Commentary Magazine


BBC Poll: Israel Ranks with Iran, North Korea as One of World’s Most Unpopular Countries (Updated)

The bad news? Even the authoritarian police state of China — which is currently imprisoning the latest Nobel Peace Prize laureate — is enjoying a better global reputation than Israel.

The good news? Apparently the poll shows that Israel’s public image has actually improved since 2007. And when Iran and North Korea are barely edging out the Jewish state as the world’s most despised countries, it’s worth acknowledging the small victories:

A poll conducted by the BBC revealed Tuesday that Israel is one of the most negatively viewed countries in the world, ranking at the bottom of the chart along with Iran, North Korea and Pakistan.

In 2011, 22 out of 27 countries leaned toward a negative view of Israel, headed by Egypt, Turkey, and Indonesia. The countries which had the most positive view of Israel were the United States, Russia, Ghana, and China.

In light of Egypt’s uncertain future, it’s troubling (but not surprising) that it has the most negative view of Israel. Also disconcerting is that negative perceptions of Israel have increased in certain Western countries, such as Britain, Canada, and Australia.

The anti-Israel movement is waging an extremely successful PR battle in the West. The reason isn’t because it has the truth on its side — far from it. It’s because it’s become adept at handling a media that is already unsympathetic to Israel. This poll is yet another example of why the Israeli government needs to consider a massive overhaul of its ineffective (nonexistent?) public-relations strategy.

UPDATE: Elder of Ziyon contends that the BBC survey has been unfairly construed as a popularity poll. He points out that the poll didn’t ask people whether they liked Israel, but instead whether they believed the country has had “mainly positive or mainly negative influence in the world.”

But whichever way the poll is interpreted, there’s no legitimate reason for Israel’s ranking to be so low. This isn’t Israel’s fault, of course — it’s the fault of an international community that’s always too quick to turn the Jewish state into a scapegoat. It’s time for Israel to stop holding on to the false notion that if it keeps doing the right things, the world will one day wake up and embrace it. Israel can’t rely on the world to change; it needs to step up and seek these changes itself.