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Voters back stronger support for Palestinians, but are divided on South Africa genocide case

Large majority disagree with proposal to boycott traditional St Patrick’s Day visit to White House

Illustration: Paul Scott

Voters want to see the Government displaying stronger support for the Palestinians but are divided on whether Ireland should join the South African case alleging genocide against Israel, and baulk at the suggestion that the Taoiseach should boycott St Patrick’s Day ceremonies in Washington in protest against US support for Israel.

While Ireland is regarded, both in the European Union and by Israel, as a strong supporter of Palestine and Palestinian aspirations for their own state, the picture presented by today’s poll findings is a mixed one. Voters’ support for the Palestinian cause remains strong – but not every apparently pro-Palestinian gesture is endorsed.

Respondents to the poll were asked to think about the Israel-Palestine conflict and presented with a series of statements, which they were then asked if they agreed or disagreed.

For the statement “I believe Israel has the right to defend itself”, there was a large majority who agreed – 62 per cent of voters, against 18 per cent who disagreed and 20 per cent who have no opinion.

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For supporters of Israel, the glass is both half full and half empty here. There’s a big majority in favour of Israel’s right to defend itself but still a large number of people are either opposed to or ambivalent about the country’s right to defend itself. It’s hard to think of another country that might arouse a similar response.

And it’s clear that a majority of people believe the Israelis have gone too far in the current campaign. To the statement “I believe Israel’s attacks on Gaza are not justified”, 63 per cent say they agree, with 17 per cent disagreeing and 21 per cent offering no opinion.

Voters are divided on the motivation for the attacks on Gaza. On the statement “Israel is justified in trying to remove Hamas from Gaza after the October 7th attacks”, voters are almost evenly divided – 37 per cent agree and 34 per cent disagree, while 29 per cent offer no opinion.

Voters say clearly, however, that they want the Government to take a stronger line is support of the Palestinians. To the statement “Ireland should be stronger internationally in defending the Palestinians”, a clear majority – 52 per cent – agree, with 23 per cent disagreeing and 25 per cent offering no opinion.

Voters offer little guidance, however, as to how that stronger support should manifest itself. Asked if Ireland should join South Africa in its case against Israel in the International Court of Justice (which alleges genocide by Israel, an allegation that is fiercely disputed), voters are almost even split: 38 per cent say Ireland should join, 35 per cent say Ireland should not join, and 27 per cent don’t know or express no opinion.

On the question of whether the Government should heed the calls from pro-Palestinian activists and some Opposition parties to boycott the St Patrick’s Day events in the White House in protest against the US support for Israel, just 20 per cent say this would be a good idea; 65 per cent believe it would be a bad idea.

Ireland’s support for the Palestinians, it seems, is not unqualified.

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