Middle East

Support For Israel In Canada Drops

Canadian support for Israel is on the decline, particularly among Canadians aged 18-34, according to surveys conducted by Forum Research Inc. in December 2012 and May 2014.

In this age group, the polling company found, pro-Israel sentiment has dropped from 23 percent in 2012 to 12 percent this year. By contrast, pro-Palestinian opinion jumped from 14 percent to 20 percent among this demographic — Canada’s new generation.

Canadians who support neither side rose to 64 percent from 60 percent.

Frank Dimant
Frank Dimant

Assessing this abysmal situation, Frank Dimant, the outgoing chief executive officer of B’nai Brith Canada, called it “troubling” news for two reasons.

First, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is one of the most pro-Israel governments in the world, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has commented. Second, Israel advocacy organizations, such as B’nai Brith and the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, work exceedingly hard to promote Israeli interests.

In Dimant’s judgment, Israel’s opponents in Canada have succeeded in “spreading their hate campaign” and have left “a lasting impression on the minds of Canadians.” He adds, “To think otherwise would be fooling ourselves.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Prime Minister Stephen Harper

According to Dimant, as reported in the June 26 edition of The Jewish Tribune, the house organ of B’nai Brith, Israel has been pummelled by the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and by Israeli Apartheid Week on Canadian university campuses.

Taking all these factors into consideration, Dimant concludes, “It’s time to wake Canadians up to the real root causes of the Middle East conflict. It’s not about Israel’s borders, it’s about the Islamist push for a world-wide caliphate.”

It’s quite true that diehard Islamic fundamentalists, especially The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS, are working furiously to create a Sunni religious state, based on the dictates of shariah law, in the Fertile Crescent. It’s also true that radical Islamists in Syria are fighting to establish a theocratic state, which could imperil the Christian minority and place Shiite Muslims in dire jeopardy.

These threats should not be underestimated.

But to suggest, as Dimant does, that borders are irrelevant in the Arab-Israeli conflict is to engage in cynicism and myopia of the highest order. Judging by his right-wing commentaries, Dimant is an ardent supporter of the Jewish settlement project in the West Bank, which many believe is an obstacle to peace, and is an opponent of a genuine two-state solution, which can promote Arab-Jewish reconciliation and stability.

Given his views, it’s less than surprising that Dimant underplays the importance of borders in resolving the Arab-Israeli dispute. As far as he’s concerned, one imagines, the status quo is just fine.

It isn’t.

Amos Yadlin, the former chief of Israeli military intelligence, warned just the other day that the status quo may yet “harm” Israel in the long run — causing delegitimization, boycotts, economic woes and, eventually, a one-state solution, which would spell the end to Israel’s Jewish and democratic character.

The status quo, too, poisons the atmosphere, deepens the impasse between Israel and the Palestinians, perpetuates the Arab-Israeli conflict, gives rise to tragedies such as the recent kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, and isolates Israel in Canada and on the international stage.

It’s no wonder that misconceived and short-sighted Israeli policies, as practised by the current Israeli government, alienate many young Canadians.

Israeli policies alienate younger Canadians
Israeli policies alienate younger Canadians

As well, Dimant argues that Israel is “fighting to preserve the democratic values and legal systems underpinning Western civilization, which includes human rights for everyone regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual identity.”

Israel is indeed a democracy in a region inured to autocracy, but its occupation of the West Bank robs the Palestinians of the opportunity for statehood and dignity and greatly undermines Israel’s status as a Jewish, democratic and progressive state.

In this day and age, Israel’s occupation, now in its 47th year, is not only unreasonable and unsustainable but indefensible. It’s unworthy of Israel’s history as a democratic state, and it should end as soon as possible through good-faith negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

Dimant laments Israel’s unpopularity among younger Canadians, but fails to understand its real root causes. Like many self-appointed Jewish leaders in Canada and elsewhere, he hews to and champions an Israel-can-do-no-wrong policy, which is morally and politically bankrupt.

Jews in Canada should vigorously reject such leadership and form a new and mature relationship with Israel.