Ten Miles Square


April 10, 2012 12:00 PM The Hardening of German Attitudes Toward Israel

By Keith Humphreys

Hans Kundnani is among the best guides to Germans’ collective psyche and politics. One should therefore take seriously his analysis of how German attitudes toward Israel are changing. Hans builds his analysis around the reaction to Gunter Grass’ controversial new poem criticizing Israel’s nuclear weapons programme:

what makes the publication of [Grass’] poem significant is that it expresses a sense of anger against Israel that - justified or not - many Germans seem increasingly to share. This anger is partly a response to Israel’s rightward shift during the past decade. But it seems also to be a product of developments in Germany and in particular the way that the Holocaust has receded in significance during the last decade. Increasingly, Germans seem to see themselves as victims rather than perpetrators.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Keith Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine.


  • POed Lib on April 10, 2012 3:19 PM:

    I read the translation of that poem. It was very mild. It merely indicated that Israel is not to engage in a first strike. Since when is this anti-semitic? Grass should have added that Germany was done with fascism, and was not in agreement with fascism in other countries, such as Israel, the fascist state of the modern age.

  • Vokoban on April 11, 2012 7:39 AM:

    "Increasingly, Germans seem to see themselves as victims rather than perpetrators"

    That's plainly bs. And I'm German.
    There's a grwoing perception that as a German you are not allowed to critizise anything related to Israel without being called an anti-semite.

    And just because I don't want to switch my head and sound judgement off when it comes to Israel politics I don't see myself as a victim. The unique crimes Germans commited on Jews are not disputed and must be remembered and taught to the next generations for centuries to come.

    The only thing that MUST be disputed is the fact that German politicians do not dare to call Israel's politics towards Palestinians what they are: crimes against humanity.

    Grass' poem is mostly a piece of senile bs itself. There's a lot of room to argue with it without swinging the anti-semite club. It is swung anyway and with vengeance. There must be a way to critizise this without cornering Germans as self-pitying idiots!

  • HMDK on April 11, 2012 10:42 AM:

    I'm Danish, and my grandparents had their land invaded and occupied by yours. And I agree with everything you say in your comment. The most ridiculous thing is that speaking bad of Israel in any way is much more accepted in Israel itself, than it is in the U.S. A great number of Israelis are very angry with their government because of the same things you and I are. But don't expect to see them covered much in the U.S. The U.S. political and press spheres (who can tell them apart?) seem to have a fetish for Israel that many Israelis themselves think is either demeaning or more trouble than it's worth.