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Austrians Harbor Negative Attitudes Toward Jews and Israel, Poll Finds

Substantial portions of the Austrian population harbor strongly negative attitudes toward Jews and have little sympathy for Israel, according to the findings of a new American Jewish Committee survey which were to be released in Vienna on Thursday.

The survey, which is the fifth in a series AJCommittee is conducting in Central and Eastern Europe, reveals that a plurality of Austrians believe that Jews have caused much harm in the course of history and that Jews exert too much influence on world events.

However, to the extent that there is encouraging news about Austrians’ attitudes toward Jews, Israel and the Holocaust, it is that younger and better-educated Austrians are more tolerant than their older and less-educated compatriots, said one AJCommittee official.

“In the end, it coincides with what our traditional assumptions have been: that virtually everywhere, younger and better-educated people have better attitudes toward Jews,” said David Harris, the organization’s executive vice president.

“It offers some encouragement for the future,” he said. But he added that on the whole, the findings “are very disturbing in many respects.”

In the nationwide survey, 28 percent of the respondents contended that Jews have too much influence in Austria.

ONE-FIFTH WANT QUOTAS ON JEWS

A stunning 20 percent said they want the entry of Jews into influential positions controlled and numerically limited, and 19 percent said that it would be better for Austria not to have Jews in the country at all.

A plurality of 37 percent agreed either strongly or somewhat that now, as in the past, Jews exert too much influence on world events. Thirty-five percent disagreed strongly or somewhat with that, and 28 percent said they do not know.

A majority of the Austrians polled — 53 percent — said they believe it is time to put the memory of the Holocaust behind them. Just 28 percent disagreed with that statement.

Thirty-two percent of respondents said they believe Jews are exploiting the Holocaust for their own purposes, while slightly more, 36 percent, did not agree that is true.

A majority of 56 percent said they think the Austrian government should not prosecute Nazi war criminals, while 38 percent said they think the government should.

Austrians are almost evenly divided over whether Israelis basically treat the Palestinians no differently than the Germans treated the Jews. Forty-three percent of respondents agreed with that statement, and 46 percent did not.

Austrians are also closely split on where their sympathies lie in the Middle East. Just 11 percent of respondents said they sympathize with Israel; 9 percent sympathized with the Arab nations; and 13 percent sympathized with the Palestinians.

Fully 25 percent of the respondents agreed that Zionism is racism, and 40 percent said they did not know. Thirty-five percent disagreed with the statement.

The poll was taken between June 24 and Aug. 21 by the Gallup Institute of Austria. Attitudes toward Jews, Israel and the Holocaust varied among different subgroups of the 2,000 respondents.

NOTICEABLE AGE DIFFERENCES

One illustration of the differences between older and younger Austrians’ attitudes is that precisely half of respondents over age 50 agreed that Jews have caused much harm in the course of history, compared to 30 percent of those under age 30.

And 33 percent of those over age 50 said that Jews must answer for killing Jesus, compared to 12 percent of those under age 30.

The survey also revealed a correlation between church attendance and attitudes toward Jews, Israel and the Holocaust. The more frequently respondents attended church, the more they tended to express negative attitudes toward Jews.

Forty percent of those who attend church at least once a week agreed that Jews must answer for killing Jesus, compared to 16 percent of those who never go to church.

Fifty-eight percent of weekly churchgoers agreed that it is time to put the memory of the Holocaust behind them, compared to 45 percent of non-churchgoers.

More than a third of churchgoers, 36 percent, agreed that Zionism is racism, compared to one-fifth of non-churchgoers.

The survey contained 31 questions and is accurate within plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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