Half of Germans see Iran as greatest world threat

‘Die Welt’ shows rejection of Grass’s anti-Israel positions.

By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
April 23, 2012 01:38
3 minute read.
Gunter Grass

Gunter Grass 370 (R(). (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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BERLIN – Forty-eight percent of Germans see the Islamic Republic of Iran as the greatest threat to world peace, according to a survey published in the Die Welt newspaper on Saturday.

Eighteen percent of those questioned said Israel was the main danger to peace. Twenty-two percent said that both Iran and Israel represent a danger.

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Fifty-eight percent of the respondents said that Iran’s nuclear program was a threat to the existence of the Jewish state. The Infratest dimap pollsters questioned German voters spanning the political spectrum in the Federal Republic.

A large majority rejected the Nobel Prize laureate Günter Grass’s thesis that Germans are not being allowed to criticize Israel. Seventy-five percent of respondents agreed with the statement that Israel can be subjected to the identical criticism as other nations. In short, the poll shows that three-quarters of Germans believe there are no taboos in terms of criticizing Israel.

Some German journalists slammed Grass, saying media and political criticism of Israel is ubiquitous. Many media experts who follow Israel in the German press, such as the Frankfurt-based pro-Israel media watchdog organization Honestly Concerned and its editor-in-chief Sacha Stawski, see disproportional criticism and preoccupation with the Jewish state at the expense of other conflicts in the world.

According to the Die Welt survey, 52% of Left Party voters viewed Israel as a greater threat than the Islamic Republic.

Günter Grass argued in his poem “What Must Be Said,” published earlier this month, that there is a widespread muzzle on criticism of Israel in the Federal Republic. “This general silence on the facts, before which my own silence has bowed, seems to me a troubling, enforced lie, leading to a likely punishment, the moment it’s broken: The verdict ‘anti-Semitism’ falls easily,” he wrote.

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Grass argued in his poem that Israel, and not Iran, is the chief impediment to global peace and that Israel seeks to obliterate the Iranian population.

The results of Die Welt’s survey contradict a Financial Times online newspaper poll from this month, as well as other online blog and TV questionnaires, that show widespread German support for Grass and negative attitudes toward Israel. For example, the Financial Times’ reported that 57% of the respondents in Germany agreed with Grass’ statements. Eight percent said his views were “dangerous” or “anti-Semitic.” And 27% of those polled said his contentions were worthy of discussion. Roughly 22,000 readers participated in the Financial Times survey.

The results appears in line with earlier surveys showing German dislike of Israel and Jews.

In 2011, a think tank affiliated with the Social Democratic Party issued a report revealing that 47.7% of respondents agreed that “Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians.”

A BBC poll in 2007 showed that 77% of Germans harbored anti-Israel sentiments – more than those of any other country in Europe.

In 2003, an EU study showed that a majority of Germans viewed Israel, in sharp contrast to Iran, as the greatest threat to global peace.

In an interview published on Sunday in Die Welt am Sonntag, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu alluded to anti-Israel and pro- Grass sentiments among broad swaths of the German population. “And those now who agree with Günter Grass about the Jewish state should ask themselves if they wouldn’t have agreed with the slanders against the Jewish people in the time of the Holocaust. That’s the question the Germans must ask themselves. I am glad that Germany’s leadership has responded clearly. But it’s something I hope the German people will do as well,” he said.

“How would Germany feel if it was showered with rockets by people who call outright for Germany’s destruction? which is what we have around us. Iran that supports Hezbollah and Hamas who are firing on the tiny State of Israel,” the prime minister said.

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