BERLIN (JTA) – Anti-Jewish attitudes, including the idea that Jews have too much influence in business and that their patriotism is questionable, continue to be a serious problem in Europe, a new poll shows.But the news isn’t all bad, says Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, which conducted the poll. When it comes to recognizing threats from extremist Arab groups, many Europeans appear to have gotten the message.”The good news is that while Europeans continue to be predominantly supportive of the Palestinian narrative, they are able and willing not to see the whole Middle East in one massive bloc,” Foxman said in a telephone interview from Jerusalem, where the poll was released May14.That means, he said, that Europeans tend to see “a significant threat in Iran’s going nuclear.” And “they do regard Hamas as a terrorist organization.” Foxman said European politicians should take note that the majority of constituents would be “with them in terms of sanctions” against Iran. The poll “shows that the public does differentiate and discern nuances and differences, and if you don’t lump [the Arab countries] in one camp you can impact on the public’s views.”On the downside, the survey of 2,714 adults – about 500 in each of five European countries – showed that a majority of Europeans in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Poland still believe Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own countries, and have too much power inbusiness and finance.Support for negative stereotypes appears to have increased since 2005. Only Italy showed no increase.According to the survey: • Fifty-one percent of respondents believe Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own countries, with a majority of respondents in Spain, Poland and Germany saying they believe that this statement is “probably true.”• About 39 percent of those surveyed cling to the traditional canard that “Jews have too much power in the business world.” Similarly, 44 percent of respondents still adhere to the notion that “Jews have too much power in international financial markets.” • Twenty-five percent said Israel’s actions influence their views of Jews. Of these, 52 percent said they held a lower opinion of Jews as a result. • An average of 47 percent said it was “probably true” that ”Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.” Among Poles, 58 percent agreed with the statement, up from 52 percent in 2005. In Germany, 45 percent agreed, down from 48 percent in 2005.• A majority of respondents said they oppose foreign aid for the Palestinian government until Hamas renounces violence against Israel and recognizes its right to exist.• Some 51 percent said they believe Iran’s nuclear program is for military purposes, with an additional 16 percent believing it is both a program for nuclear weapons and energy. Only 14 percent said they believed the program is solely for nuclear energy. The telephone survey, conducted March 21-April 16 by the London-based Taylor Nelson Sofres, has a 4 percent margin of error. Foxman told JTA he was careful not to draw conclusions about any links between Israel’s actions and anti-Semitism worldwide. But the poll’s results were troubling on that score.”The stereotype of Jewish power, that conspiracy thing, is growing,” he said. Not only do many Europeans think European Jews are more loyal to Israel, they also “believe that Jews in America control their foreign policy,” such as policy toward Iran. “And that is very sinister,” Foxman said. “It is being put at our doorstep, and I think it is very problematic.”Noting the high number of Europeans whose views of Jews are linked with their views on Israel, Foxman said he did not think such results should influence Israeli politics. Israel’s first responsibility is to ensure the safety of its citizens, he told JTA.”The second component, after Israel makes a decision, is to consider how it will impact on the safety and security of Jews. But it cannot be the reverse,” he said. “Otherwise Israel could be blackmailed.” Foxman said bomb attacks on Jewish institutions in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994 “are an example of how Arabs went against Israelis and Jews outside Israel. It’s a new problem which we haven’t quantified.” Foxman said a German reporter asked him in Jerusalem why it was anti-Semitic to suggest that Jews worry too much about the Holocaust.”I said it does not mean you are anti-Semitic if you say that,” said Foxman, who was saved by his Polish Catholic nanny and raised as a Catholic during the war. “But of all the countries in the world, Germany should be the last to have a problem with Jews talking about the Shoah, even if we know they have ‘Auschwitz-schmerz’ ” – a weariness of discussingthe Holocaust.Other recent studies of Germans have shown support for sanctions against Iran. But they also revealed varied results on the issue of so-called international Jewish influence.A comparative survey of Israelis, Germans and American Jews by the Bertelsmann Foundation/TNS Emnid issued Feb. 12 found that one-third of the 1,004 Germans polled agreed with the assertion that “Jews have too much influence in the world.” The proportion of people who shared this view had decreased slightly since 1991.A November 2006 study by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, associated with Germany’s Social Democratic Party, showed that 18 percent of Germans considered Jewish influence “still too much.” Foxman said the differing results from poll to poll could be the result of many variables. But “one out of five is serious, too,” he noted.
Toby Axelrod is JTA's correspondent for Germany, Switzerland and Austria. A former assistant director of the American Jewish Committee's Berlin office, she has also worked as staff writer and editor at the New York Jewish Week. She has won numerous awards from the New York Press Association and the American Jewish Press Association. She has published books on Holocaust history for teen-agers.