Public does not blame Israel for war, says survey

By Rachel Silver, January 22, 2009

A majority of the British public does not single out Israel as the side responsible for the conflict in Gaza, according to a survey published this week.

Only 18 per cent of those polled put the blame largely on Israel, while 24 per cent laid the blame for the three-week long Operation Cast Lead squarely on Hamas.

Fifty-eight per cent either blamed both sides for the conflict or were unsure of whom to blame.

The poll, carried out by the research organisation YouGov, sampled the views of 2,077 people.

In the Sunday Times, YouGov asked respondents, on the basis of what they knew, to attribute blame for the Gaza conflict either to Israel or Hamas. YouGov president and political commentator Peter Kellner said that what was most striking about the responses was that a clear majority of people did not take sides. “The majority who do blame, are more likely to blame Hamas,” he said, “but it is not overwhelming.”

While there was no difference in terms of gender, the results from the age category in the survey proved significant, revealing that the older people polled were more likely to blame Hamas.

“I think,” said Mr Kellner, “that the 55-plus have grown up knowing and reading more about Israel’s fight for survival. Israel’s post-war history means more to the older generation than the younger generation.”

The press attaché at the Israeli embassy in London, Lior Ben-Dor, said: “It seems that our relentless efforts during those three weeks, both in Israel and here in London were fruitful. Our messages, that Hamas is a terrorist organisation, that Israel was acting in self-defence, and that Israel was left with no other choice but to defend itself, were clearly absorbed by the public at large.”

A spokesman for the Israel advocacy body, Bicom, said the responses were “a blessing after three weeks of conflict.

“But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that British people should have understood that it is simply unacceptable that civilians have been fired on by missiles over 6,000 times since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.”

Last updated: 1:54pm, January 22 2009