Thursday, December 09, 2004

Jerusalem Post | Poll: Over 50% of Germans equate IDF with Nazi army

Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World: "Poll: Over 50% of Germans equate IDF with Nazi army
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS

Six decades after the mass extermination of six million Jews in the Holocaust by Nazi Germany, more than 50 percent of Germans believe that Israel's present-day treatment of the Palestinians is similar to what the Nazis did to the Jews during World War II, a German survey released this weekend shows.

51 percent of respondents said that there is not much of a difference between what Israel is doing to the Palestinians today and what the Nazis did to the Jews during the Holocaust, compared to 49% who disagreed with such a comparison, according to the poll carried out by Germany's University of Bielefeld.

The survey also found that 68 percent of Germans believe that Israel is waging a "war of extermination" against the Palestinians, while some 32% disagreed with such a statement.

In a first reaction, the chairman of Yad Vashem's directorate Avner Shalev said Tuesday that the poll's results, which he termed "very worrisome," were indicative of a long-suppressed felling of anti-Semitism among the mainstream "so-called liberals" population which now, under the coating of anti-Israeli criticism, are becoming legitimate again. He added that the poll's results, which he said any objective person would repudiate, are also the result of the release of pent-up feelings of guilt built up from the Holocaust.

"The energies which bring about such answers come to protect feelings of guilt," Shalev said. 62 percent of respondents in the poll said that they were sick of "all this harping" of German crimes against Jews, while 68% said that they found it "annoying" that Germans today are still held to blame for Nazi crimes against Jews.

The survey, which aimed to determine what is "the cut off point" between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism, finds that while "classical" anti-Semitism in Germany is on the wane, secondary anti-Semitism, often couched in anti-Israel views are on the rise, especially among the Left.

The German researchers who conducted the polls conceded that the results showing a majority of Germans equating Israel's Policy with Nazi Atrocities "may be worrying," but concurred with Yad Vashem's Shalev that the media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinians conflict has made such analogies part of the public discourse.

"When you see an image in the newspaper, in a caricature, which is repeated day in and day out that Sharon is equal to Hitler than the image catches in your head because maybe you do not like Jews so much or maybe you hate Jews, and than this works out excellent," Shalev said, stressing that education of the young generation was the key to stemming such a tide.

In the survey, 82 percent of the respondents polled said that they are angered by the way Israel is treating the Palestinians, while 45 percent of those polled said that considering Israel's policies it was "no surprise" that people were against them.

The telephone poll of 3000 "non-migrant" respondents, which was taken in May and June, did not come with a margin of error.

"This is a very sad commentary about what is happening in Europe today which needs to send a very strong warning signal about how much work needed to be done to deal with these attitudes," said, Dr. Ephraim Zuroff, the Israel director of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Due in part to its blighted history, Germany is generally considered to be one of the more supportive countries of Israel in Europe."