“Philosemitism is no answer to the problems in the middle east”

Image: Justin McIntosh/CC BY 2.0

Talk with Rolf Verleger about criticism of Israel between anti-Semitism and the idea of human rights

A recent interview published under the title "Criticism of Israel between anti-Semitism and the idea of human rights. A search for traces" a study published by Wilhelm Kempf, Professor Emeritus of Psychological Methodology and Peace Research, investigates the forms and manifestations of anti-Semitism in the country – and arrives at some surprising results. Telepolis spoke with Rolf Verleger, who accompanied Kempf’s project, which was supported by the German Research Foundation, as a scientific advisor.

Mr. Verleger, there is a lot of discussion and publication about anti-Semitism in the country. For a long time, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu even urged European Jews to emigrate to Israel for their own security’s sake. So it seems to be badly ordered around the "Hostility towards Jews" of Europeans in general and Germans in particular – worse than it has been for many decades? Rolf Verleger: Oh, Netanyahu … he plays the role of a problem solver, but Israel is an essential part of the problem. No, prejudices against Jews as well as against Muslims, foreigners and everything else that is somehow different, exist in Germany as in other countries in a stable way in a segment of society. One can live with this as long as the vast majority of the population, the media and politics stand up for human rights and also credibly regret what Germany did under Hitler. Nothing has changed in the last decades. This was different for a short time at the beginning of the 90s, when the right of asylum was abolished, there were the pogroms in Hoyerswerda and Rostock-Lichtenhagen, the families Genc and Arslan in Solingen and Molln and the asylum seekers in the Hafenstrabe in Lubeck died by arson and also the synagogue in Lubeck was burnt down. Nothing like that happens nowadays. This is not an increase in xenophobia, but a demand for human rights. What has changed is the attitude towards Israel. The German regret of the Nazi crimes and dissociation from the "Third Reich" in the past included as a matter of course support for Israel and the. In recent years, however, because of Israel’s unrestrained oppression of the Palestinians, it has become increasingly obvious that support for human rights and support for Israel do not go together. For lack of better arguments, the Israel lobby is now accusing people of "anti-Semitism", when they take the side of human rights and the oppressed Palestinians against Israel?.

Right-wingers, friends of Israel and friends of Palestine

And this assessment is also reflected in Kempf’s investigations? What picture does the same paint of anti-Semitism in the country?? Rolf Verleger: The question of whether and how anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel’s policies are linked in the German population is the central theme of this study conducted in 2010 and now published as a book. A rough reprasentative sample was examined with a common "Anti-Semitism"-questionnaire, but then also with questionnaires on attitudes toward Zionism and Israel, and finally – this is what is special about the study – with questions on other areas: Attitudes toward Islam, human rights and violence, war and peace, knowledge and personal attachment to Israel and Palestine. Three groups emerged from common response patterns to all these questions – from a total of 90 percent of the sample; the opinions of the remaining 10 percent on these questions do not love to be classified:

  1. "Rights" – 26 percent of the sample – consistently and consistently have reservations about Zionism and Jews, and about as much about Palestinians and Islam. They think relatively little of human rights, have little to no knowledge of the Middle East conflict, and are more likely to take sides with Palestine than with Israel in this conflict, which is not very important to them.
  2. "Israel friends" – 26 percent of the sample – take sides with Israel and most also advocate the use of violence against the Palestinians. Their knowledge and personal concern by the conflict are in the middle range, as are their scores on the anti-Semitism scales – lower, of course, than that of the "Right".
  3. "Palace friends" – 38 percent of the sample – predominantly take sides with Palestine, are predominantly pacifist, and are significantly lower in reservations about Jews, Palestinians and Islam than the "Friends of Israel". They generally uphold human rights and have the roughest knowledge of the conflict.

Did I understand you correctly: The, as you call them, "Friends of Israel" Are, according to the surveys, more anti-Semitic than the "Palace friends"? Rolf publishers: Yes, that’s how it came out: the "Friends of Israel" in the German population lie in the middle between the "Right", who have relatively many reservations against Jews – and Muslims, too, by the way – and the "Palace friends", who have few reservations. similar is the case with regard to the knowledge and emotional involvement in the conflict: The "Friends of Israel" lie in the middle between "right-wing", who care little about the conflict, and the "Palace Friends", who are personally affected by the conflict. In a word: The "Friends of Israel" are the lukewarm middle.

"It is possible to lose sight of the fact that all people have equal rights"

And how do you explain this? That the defenders and protectors of Israel "anti-Semitic" when of all people the "friends of the palace", to whom anti-Semitism is testified on a daily basis, are? Rolf Verleger: For the "Israel friends" human rights do not play the same overriding role in their responses as they do for the "Friends of the Palace". It also fits that they carry more reservations against others with them. Independently of this survey – more speculative – it appears to me that the Israel friendship of German politics since Adenauer is fed by loyalty to the USA and by bad conscience because of the missing resistance against Hitler in the matter of extermination of Judaism. Both motives are not dishonorable. But they can lead to the fact that Jews are declared to be a special group of people. In fact, it sometimes seems to me that the "Friends of Israel", I know – especially politicians, as they appear in the media – a philo-Semitism that resembles anti-Semitism in that it is not just a matter of the "good old days" "the Jews" as a special, unified group to which German policy is committed, so that Israel, too, will have a "protect" be. It is then not always necessarily clear that a Jewish Israeli is worth as much as a Palestinian; with Hitler the Jews had been worth less, today they seem to be worth more. That is: One can lose sight of the fact that all people have equal rights.

The Relationship to Violence and Knowledge of the Conflict

And what does it mean when, according to the research, these "Friends of Israel" Prefer a violent approach to the Middle East conflict? Which picture is drawn there in detail? Rolf Verleger: The relationship to violence proved to be an essential factor for group differentiation: For "Friends of Israel" It is clear – and rightly so – that the Middle East conflict can only be kept under control by force in the interests of Israel. Peace is therefore of secondary importance in this world view. This also provides a commentary on German policy: its official position of supporting Israel as well as its official position of not supporting Israel also to want to resolve the conflict peacefully is hardly present in the real world of popular opinion and, in fact, is probably really a pipe dream. Do I understand you correctly, I’m exaggerating a little: those who are often the most vocal? "For Israel!" According to the findings of the survey, and in contrast to those whom you describe as "friends", the majority of Germans – leaving aside all moral exaggeration and ideological cloaking of these facts – are not friends of the palace "palace friends" classify, as a rule, less knowledge of the conflict, more prejudice and willingness to use violence, and also tend to philosemitism and thus a worldview based on the inequality of people? Rolf Publisher: Yes, that is how it presents itself. That’s why I preferred as neighbors and colleagues "Friends of Palestine" as "Friends of Israel", I prefer people for whom peaceful coexistence and human rights are important values, and fortunately this is also the case with my neighbors and colleagues, and this coincides with the results of the survey: the majority of Germans are not friends of the palace "Israel-", but "Palastina friends". That gives rise to hopes.

Equal rights for non-Jewish and Jewish Israelis

And all the accusations that have been circulating more and more frequently in the media lately – there have been "self-hating" and thus anti-Semitic Jews; the German cabaret was a haven of anti-Semitism etc. pp. -, How are they to be classified and understood in this context?? What do you think of such reasoning? Rolf Verleger: Nothing. These are protective claims of the Israel lobby, because they are running out of arguments. All the tabloid headlines and talk shows about the danger of a new anti-Semitism distract from this essential point: unconditional support of Israel means a "No" on human rights. What I am afraid of is that these friends of Israel in politics, media and representative bodies of the Jewish community, by their unconditional solidarity with Israel’s policy, produce the anti-Semitism they deplore themselves: If Jews and their friends define Judaism in such a way that it has solidarity with Israel as an essential component, then justified emulation of Israel will logically lead to resentment against Judaism. I did not like that, and that is why I consider it a Jewish duty to sharply distance oneself from Israel’s errors. And what conclusions does the research of Kempf suggest: what would be the right of the Jews?. also from the German side most sensibly to do, if one does not want to watch the events in the Near East longer idly? What did you advise, you were asked? Rolf publisher: Germany is seen in Israel as the most important alliance partner next to the U.S., so it has considerable influence. The main goal of this influence should be to demand from the Israeli partners a sense of injustice for what was done by Israel to the Palestinians from 1947 until today. Because the key to a positive future is for Israel to ask the Palestinians for forgiveness for all this. However, good advice will not be enough to demand this consciousness of injustice. Germany should therefore tie its extensive economic, cultural, military support of Israel to conditions that ultimately have a self-evident goal: Equal rights for non-Jewish and Jewish Israelis throughout the territory ruled by Israel. Equal rights for Jews and non-Jews throughout the territory ruled by Israel would mean that Israel would no longer be a predominantly Jewish state… Rolf Verleger: Israel with its dominated territories is already no longer majority Jewish. And equality also meant something else, namely that discrimination against non-Jews would cease at all levels of the state. This could have the consequence that the elected government would no longer necessarily be made up of Jewish Israelis. If Israel does not want this, then it could make constructive proposals how this could be regulated differently. The Oslo Accords were such an attempt, but it failed because of Israel’s destructive attitude: "All the land and much more is Jewish; the Arabs should go away or shut up". Now it is up to us in the world, together with Jewish-Israeli and Palestinian activists, to enforce the equal rights of all people also in our western confederation country of Israel-Palastine.

Prof. Dr. rer. soc. Rolf Verleger is a psychologist at the University of Lubeck. During his membership in the Board of Directors of the Central Council of Jews in Germany 2005-2009, as a delegate of Schleswig-Holstein, he opposed the uncritical support of Israel by the German Jewish community. He wrote, among other things, the book Israel’s Misguided Way. A Judaic View.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *