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Israel’s Popularity on the Wane

Though not in Ghana!

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Ghanaian soccer player John Paintsil in 2006.(Haaretz)

The bad news from a new survey of more than 28,000 people in 27 countries is that only three countries are more negatively viewed than Israel, and they are Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran. (What, everyone forgot about Libya and Belarus?) Israel was viewed negatively by a growing majority of respondents in the United Kingdom, Spain, Australia, Indonesia, and even Canada (!). The good news—aside from the fact that the survey was conducted by the BBC, and therefore easily, if not very usefully, disregarded if you are of a certain political bent—is that Israel still has friends: The four countries with the most positive views of the Jewish state (not including the Jewish state itself) are the United States, Russia, Ghana, and China.

A slim plurality of Americans who view Israel positively comes as no surprise. That Russians, despite historic (and waning) anti-Semitism, should feel sympathy with a state with a huge population of their co-nationalists makes sense. And China? China loves the Jews.

Which leaves … Ghana. My theory is simple: Soccer. John Paintsil, who famously pulled an Israeli flag from his shorts and waved it in celebration after scoring a goal in the 2006 World Cup Finals (in honor of his club team, Hapoel Tel Aviv), was playing for his native Ghana. Also, Ghanaian Jews. Go Ghana.

Israel Negatively Viewed, Survey Finds [JTA]
Related: Sub-Saharan Shabbat [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: Matzah Ball Soup for the Chinese Soul
Cable Reports Lower Russian Anti-Semitism

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Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, so what were we expecting?

And I think it’s correct to be skeptical about the reports of a media company whose own internal commission found that it is guilty of anti-Israel bias. (The Balen Report.)

Dan Klein says:

@fw, if they use the same methodology as in the past though, then even if the numbers are suspect the movement in the numbers isn’t.

I wouldn’t trust them on methodology, but even if the numbers are correct, I don’t think it reflects anything we haven’t seen in the last ten years. There has been a concerted effort in huge segments of the English-language media around the world to pin all the turmoil in the Middle East, and beyond, on the nefarious machinations of Israel and its accomplices in the U.S. So it’s hardly surprising that English-language media markets, and members of the Commonwealth in particular, eventually begin to reflect those biases.

I think it’s likely to be a lagging indicator, though. With the populist democratic movements throughout the Arab, Persian and Kurdish world trying to throw of the shackles of repressive domestic regimes, I think it’s going to become increasingly untenable to ascribe widespread poverty and oppression in the region to Israel’s malign influence. Your even starting to see Arab and Persian writers voicing this opinion–Karim Sadjadpour’s recent piece in the New York Times for example.

It may take a while for this revisionist view to take hold in the public mind, but it is inevitable that it will eventually.

And really, I find it hard to muster much concern over the bitterness of a waning colonial power like England and it’s satellites, even when it’s masked as progressivism.

It’s also worth taking note of the scandal (I don’t remember if Tablet has) burgeoning in England over the payola the University of London has accepted from Qaddafi, which is especially suspicious in the wake of the Lockerbie bomber’s pardon. They’re not the only school involved, and are presumably only the tip of the iceberg.

Anti-Israel views are bankrolled by oil money, which has deftly manipulated the media-academia nexus in London, and in the United States.

To belabor this, it’s interesting that you see positive data in Russia and China, two members of the BRICs, along with Brazil and India, the world’s strongest emerging economies. Is it surprising that they should take an interest in a high-tech mecca like Israel, whose intellectual capital will remain long after the world’s oil supply has been depleted or rendered superfluous?

Marc may be correct that Jews in this country aren’t the immigrant strivers we once were, but the same dynamic isn’t necessarily true elsewhere. To take one example, look at the Fields Medal, the most prestigious prize in mathematics, awarded every four years to up to four individuals under the age of forty. The last two occasions it was awarded, two of the recipients were Elon Lindenstrauss, of Israel, and Grigori Perelman of Russia, both of whom have also spent time in this country. That’s twenty-five percent of winners, from a group that constitutes an infinitesimal percentage of the world population. You’ll find similar percentages among other winners of prizes for scientific merit.


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Israel’s Popularity on the Wane

Though not in Ghana!

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