By now many you will have seen the survey of British attitudes to other countries, which was published in yesterday's Daily Telegraph. At first glance, the results are pretty disturbing: Israel was named by 37% of respondents as the country in which they would least like to live, coming top of the survey. The state was also ranked the place where Britons would least like to take a holiday (41%), and the least beautiful country (23%).
Only France and Germany were considered to have less friendly people than Israel, and only the United States was considered more dangerous than the Jewish State. Despite being the only fully democratic state in the Middle East, Israel was also thought to be among the world's "least democratic countries,” beaten only by China, Russia and Dubai.
I've just spent the last couple of hours speaking to a bunch of British Jewish leaders about the results for a news item for tomorrow's Jerusalem Post, and two things clearly emerge:
a. No one is very suprised
b. No one is really that bothered.
No one is very surprised, because the negativity reflects the British media's coverage of Israel. And no one is really bothered, because anyone taking a close look at the survey can tell straight away that while it does come from a very reputable polling company, the questions are simply not sophisticated enough to really measure public sentiment towards Israel.
To cite just one example, respondents were asked to rank countries according to various criteria. They were given a choice of less than 25 countries -- of which few are engaged in conflicts, and many are members of the British commonwealth. Is it any wonder Israel did so badly?
The simplistic phrasing of the questions also lends itself to misunderstandings. People don't want to visit Israel -- okay; but that doesn't explain why they feel that way. Perhaps they are scared of suicide bombers and blame the violence on the Palestinians? The questions don't measure nuances (nor do they tell us how the same respondents feel about the Palestinians, come to think of it).
In short, it's clear that our hasbara is not good. What's not clear is how much the Brits dislike us -- at least not from this particular survey...