Germany's return to racism

In a poll published this past May, almost two out of three Germans claimed that, in their view, Israelis are -- on a whole -- "aggressive." It''s an interesting claim coming from Germany, and not just because it was German aggression which nearly wiped out the Jewish people in Europe a mere three generations ago.


As is often the case when understanding the world''s relationship to the Jewish people, a clear understanding of the significance of the poll requires that it be translated into more general and, frankly, less Jewish terms. Think for a moment if the two out of three Germans were found to consider Chinese people "aggressive." That is, in our thought experiment a supermajority of Germans would find a Chinese man or woman, whether living in Beijing or in Boston, to be aggressive.


Applied to any other example, the recent German poll is a clear-cut, glaring and definitive case of racism. It''s racism unblurred. Why? Because it''s logically impossible that any significant sample size of the German population has met a significant sample of Israelis. Their opinion about the racial characteristics of Israelis -- Jews, in other words -- is based on not experience, but on some kind of genetic prejudice.


As if to underline the point, the German people''s expression of racial distaste for citizens of the Jewish state was followed up, almost immediately, by a court-directed ban on the one practice that for thousands of years has made a Jew a Jew -- that of circumcision.


True, the German parliament and its major parties have criticized the ban, and are trying to have it overturned. Nonetheless, the court in Cologne -- a bastion of German liberalism and "tolerance" -- criminalized Judaism''s core religio-national ritual as a violation of Germany''s constitution.


If it were only Germany''s legal institutions making absurd rulings motivated by a liberalism run amok, then maybe we could rest easier. But it''s not the case, as the May poll revealed. But beyond the poll (which should by now be notorious but somehow isn''t), in 2009 we learned from a German study that more young German men are involved in neo-Nazi parties than mainstream political parties. That''s right: German youth are more apt to actively take up the banner of Hitler than Angela Merkel. 


Individually, any of these examples could be dismissed as fluke, anomaly, or fringe. But together a very scary, very real, and very historically familiar pattern seems to be emerging. Only two key ingredients seem to be absent: the first is a German "will to power," a manifestation of a German ability and desire to dominate politically and ethically. But as we see Germany''s economic -- i.e. political -- ascendancy over a crisis-wracked Europe, it''s seems that those eggs may already be in the batter.


That leaves the most conspicuous element, which is (thankfully) still missing -- the German demagogue who can crystallize all of the above, all the sentiment driving racist polls, ethnically biased legal rulings, and a pending economic meltdown into a virulent ideology. Let''s hope that no such leader emerges any time soon.


But more importantly, we have to go beyond hope and demand that Germany wakes up and begins to see that it''s teetering on the brink of something dark. Far from the reaction of some of the elite in Israel, who took the spring poll as actual proof of Israel''s "aggression," we need to understand that Germany''s problem with Israel is a German problem.


This time, knowing what we know, having pledged to "never forget," it''s our duty to stand up and raise our voices to prevent a disturbing trend from deepening. This requires us to have the confidence to issue an accusation, when one is called for. We owe it to ourselves.