Ahead of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s visit to Israel on Sunday, a German government study revealed that nearly 33 million Germans, 40% of the population of 82 million, are infected with contemporary antisemitism – hatred of the Jewish state.
The report, which was published on April 24, details in a section titled “Agreement to Israel-related antisemitism” that 40% of Germans who were polled showed approval of the following statement: “Based on Israel’s policies, I can understand people having something against the Jews.” The federal government’s antisemitism report found that the proportion of Germans who agreed with the antisemitic statement increased from 28% in 2014 to 40% in 2016. The poll study was commissioned by the Social Democratic Party think tank the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.
Dr. Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, spoke to the Die Welt newspaper in late April, saying, “We already notice that in German society solidarity with Israel has declined. The fact alone that the word ‘Israel-critic’ can be established here shows this. We are also more frequently confronted with Israel-related antisemitism.”
Schuster said, however, that “the federal president should send the message [in Israel] that one can really count on this friendship [with Germany], also in difficult times.”
According to the government report, Schuster said that not every form of criticism of Israeli is antisemitic. He added, however, that criticism of Israel meets the criteria of modern antisemitism when Israel is compared to National Socialism, the Nazi’s victims are turned into perpetrators and when Israel’s right to exist is questioned. The 300-page report states that non-Jewish Germans are suspected of using an exculpatory strategy to mitigate against the remaining guilt felt regarding of the crimes of the Nazis.
The study cited a sarcastic sentence from Israeli psychoanalyst Zvi Rex, who, in the 1980s, said: “The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.”
Petra Pau, a Left Party deputy in the Bundestag, said, “Antisemitism is a problem of the entire society.” She added that Israel-related antisemitism has become respectable.
The report cited antisemitism scandals involving the Left Party’s invitation to supporters of the BDS movement targeting Israel to speak in the Bundestag and the anti-Israel articles of Der Spiegel columnist Jakob Augstein, who compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to a concentration camp.
Critics contend that German politicians, universities, trade unions and NGOs have initiated assaults on Israel’s right to exist and its products over the years. Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who was embroiled in a controversy last week over his decision to meet with left-wing NGO Breaking the Silence, told the Hamburger Abendblatt in late April: “The current government is not Israel.” In 2014, he called Israel’s presence in Hebron an “apartheid regime.”
In 2013, the German Green Party passed a resolution calling for Israeli products from the Palestinian territories to be sanctioned.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration supported the EU directive in 2015 to identify such products with a labeling system, and the GEW teachers union in Oldenburg called for a full-blown boycott of Israel’s government and products in 2016. The report also cited the case of Germany’s HAWK University of Applied Sciences and Art that taught for years that Israelis harvested Palestinian organs.
NGOs such as the German branch of the catholic organization Pax Christi work with the Social Democratic mayor of Jena to boycott Israeli goods.