February 9, 2009
In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict
[VANCOUVER – Jan. 22, 2009] – Just days after the end of a violent confrontation between Israel and the militant Palestinian organization Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Canadians offer harsh criticism to both parties involved in the conflict, a new Angus Reid Strategies poll has found.
On Dec. 27, Israel launched a military operation in Gaza seeking to stop rocket fire coming into its southern border. The Israeli government holds Hamas—a military and political organization in charge of Gaza—responsible for the launching of rockets. The air-and-ground operation left more than 1,300 people dead on the Palestinian side, while the death toll for Israel was tabled at 13 people. Rocket attacks into Israel continued throughout the duration of the conflict. On Jan. 18, both Israel and Hamas announced separate ceasefires.
In the online survey of a national representative sample, 21 per cent of Canadians say they sympathize more with Israel, while 15 per cent say they sympathize more with the Palestinian people, and 16 per cent feel for both sides. However, a third of Canadians (32%) feel no sympathy for either party.
Canadians are divided on whether Israel was right to go into Gaza and operate the way it did. While 36 per cent of respondents say Israel’s actions were justified, 41 per cent disagree.
Moreover, 45 per cent of Canadians do not believe Israel’s claims that its army tried to limit the number of civilian victims during the attack. A similar proportion of Canadians (43%) thinks Israel did not exhaust all diplomatic alternatives before launching Operation Cast Lead.
When asked about possible reasons for the military engagement, 29 per cent of respondents think the main objective of the operation was to topple the Hamas government, 28 per cent think Israel went into Gaza in order to stop the rocket attacks, and 12 per cent believe Israel sought to occupy Gaza. Very few respondents (6%) think this mission had anything to do with an upcoming legislative election in Israel.
Despite the evident criticism for Israel’s operation, the majority of Canadians (57%) agree with a statement by Junior Foreign Minister Peter Kent, who said that “Hamas bears a terrible responsibility for [Israel’s attack] and for the wider deepening humanitarian tragedy. The burden of responsibility is on Hamas to stop its terrorist rocketing of Israel.”
Regional and Political Breakdowns
Respondents in Alberta (30%) are more sympathetic towards Israel than others. They are also most inclined to believe that Israel’s actions in Gaza were justified (46%, compared to 42% in Ontario, and less than 37% in all other regions).
Again, Alberta holds the highest proportion of respondents who believe that Israel tried to limit the number of civilian casualties in this operation (44%, followed by Ontario at 37%), and that all diplomatic options were exhausted before the military mission was launched (also 44%, followed by Ontario at 32%). Most Albertans (74%) agree with Kent’s remarks about Hamas.
Quebeckers, on the other hand, are much more inclined than others to express no sympathy for either Israel or the Palestinians (47%). They are also most prone to calling Israel’s actions in Gaza unjustified (53%), doubting claims that the Israeli Defence Forces tried to limit the number of civilian victims (55%), and thinking that not all diplomatic options were utilized before the military drive in Gaza (51%).
Conservative voters are remarkably more sympathetic to Israel (43%) than Canadians who back other political parties (less than 23%). Tory supporters are also more likely to call Israel’s actions justified (63% compared to less than 30% for others); believe the government tried to reduce the impact of the operation on Palestinian civilians (54% compared to less than 27% for others), and claim that all diplomatic options were exhausted before the operation began (52% compared to less than 34% for others.)