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Jewish groups slam survey on Jews’ attitudes to Israel

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Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem FILE PHOTO
Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem (FILE PHOTO)

A recent poll commissioned by Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) and the United Jewish People’s Order found that “a significant portion” of Canadian Jews are critical of Israel’s policies concerning the Palestinians and that almost half believe accusations of anti-Semitism are often used to silence legitimate criticism of the Israeli government.

“Jewish Canadians are deeply divided in their view of the Israeli government,” the survey reported. “More than one-third (37 per cent) view the Israeli government negatively, while 50 per cent have a positive opinion of the Israeli government.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and B’nai Brith Canada criticized the survey, saying the questions were leading and meant to elicit a negative response about Israeli policy. CIJA also questioned the credibility of the survey’s author, Diana Ralph, a retired social work professor who once wrote that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by the United States and Israel.

The poll, titled Jewish Canadians’ Diverse Views on Israel-Palestine, was conducted by EKOS Research Associates on June 25 and Sept. 5, 2018 – in the midst of the Gaza border clashes that saw Israel face international censure – and solicited the views of 359 Canadian Jews, with a heavy emphasis on those in Ontario and British Columbia.

The survey found:

• 31 per cent oppose Israel’s blockade of Gaza, while 57 per cent support it;

• 45 per cent oppose the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while 42 support it;

• 30 per cent consider the Palestinians’ call for a boycott reasonable, while 53 per cent don’t;

• 22 per cent believe it is reasonable for Canada to impose sanctions on Israel, compared to 58 per cent who do not; and

• 48 per cent agree that accusations of anti-Semitism are often used to silence legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies.

The poll was released two years after a 2017 study that surveyed the views of Canadians of all backgrounds and found that “most Canadians have a negative opinion of the Israeli government and specifically its treatment of Palestinian people,” Ralph stated.

“The (current) survey’s findings indicate once again that the federal government and its major political parties are out of touch with the views of Canadians on these issues, and that, like Canadians generally, many Jewish Canadians do not support Canada’s uncritically pro-Israel stance.”

Rachel Epstein, the executive director of the United Jewish People’s Order, said, “I am heartened to see that many Jews don’t fall prey to the idea that valid criticisms of Israel are anti-Semitic. This unethical manipulation belittles true anti-Semitism, which, as we recently witnessed in Pittsburgh, is on the rise.”

IJV spokesman Corey Balsam said the survey was conducted to determine the extent to which Canadian Jews agree with the position of the survey’s sponsors.

“We expected that quite a lot of Jewish Canadians are critical (of Israeli policy) and agree with us on a lot of points that are not reflected in the Jewish organizations that claim to speak on behalf of the Jewish community,” he said.

He argued that policymakers should take note of the findings, which show that the Jewish community is not monolithic and does not support the U.S. Embassy’s move to Jerusalem.

READ: SCHOLAR’S ISRAEL-PALESTINE SOLUTION SPARKS CONTROVERSY

CIJA, however, came down hard on the report and its author. “This report should be reviewed with caution, given deficiencies in the survey questions and reasonable assumptions that can be made about the motivations of the poll’s sponsor and the report’s author,” said CIJA CEO Shimon Fogel.

“Independent Jewish Voices is a pro-BDS organization that has never endorsed the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. It is telling that this report was not authored by EKOS, but rather by IJV co-founder Diana Ralph, whose other works include a chapter in a 9/11 truther book, in which she strongly suggests that Israeli and American leaders were behind the Sept. 11 terror attack. To suggest that the report released today is credible, given its sponsor and author, is to insult the intelligence of Canadians.…

“This is not the first time (IJV) has sponsored a poll in which the questions appear to be designed to elicit answers that support an anti-Israel narrative.

“When asking respondents what they think of particular issues – such as Israel’s naval blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza, the West Bank security barrier, the idea of sanctions against Israel – a preamble is first read to respondents that clearly primes them in one direction.

“For example, when asking about the Gaza naval blockade, no mention is made of Hamas terrorism or the UN’s ruling that the naval blockade is legal. Instead, respondents are simply told about the impact the policy has on Gazans, devoid of all context.

“Another question asks whether the respondent agrees that criticism of Israel is not necessarily anti-Semitic. Who could possibly disagree with such a statement? In fact, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism clearly notes that criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against other countries cannot be considered anti-Semitic.

The same definition points out that anti-Semitism can include targeting Israel as a Jewish collectivity, something IJV consistently rejects despite the evidence. Unlike IHRA, IJV seems to think that criticism of Israel cannot possibly be anti-Semitic, which helps explain why IJV is so out-of-touch with the Canadian Jewish community. The inclusion of such a ridiculous question seems to be designed to advance this denial of anti-Semitism targeting Israelis.”

Michael Mostyn, the CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, said that, “There are flaws with the methodology of the survey that affects and raises questions about its findings.

“While EKOS is an experienced polling firm, the questions seem to be inappropriately leading responders to answer in a certain way, due to the leading nature and order of the questions, which is called priming. Also, there was too small a sample size, while 10 per cent of those questioned were not even of the Jewish faith.

“This alone makes the IJV survey bogus.”

Earl Washburn, a senior analyst at EKOS, said that “the client had the questions and I helped with the wording to make sure it was as neutral as possible.” He also said he was unaware of Ralph’s previous writings.

Washburn acknowledged that the survey sampled more Jews from British Columbia than Quebec, but said that “this discrepancy is partially due the demographics of our panel.… Still, we are confident that this study can be considered representative of the Jewish (religious and secular) population as a whole.”

Referring to CIJA’s critique of Ralph, Balsam said that, “This is a way for them to obfuscate and ignore the results of the poll.… They want to ignore the real issues and focus on attacking individuals.”