven’t even been told about any of this. And if you don’t know, you can’t do anything about it. The most basic prerequisite for true democracy – an informed electorate – is being denied to you.

Nor is it just the EKOS poll results your mainstream media hasn’t told you about. Did you know, for instance, that in 2015 the Israeli civil rights organization B’Tselem “documented a five-day campaign of violence by [Israeli Jewish] settlers against Palestinians” in one West Bank town alone? During the all too typical rampage, “[s]ettlers threw stones and bottles at homes near the Kiryat Arba settlement fence, as Israeli security forces looked on…. In another incident, settlers and Palestinians threw stones at each other. Soldiers joined the settlers, firing tear-gas at the Palestinians, providing an extreme example of the imbalance of power in the West Bank, with Israeli forces backing settler violence.”

If you get your news from popular media, you almost certainly never heard anything about this, nor about dozens of incidents just like it. You heard plenty about “Palestinian terrorism” and how opponents of the illegal Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory were “demonizing Israel.” But you didn’t know – because you weren’t told – that settler violence against the native population (the land’s rightful owners) is the much larger problem, let alone that it’s backed by the power of the Israeli army. Nor did anybody tell you that the folks who are “demonizing Israel” are accurately describing real events.

Who are the terrorists?

Or what about that old chestnut, “funding terrorism”? Consumers of mainstream media may well have seen a sanctimonious column on that subject by Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy for the Union of Orthodox Congregations of America — the biggest Orthodox umbrella organization in the United States. Diament appears to be outraged over stipends the Palestinian Authority, which receives an annual pittance from the US, pays to the families of West Bank Palestinians who are killed or imprisoned by Israeli forces. Many lawmakers in the US appear to share Diament’s fury.

But while anyone can hear the highly amplified voices of people like Diament, voices that typically describe all Palestinian resistance as “terror,” few readers of the mainstream press will see a word of criticism about the vast sums — some $5 billion annually these days — with which US taxpayers fund Israel’s terror campaigns in the West Bank and Gaza. Did you know, for instance, that Israeli violence killed 32 Palestinian children last year in the West Bank alone — that’s almost 3 children per month — the highest total of such killings in 10 years? No, your politicians and mainstream news media were too busy telling you that Israel is a “great friend” of the West. (Which may be true; after all, so was Saddam Hussein, not so very long ago.)

But let’s return to the EKOS survey. Perhaps the poll’s most impressive finding, though it wasn’t directly reported in the text, is that the Canadian public isn’t being fooled by big Canadian media or by Canadian politicians. Despite all the propaganda, all the chest-pounding in favor of a state whose West Bank apartheid, in the words of South African and former UN Special Rapporteur John Dugard, is “infinitely worse” than “the apartheid regime of South Africa,” Canadians still know how to call a spade a spade.

That suggests, in turn, a most hopeful truth. Yes, politicians and media bigwigs can suppress the findings of the EKOS poll, making it harder for Canadians to know that they’re being hoodwinked by their government, and kept in the dark by their press, when it comes to holding Israel accountable for its violations of international law.

#HasbaraFail – again

But it’s obvious that the trick is getting played out. If the trend continues, Canadians — for whom the propaganda (or Hasbara to use the Hebrew term) has manifestly failed — will soon add to their basic disagreements with their government over Israel/Palestine the keen awareness of how consistently they’ve been betrayed. Once that line has been crossed, there will be no turning back. Anti-democratic tricks to save Israel from the legal consequences of its own acts are likely to collapse under the weight of public anger. And anti-BDS legislation in Canada will be unthinkable.

How do I know? Because you’ve just read this column to the end. Whoever you are, and whatever you knew or didn’t before you started reading, you know now how wide a gulf separates Canadian public opinion from the government’s blind allegiance to the Jewish state.

And nothing is going to make you forget it.

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