Poll: Most Germans reject notion of 'special responsibility' toward Israel

German tv station finds 52 percent of respondents see no significant obligation toward the Jewish state.

germany flag 88 (photo credit: )
germany flag 88
(photo credit: )
A little more than 60 years after the Holocaust, a public opinion poll shows that a majority of Germans believe their country has no special responsibility toward Israel. A recent opinion poll conducted by the German television station Sat1/N24 and the Emnid polling organization revealed that 52 percent of 1,000 respondents see no significant obligation toward the Jewish state. Sat1 spokeswoman Kristina Fassler told The Jerusalem Post that the finding is "extremely alarming" and displays "an ignorance of history" in Germany. According to a Bertelsmann Foundation survey in 2007, 47% of Germans rejected a special responsibility toward Israel. In contrast, according to the survey, 78% of Israelis believed in a special responsibility. The respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the contention that 60 years following the founding of the state of Israel, and 63 years after the Holocaust, Germany has a special responsibility toward the state of Israel. The result of the survey prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel, who just completed a three-day visit to Israel, to say before her visit: "This is exactly the reason why we must place Israeli-German relations on a sustainable footing, and in addition we must remember our history." Merkel added "such surveys urge us to bring this subject more into the public eye, and the consultations here contribute to that." A group of selected German cabinet ministers and Merkel met for the first of a series of joint Israeli-German government meetings to take place annually. Josef Joffe, a leading German commentator and co-publisher of the widely read German weekly Die Zeit, told the Post that "What the government does is more weighty than what the pollsters find out." Joffe sees Germany's "friendship with Israel not as a popular project but as a government project," and stressed that under Merkel's tenure German foreign policy had shifted in a more defined and clearer commitment toward Israel. The gap between Merkel's defense of Israel's right to counterattack in response to rocket fire from Hamas terrorists in Gaza and German mainstream opinion remains dramatic. Joffe cited a Der Spiegel opinion poll in his Die Zeit commentary showing that 91% of the German public wish to remain "neutral" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and only 3% back the Israeli side, while 1% embrace the Palestinian view. Sacha Stawski, editor-in-chief of Honestly Concerned (http://honestlyconcerned.info/index.html), an on-line watchdog media outlet monitoring German press coverage of the Middle East and Anti-Semitism in Germany, said he is "surprised by the poll" showing that a majority of post-World War II Germans reject a special responsibility toward Israel. "I am grateful that we have a chancellor who is different than the 52%, but we have a lot of work to do in Germany", Stawski told the Post. According to Stawski, it is important to cultivate a sense of responsibility among younger Germans toward assuring Israel's existence and security.