Brits turn their backs on Israel boycotts

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Brits turn their backs on Israel boycotts

A dramatic rise in opposition to boycotts of Israel among the British public is revealed in a new survey published today.

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

A Populus opinion poll, commissioned by Israel and Middle East think tank BICOM, shows more than half of the 2,050 respondents are against “singling out” Israel with boycotts.

The numbers show that 51 percent of respondents “do not boycott Israeli goods,” an eight percent rise when compared to figures from a similar poll in October 2015.

Similarly, 56 percent thought that Israel boycotts “hurt both Palestinians and Israelis” – nine percent more than 2015.

“Our poll shows a very significant shift against the idea of boycotting Israel,” said BICOM chief executive James Sorene.

“The British sense of fair play is a clear theme in the poll as time and again respondents reject singling out Israel, given everything else going on in the world.”

Of those surveyed, 48 percent felt that “hating Israel and questioning its right to exist” was “anti-Semitic,” with 45 percent of Muslim respondents agreeing with that statement, while only 20 percent thought otherwise.

Elsewhere, some 57 percent said simply criticising Israel was not in itself anti-Semitic.

Interestingly, in the week of the 99th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, 43 percent also said they agreed with Britain’s then-foreign secretary Lord Balfour, who wrote in support of a Jewish homeland in historic Palestine in 1917. This figure was up from 40 percent last year.

In addition, 57 percent of respondents felt that Israel was Britain’s ally, the highest percentage for any Middle Eastern country. Again, this figure was higher than in 2015, with a five percent increase.

“The judgement of the British people is stark,” said Sorene. “They understand that hating Israel and questioning its right to exist is pure anti-Semitism.”

Israel’s ambassador to the UK Mark Regev commented on the BICOM poll: “Today’s results affirm the strong ties between our two countries. It is encouraging that more than ever, Britons view Israel as their strongest ally in the region. Equally important, most people correctly believe that demonization of Israel is in fact anti-Semitic, and must not be tolerated”.

Joan Ryan MP, Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, said: “This poll underlines that the boycott movement, which is morally wrong and economically damaging, does not speak for the British people. It is a powerful signal that this country rejects the attempt to delegitimise and demonise the state of Israel, and recognises the anti-Semitism which underlies such attitudes.”

Simon Johnson, Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council said: “The findings of this report are positive and encouraging. The move in opinion against BDS demonstrates the work of various organisations to better inform the British public about the ongoing situation in the middle-east. Research like this is important in uncovering true public opinion which is often misrepresented across the UK.

I hope that this study acts as a foundation from which we can build on when looking to further educate on Israel issues in the future.”

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