Groundbreaking new poll results show broad support in Canada for boycotts and sanctions against Israel. The Palestinian call for a boycott of Israel was considered a reasonable response to violations of international law, including Israel’s ongoing construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian territories, by 78 per cent of respondents, while 66 per cent said sanctions were reasonable.
“These results should give courage to those MPs who want to do the right thing on this issue,” Thomas Woodley, president of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, told Ricochet by telephone on Thursday.
The poll was carried out by EKOS and commissioned by CJPME, Independent Jewish Voices, and several individuals. The first part of the polling results, released last month, revealed that a majority of Canadians believe their government is biased towards Israel in its Mideast policy.
Liberal government out of step with its supporters
The new results should give pause to the governing Liberals, who, with exception of a few MPs, voted in February 2016 in support of Conservative MP Tony Clement’s motion to condemn civil society movements that advocate for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
The motion, which passed by a margin of 229 to 51 – with the NDP, Greens, and Bloc Québécois opposed – called for the government to condemn “any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.”
Despite the Conservative-Liberal consensus in Parliament, it turns out the public is very much open to boycott and sanctions against Israel. The EKOS poll found over 90 per cent of NDP, Green, and Bloc supporters thought boycotts were a reasonable measure in response to Israel’s violations of international law. The numbers for Liberals weren’t far behind at 88 per cent. (The full results of the EKOS polling are available here.)
“The level of disconnect between public opinion and elite political thinking on Israel-Palestine could not be greater,” Dimitri Lascaris, a Green Party activist who helped sponsor the polling, told Ricochet. “If our government purports to be truly representative of the Canadian people, then it is time that it holds Israel to account for its violations of international law.”
Official Canadian government policy calls for a two-state solution in the Middle East and is opposed to Israel’s policy of settlement-building in the occupied Palestinian territories. As prime ministers, both Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau, however, have been outspoken in their condemnation of BDS strategies used by groups in Canada advocating for peace and justice in the region. In 2015, as opposition party leader, Trudeau condemned BDS activism at his alma mater of McGill University.
Despite Trudeau’s prominent opposition, in February 2016 a motion was passed at McGill calling on the student union to adopt BDS.
Will political parties follow public opinion?
In December 2016, the Green Party of Canada adopted a policy calling for sanctions against Israel following a bitter, months-long internal debate.
“The real question is whether the large parties are going to follow up. The position of Tom Mulcair, for example, is radically at odds with the base of his party,” added Lascaris, explaining that he had personally heard from many Liberal and NDP activists and members that they were dissatisfied with their party leaders’ public statements on Israel and Palestine. “Now they are armed with evidence that this is a vote-winner, this is not going to cost the party political support.”
“We have advocacy planned to make sure this information gets out to members of Parliament, and we’re hoping to be able to talk face-to-face with as many MPs as possible,” said Woodley. “Politicians need to know that positions of support for Palestinian human rights and international law are positions that are supported by the public at large.”