Most Canadians think it’s “reasonable” to boycott Israel: survey


A few months ago, the UN security council unanimously condemned ALL of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank (including in East Jerusalem) as flagrant violations of international law. So far Canada has done nothing about it. But a new survey shows that Canadians think Canada should apply sanctions on Israel. Read more.

A new survey of Canadian attitudes toward Israel shows that a majority of Canadians would like us to apply sanctions on Israel, including a boycott of Israeli products, for its violations of international law.

The survey was carried out in January/February 2017 by EKOS Research Associates, a respected polling firm. It asked 1000 randomly selected adult Canadians a series of questions regarding their view of Israel and of the Canadian government’s official attitude toward Israel.

More Canadians had a negative (46%) than a positive (28%) opinion of the Israeli government.

More Canadians believe that the Canadian government is pro-Israel (61%) than pro-Palestinian (16%).

– EKOS poll

The negative perception of Israel is surprising in light of the considerable efforts made by Israel and its advocates in Canada to boost its image.

But perhaps the most surprising finding was that a very large majority of Canadians feel that boycotting Israel is “reasonable” in light of its ongoing violations of international law. It appears that recent motions in both the Federal and Ontario legislatures condemning the international movement to boycott Israel (called BDS – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), do not reflect, nor seem to have significantly affected public opinion.

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Ekos Canada survey of 1000 Canadians Jan/Feb. 2017

I interviewed Mr. Lascaris about what he feels is the significance of the survey.

The EKO survey was commissioned by a consortium of human rights organizations including Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV), Murray Dobbin and Dimitri Lascaris. Mr. Lascaris has been instrumental in bringing a discussion about boycotting Israel to the Green Party of Canada.


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue. If you support our educational mission, why not join? Or make a donation? Or learn more about what we do?  Contact us at:



  1. Thanks CTIP and Peter for your role to inform Canadians objectively about I/P. Thanks Dimitri, and other groups who sponsored the poll, for your principled position and courage. Canadians are fair and always support human rights when they get the facts. We need our government to act the same way!

  2. I agree. It is an encroachment on land and territory where Israel has no rights. Israel is doing a lot of harm to itself and its reputation by acting as a “bully” and trying to lay claim to land that is not part of its country, It is also creating hardship among a people who have a right to live as citizens in a country with all the rights they have earned.
    I wish that Israel would have more respect for its neighbors and not try to take over new territory. If it continues down this path, I will loose all respect for the government of Israel and its people,

  3. Those questions as asked are highly leading. The context of the questions were assertions of the pro-sanctions case and then they were asked. The survey respondents were asked if policy X would be “reasonable” not if it would be their choice of policy from all possible alternatives. They were not given alternative policies and asked to pick between them. The questions were not phrased in negative form to determine how stable the numbers are.

    No one responsible who is trying to get an accurate measure of political opinion does a survey that way. The only thing that survey tells you is in the negative 34% of Canadians have a strong pro-Israel opinion and wouldn’t support sanctions against Israel under almost any conditions. It doesn’t tell you much about the positive direction because the questions are designed to elicit a positive response. Most people’s opinions on most political issues are either non-existent or weak. Change the phrasing of the question you change the answer.

    For example you don’t just ask about “censuring countries” for violating international law and human rights. All you are testing for is that Canadians like the concept of international law and human rights.

    Here are the 4 questions from the survey:

    1. Canada currently imposes economic and political sanctions on 21 countries due to their serious violations of international law and/or human rights abuses. Do you think sanctions are a reasonable way for Canada to censure countries for violations of international law or human rights?

    Note the “21 countries clause”. This helps to get a yes. Its also important that this question comes first. A person answering question (2) below after a yes here knows they are contradicting themselves. This sequence is designed to get a maximum yes for question (2).

    2. In December 2016, the United Nations Security Council voted 14-0 (with the United States abstaining) to declare that the Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory were a “…flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of […] peace” between Israel and Palestine. Given this statement by the U.N Security Council, do you believe that some sort of Canadian government sanctions on Israel would be reasonable?

    Note the context. There is an assertion that everyone agrees that Israel has engaged in a “flagrant violation of international law” which presents a “major obstacle to peace” Both very negative things. The fact with the setup of question 1 and this phrasing you still get a drop off in support of 25% is simply staggeringly strong support for Israel among Canadians.

    3. In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled unanimously that Israel’s settlements on Palestinian territory violate international law. In response, one year later, over 170 Palestinian citizen’s organizations called for a boycott to ensure Israel’s respect for international law. Do you consider the Palestinians’ call for boycott to be reasonable?

    Note here the appeal to authority without counterbalancing information. You are testing for maximum possible support. 22% opposition with that phrasing is really high. This question like (1) is a setup for question (4).

    4. In February, 2016, Canada’s Parliament adopted a motion (by a vote of 229-51) to condemn Canadian individuals and organizations who promote the Palestinian call for a boycott to pressure Israel to respect international law. Do you support or oppose Parliament condemning Canadian individuals and organizations who promote the Palestinian call for such a boycott?

    Note the setup in (3). Having gotten many respondents (78%) to agree sanction are reasonable you now tell them that the Canadian parliament is condemning them. And thus whether they agree with being condemned by parliament. The appeal to authority plays weird here though and you still see a 4% swing towards “yes I should be condemned”. Of course as the survey mentions you have a lot of ignorance on this issue which skews the data unlike the other 3 questions. 1/5-1/4 of the Canadians admit to knowing so little about this issue they can’t judge.

    The setup didn’t work the voters were too ignorant of the issue. But even with ignorance at play 26% support for condemning people who promote boycott is staggering: 20% of LPC voters even 13% of greens!

    The final conclusion is total nonsense. “On the contrary, this survey strongly suggests that Green, NDP, Liberal, and Bloc Québécois parties stand to gain voter support if they endorse sanctions on Israel.” There was not a single question even remotely related to voter support and whether that would cause voters to be more or less likely to support candidates who take that view. Agreeing with a position and wanting to vote for politicians who take that positions are very very different things. To pick an example from the USA there are many racists in the north east, and upper midwest who have a very negative personal opinion of blacks. When asked about supporting politicians who support racist policies even among those voters the numbers are low. If you dig in, what you find is those voters have a strong belief in concept of equality before the law as best policy and a strong opposition to enacting their own biases as law.

    We have no idea based on this survey how strongly the various voters felt about their respective opinions and what the changes in voter opinion towards the parties would be even with the leading questions. Much less in a context where the other side is phrasing the policies in a negative way providing evidence of unfairness, corruption, increased costs to Canadians in their daily lives…

    What you want to do if you actually want to conduct this survey is see how stable those numbers are under negative phrasing. Things like:

    Would you support Canadian sanctions on Israel that cost Canada $400m per year in tax revenue (and thus are likely to raise your family’s taxes by about $70) if there is commensurate cost to Israelis? i.e. try and make it clear that a sanctions regime is negative to both sides. And then try it with purely negative phrasing. “ What about if you were to discover that those sanctions, and $400m cost primarily benefited friends of the Trudeau government who were politically connected and now had a government guaranteed monopoly as a result of those sanctions?” See if the numbers hold up. If they do you have deep support for sanctions that is likely to hold up under real debate otherwise you just have surface support from the pro-sanctions side (which I think is likely for much of this support).

    Sorry Peter but this survey shows the exact opposite of what you are claiming it shows. Those are hugely positive results for Canadian’s attitudes towards Israel. If anything they demonstrate a solid voting block that hates the idea of sanctions and boycott. The survey demonstrates an almost certainty that if a sanctions / boycott policy were being debated it would be vigorously opposed. Moreover this opposition would continue even if there was a social consensus towards implementation. What it doesn’t show is how solid the pro-sanctions position is in the face of that opposition. Looking at those numbers you can’t learn too much. It is a terrible survey but from what you can learn I think Justin Trudeau played this right politically. Your own data is demonstrating this.

    1. When has Canada or any other nation ever posed questions such as you imply in your second to last paragraph?

      Show me one opinion poll released on behalf of Justin Trudeau, Stephen Harper, Paul Martin, Jean Chretien, Brian Mulroney or Pierre Trudeau or any other Canadian PM in the past century who sought a consensus by starting out listing all the potential negatives should a government initiative go ahead.

      My read of those who are to opposed such boycotts is that the vast majority are old-line Reform/Cons who continue to try to improve the image of their one and only PM

      Tell me, when have you even been polled with such negative openers unless the authors are in pursuit of a negative response? Every action by every government can be construed to cost us tax dollars.

      Grow up, Bibi brought this on himself thanks to the willingness of weak Canadian politicians to stand with him against Canada’s longterm claims to support human rights everywhere.

      Frankly I take much comfort from recent events in Canada and the US where ordinary Jews and ordinary Muslims are now joining in solidarity to stop racism and hatred in all it’s forms following attacks on their religious facilities.

      I may not be religious, but I know I share a love for human rights with many religious people who want that solidarity to win out over evil and intolerance.

      1. @allan

        That’s pretty standard polling. As for me personally yes. Just for example about 3 weeks ago I got polled by what I think was a poll paid for by Horizon of NJ regarding a change to reserve rules that Chris Christie was proposing. During the poll they asked about 40 questions all of them “would this make you more or less likely to support the initiative”. Some presented arguments for the proposal (which I think they opposed) others presented were what I suspect are potential counter arguments.

        For example:
        negative: depleting the reserves will result in increased costs for NJ insurance consumers
        negative: this legal change only impacts non profits and so will benefit Christie’s for profit insurance donors.

        positive: This initiative has bipartisan support.
        postive: The money will be targeted for opioid addition and not be used as part of general revenues.

        They want a good idea of how well the public’s opinions are going to hold up.

        Here is the public policy poll which tracks Trump’s job approval you’ll notice they ask related question 56 times to see how reliable the number is:

        You can see they publish an Anova where they correlate obvious factors (like voted for Donald Trump) with belief in factual claims (Has the United States started building the wall with Mexico).

        That’s what a good poll should look like.


        As for wanting human rights and solidarity to win out over intolerance… given that you are a BDSer and thus openly call for mass ethnic intolerance as a matter of both social and legal practice I’m not sure what to say. Your group has a long track record already in Canada as one of the most divisive political action groups in the country.

      2. @allan

        My read of those who are to opposed such boycotts is that the vast majority are old-line Reform/Cons who continue to try to improve the image of their one and only PM

        Sorry but no. The survey tracked by party. We know by party how the voters answered.

        Even with the setup from question 1 to question 2 (thus making people who had weak opinions likely to answer question 2 favorably) you saw a short drop off. The CPC goes from only 7% opposing sanctions in general to 70% opposing them for Israel. Which is way too much for this to just be Reform voters. You had a similar drop of where 20% of LPC voters who support sanctions generally but wouldn’t support them against Israel. You also see high numbers among NDP and GPC voters who don’t support sanctions generally (16%, 12%). Your theory doesn’t hold up.

        Those LPC numbers with this setup should leave you very worried. BDS is a policy that can’t get a consensus in the LPC. Those 20% are a serious problem for a pro sanctions consensus.

        Question #4 approving of parliament’s condemnation of BDS is also by party:
        13% of Greens
        15% of NDP
        20% of LPC
        22% of BQ (which is weird since 94% of BQ support sanctions against Israel. I’m assuming they consider RoR intolerable).
        46% of CPC

        Sure there is a definite correlation right-left on condemning BDS. But it ain’t just conservatives that believe parliament did the right thing in condemning BDS.

  4. For nearly 70 years the Palestinians fought for what was theirs, they were labelled as terrorists and barbarians and were told to “denounce terrorism”, so they did… they kept stealing land culture lives, etc. Boycotting Israel is extremely reasonable considering what Israel has done. Boycotting them is not enough, they should be blockaded like what they have done to Gaza!

    1. @Abe

      Israel has a 1st rate air force. They have subs (though not a ton). They have surface to sea missiles. Walk me through the logistics of this blockade.

      Who is doing it.
      What ships?
      Where are the ships positioned?

      1. @CD-host, The Israeli Air Force and Navy are very effective in the eastern Mediterranean and northern Red Sea, but Israel have an Achilles heel, if you completely block the strait of Gibraltar *and* Bab-el-Mandab you will sever most of the merchant shipping to and from Israel (as well as about ~20% of the total world trade) Israel will be left with only merchant shipping to Europe and airline shipping to the rest of the world. I believe that the US and the UK can pull such a blockade if they work together, France and Russia are unlikely to be on board as such a blockade will effectively block their southern ports as well

  5. It is Past Due to Condemn Israel for the continued Illegal Settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem! Do not allow Israel to move its capital to Jerusalem as this will cause further strife in Jerusalem.

  6. @Ahik

    First off thank you for a real answer! I agree that’s a pretty easy place to maintain a blockade on Israeli shipping, too far from shore to harass the ships from Israel land yet critical for global trade. That doesn’t even require the USA a coalition of weaker countries could pull it off. So let’s assume pretty easily you can stop Israeli trade from getting through directly i.e. Israeli flag ships aren’t getting in or out. You also can stop boats that are fully loaded with Israeli goods.

    The problem that sort of blockade runs into is that’s a very busy place. It is very easy for Israel to move goods within the Mediterranean and have them load onto another ship mixed in. You have to monitor for triangle trade activity from: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Moldovia, Romania, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia, Italy, Monaco, France and Spain.

    First off that’s not a bad chunk of Israel’s trade already. Its also far too much surface area to monitor. Even if the governments were officially supportive think about the amount of organized crime in some of those countries. Now imagine you have a state assisting the organized crime. Countries like Spain you would be looking at boat -> Spain -> train -> Atlantic port … You wouldn’t be able to stop much of anything with a blockade that far.

    I’d also exclude the USA btw from your analysis. They are a game changer. The situation is very different than the UK. The USA has an enormous navy quite a bit more advanced than other countries. The USA could block Israeli shipping directly from off the coast of Israel (excluding nukes but the USA would also win a nuclear exchange). They can get close enough. The question for the USA is how you would get the USA to be that hostile to Israel to want to maintain a blockade? The USA also has far more attackable interests which plays to Israel’s strength.

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