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Berlin — According to Wetzel, even teachers often do not distinguish between Jews and Israelis, and may themselves harbor prejudices, stereotypes and anti-Israel views.
Substantive opposition to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is common in Germany, and polls show that most Germans have negative views of Israel. But Israel bashing has also become a favorite weapon in anti-Semitic attacks. A 2010 report by the University of Bielefeld’s Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence found an increase in anti-Semitism linked specifically to Israel. Among the institute’s findings:
• More than 57% agree that Israel is waging a war of annihilation against the Palestinians, up from 51% in 2009.
• More than 40% agreed that “what Israel is doing to the Palestinians is basically no different from what the Nazis did with the Jews during the Third Reich.”
•More than 38% agreed that “considering the politics of Israel, it is easy to see why one would have something against the Jews,” up from 34% in 2009.
•At the same time, 67.5% of those responding in the 2010 poll agreed with this statement: “I like it that increasingly more Jews live in Germany.”
According to Beate Kupper, one of the researchers involved in the Bielefeld report, these findings reflect ambivalent attitudes. “Germans are happy if there are some Jews in their country, as this gives us release. It shows off that we are tolerant…. However, the strong blaming of Israel in Germany is full of anti-Semitic stereotypes [and] associations.”
According to many experts, the current debate in Germany over circumcision, which is couched in terms of the rights of the child and in balancing these rights with the right to religious freedom, also offers cover for anti-Semitism. “There is an underlying anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli undertone in the German public, and this is being shown in the current debate over circumcision,” said Malte Lehming, opinion editor of Der Tagesspiegel. He argued that anti-Semites are using a publicly professed desire to protect children as a cover for their hatred of Jews.
Emmanuel Nahshon, deputy chief of mission of the Israeli Embassy in Germany, paints a gloomy picture. “The political correctness which was imposed on Germany by the Allies after 1945 is starting to fade,” he told the Forward. “And what you see is the real face of Germany lurking behind this mask.”