Israelis’ Perceptions of Europe/Germany &

Germans’ Perceptions of Israel


The Barometer of the European Forum at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem


 

  • survey

HU-EF Barometer, 2021
March, 7th, 2022 | Written by: Prof. Gisela Dachs, The European Forum at the Hebrew University

A new survey conducted by the HU’s European Forum in Israel and Germany after the elections in Germany in September 2021 reveals a complex picture regarding Israeli perceptions of Europe and Germany, as well as German perceptions of Israel. The affinity in Israel to Europe in general, and Germany in particular, tends to vary with ethnic segment (Jewish and Arab) and, within the Jewish segment, is almost dependent on the level of religiousness. As Jewish religiousness increases, the attitude toward Europe and Germany in particular become more negative.

In Germany, the fault-lines tend to be between age-groups, between men and women as well as between respondents from the former Eastern and Western parts of the country as and among respondents with and without a history of migration.    

Here are the main findings:

(For detailed findungs on Israelis' perception of Europe >>>, on Israelis' perception of Germany >>>, on Germans' perception of Israel >>>)

Israelis vis-à-vis Germany and Germans vis-à-vis Israel

  • Most Israeli respondents  (70%) feel that the current relations between Israel and Germany  are normal relations between countries, and that the today’s Germany is different than before 1945. In contrast, only 54 Percent of German respondents perceive these relations as normal, with a notable difference among women, only 43 Percent are inclined to see the relations as normal. (The survey builds here on data collected from 1992 to 2011 by the Richard Koebner Minerva Center for German History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem).
  • A majority in both countries expect the new government in Germany to continue Chancellor Angela Merkels approach towards Israel to continue, including her definition from 2008 of Israel’s existence being in Germany’s national interest.   
  • Among Jewish Israelis, most feel that the memory of the Holocaust affects German policy towards Israel in a positive way. However, they also expect the memory of the Holocaust in Geermany to diminish or disappear.  Among Germans, also a majority finds that the memory of the Holocaust impacts the relations between the countries and that Germany’s attitude towards Israel is more positive as compared to other countries.
  • A majority of Jewish Israelis thinks Merkel’s decision to take in refugees in 2015 was a mistake, citing as reason either a strengthening of radical Islamists or a demographic change within Germany.  At the same time, support among Arab Israelis (61 %) for her decision is very high. 
  • Asked about the possibility of Germany as a mediator between Israel and other countries in the Middle East, about half of the Israeli respondent would like to see Germany involved.  About the same percentage of respondents in Germany would like to see their country in that role, while 40,5 percent are against. Younger German respondents wish much more than older respondents a diplomatic involvement of their country. 
  • A little more than half of the German respondents agree with the declaration of their government during the Gaza-war in May 2021 in support of Israel’s right to defend itself. More men than women agree with that statement, also more Germans without a history of migration and more respondents from the Western part of Germany than from the Eastern part.
  • Only a minority on both sides has actually visited the other country (30 percent of the Israeli respondents  and  13,6 percent of the German respondents) and many of those who did, are repeat visitors.  On the German side, most of the respondents who have visited Israel are from the Western part of Germany, without a history of migration and on average 63 years old.
  • Exposure to and knowledge about the culture of the other country is rather limited. Moreover, German respondents have difficulties to distinguish between Israeli and Jewish culture.   
  • About 2/3 of Israeli respondents are indifferent to German-originated products, and another 9% actually prefer them.  Only 7% totally avoid products made in Germany. About 60% are not bothered at all by hearing the German language in public, and less than 20% are always bothered. About 20% have friend or family members living in Germany, and about 60% feel that it is OK for an Israeli to live there.
  • A majority of the Germans (58 percent) agree that Antisemitism in a problem today in their country.  Most respondent (72 percent) see it emanating from the far right, followed by (70,1 Percent) from the whole population, and 58 percent from Muslim minority. Many more respondents from the Western part of Germany see Antisemitism as a problem than from the Eastern part, where men particularly stay behind with only 38,5 percent agreeing.
  • 66 percent of the German respondents think that Israel can be criticized without any connection to Antisemitic attitudes.  In Israel, also a majority does not see criticism of Israel necessarily as a form of Antisemitism, but feel that there can be, at least sometimes, a link between the tow. Almost half of the Arab respondent do not make this link at all. 

Israelis vis-à-vis Europe

  • Where do we belong? Asked about the perception of their own country, 21 Percent of the Israeli respondents liken Israel more with the United States, 23 Percent more with Europe and 31 Percent more with the Middle East. The perception of Israel as a Middle Eastern entity among Jews is more than twice that of Arabs.  
  • Most Israelis view the European Union as a success, only a small percentage see it as a failure, with similar results among Jewish and Arab respondents. The perception of success is highest among the 35-54 age group and decreases with Jewish religiosity.  
  • Half of the respondents feel that ties should be maintained with far-right-wing EU parties and only a quarter think they should be severed.  
  • Among Israelis support of a nuclear agreement with Iran is very low, but there is a high rate of understanding that this is in the best interest of European countries  
  • There is high variability regarding the perceived link between EU policies and Antisemitism.  In the Jewish segment, about one third each view certain European responses as antisemitic (very high in the ultra-orthodox/orthodox group), as not antisemitic (very high in the secular group), or depending on context.  In the Arab segment, very few view these policies as antisemitic.
  • Jewish life in Europe is expected to face more hostility in the future. 53% of Jewish respondents believe the situation of Jews in Europe will worsen, with only 25% believing things will stay the same. The older the respondent—and the more religiously Jewish they were—the more pessimistic their view on the situation. Among Arab respondents, the dominant perception was that the situation for Jews in Europe will stay the same (52%) or even improve (20%).
  • Almost 80% of all Jewish respondents could mention, unaided, at least one European country that has a positive attitude towards Israel, and at least one that has a negative attitude, but the number of “pro” countries mentioned, on average, was much higher than that of “anti” countries.  Among Arabs, almost 90% mentioned at least one “pro” country, or said “all countries”. Germany was among the first two countries (together with Greece) mentioned as a “pro” country.
  • In an aided ranking exercise, the most antisemitic-perceived countries were France and Poland, with Germany following by a large gap among Jews.  Among Arabs, Germany was more similar to Poland.
  • Jewish life in Europe is expected to face more hostility in the future. 53% of Jewish respondents believe the situation of Jews in Europe will worsen, with only 25% believing things will stay the same. The older the respondent—and the more religiously Jewish they were—the more pessimistic their view on the situation. Among Arab respondents, the dominant perception was that the situation for Jews in Europe will stay the same (52%) or even improve (20%).

The survey in both countries was prepared by the principal investigator, Prof. Gisela Dachs, at the European Forum at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In Israel, it was conducted in face-to-face interviews in the respondents’ homes during October 5-26, 2021, and included 1,006 men and women, aged 18 and older, in a random, representative sample of the adult population. The field work was done by the PORI Institute.  In Germany the survey was conducted at the same time period via telephone interviews, and included 1011 men and women, aged 18 and older, in a random, representative sample of the population. The field work was done by h1 medienanalyse/infas. The survey was partly funded by the German Hanns Seidel-Foundation Israel.

For further information: mseuro@mail.huji.ac.il

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