Having just returned from Israel, I decided to see what the Germans thought about the place. Conveniently enough, the German weekly stern just conducted a poll (g). The results:
- 70% of Germans think Israel 'pursues its own interests without consideration for other peoples' (11 points higher than in 2009).
- 59% describe the country as 'aggressive' (+10 since 2009)
- 58% find the country 'foreign' or 'alien' (fremd), 36% see it sympathetically
- 21% believe the country 'respects human rights' (down from 30% in 2009)
- 13% don't think it has a right to exist
- 60% believe Germany no longer has a special responsibility to Israel; only 33% believe it does
- 65% believe Germany should recognize the state of Palestine, 18% reject the idea.
That's a somewhat bleaker picture than I would have predicted. I don't see these negative perceptions of Israel as a 'problem'. People are going to think what they're going to think. Nor do I think they represent anti-Semitism, although that may explain some of the 13% who deny Israel's right to exist (some of these people may simply reject states based on ethnic/religious identity, but if that were true they'd need to start at home, since Germany offers automatic citizenship to many ethnic Germans (g) all across the world).
As with the massive unpopularity of America a few years back, a lot of this is driven by controversial policies and the press coverage they get. People thought America was aggressive and dangerous to world peace in the mid-2000s because it was. It had invaded and occupied 2 countries, and sinister fanatics such as Donald Rumsfeld and John Bolton (really, is there any other way to describe them?) seemed to be just warming up. The news coverage out of Israel lately shows a government that is expanding settlements, constantly threatening to attack Iran, teaming up with terror groups to conduct car-bomb assassinations of Iranian engineers (imagine if that were happening in Germany!), has launched two wars in the past 6 years, and has as its foreign minister the remarkably repugnant Avigdor Lieberman.
Presumably the current Israeli administration believes these policies are necessary to protect the national interest, but they should prepare their citizens to live with the backlash. Like the United States, or any other country for that matter, Israel has no 'right' to be popular and admired regardless of what it does. Or in other words, no Israel, you can't have a pony, because in the real world, nobody gets a pony.