More Canadians view Israel as an apartheid state than a vibrant democracy

Michael Arria

Mondoweiss  /  September 6, 2023

A new survey from EKOS Research Associates shows that 38% of Canadians view Israel as a state with segregation similar to apartheid. Just 11% said it was a vibrant democracy.

new survey reveals that “apartheid” is the most popular choice when Canadians are asked how they view Israel, while just a small number identify the state as a “vibrant democracy.”

In early August 1,089 Canadians were polled by the EKOS Research Associates on behalf of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME). A sizable number of said they didn’t know how to classify Israel, but the largest number of respondents (38%) who provided an answer said that Israel is a country with segregation similar to apartheid. The number of Canadians who said Israel was a “vibrant democracy” was almost three times less. (11%)

The numbers are particularly striking among younger Canadians, with 48% of those aged 18–34 saying Israel is an apartheid state.

“Despite the efforts of Israel’s supporters to dismiss the apartheid term as fringe or extreme, these survey results show that this is the first choice for how Canadians describe Israel,” said CJPME Vice President Michael Bueckert in a statement. “In recent years, human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have concluded that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians amounts to apartheid, a crime under international law …”

“As it turns out, Canadians are largely aligned with the human rights community on the question of apartheid,” he continued. “It is those who see Israel as a vibrant democracy who hold the fringe position.”

The perception of Israel as an apartheid state has seemingly gained ground in recent years. In 2021 Human Rights Watch accused the country of apartheid against the Palestinians. The following year Amnesty International acknowledged that Israel had established a set of laws “designed to oppress and dominate Palestinians.”

A CJPME press release on the findings compare the survey against a University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll published earlier this year on the opinions of Americans. The numbers indicate that Canadians are more likely to view Israel as an apartheid state than people living in the United States.

56% of Americans said they didn’t know how describe Israel’s government and just 13% of the remaining respondents said the country maintains a system of segregation akin to apartheid. However, that number is substantially higher among Democrats, with 44% saying Israel is an apartheid state.

Despite the views of the population, the Canadian government has not wavered on its support for Israel. Justin Trudeau’s government rejected the findings of Amnesty International’s report on apartheid when it was released in 2022 and the Prime Minister recently heralded the “strong bilateral friendship” between the two countries. Canada sends $26 million in arms to Israel every year.

In its report on the survey CJPME makes a number of recommendations to the Canadian government. These include acknowledging the crime of apartheid, supporting the re-establishment of the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid, and allowing Palestinians to seek relief on an international level. The group also calls on journalists to cite the reports on apartheid put out by human rights organizations and refrain from referring to Israel as a democracy.

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss