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Israel’s Popularity on the Wane

Though not in Ghana!

Marc Tracy
March 08, 2011
Ghanaian soccer player John Paintsil in 2006.(Haaretz)
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.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.