Friday, January 14, 2005

BERLIN — Germany is growing less tolerant of immigrants, especially Muslims, and more inclined toward anti-Semitism, regarding Jews in the same vein as foreigners, according to a new study of German attitudes.

“There is no distinction anymore between Jews, foreigners and Muslims,” said Paul Spiegel, chairman of the Central Council of German Jews.

According to “German Conditions 2004,” a study published by Bielefeld University and conducted by Wilhelm Heitmeyer, two thirds of the Germans consider the conduct of Israelis toward the Palestinians the same as the conduct of the Nazis toward the Jews and willingly express their disdain toward Jews living in Germany.

The study, released in Berlin just before Turkey was invited to begin negotiations to join the European Union, found that xenophobia in Germany, especially toward Muslims, has “dramatically” increased in the past two years.

Some 60 percent of Germans, according to the study, believe their country is “too foreign.” Germany currently is home to about 6 million foreigners, out of 82 million, about 7 percent. The United States has an immigrant population of about 11 percent.

The main target of German xenophobia is its community of 3 million Muslims, mainly Turks. Seventy percent of the Germans surveyed said that Muslims do not fit in with Western society, and German society in particular. That figure is up from 55 percent of Germans who felt uncomfortable with Muslims two years ago.

Corroborating the survey in Germany, the State Department last week released its report on the rise of anti-Semitism in the world.

In the State Department report, Germany was singled out, with several other Western European nations, for “notable increases in [anti-Semitic] incidents” in 2002 and 2003. To its credit, Germany also was one of several European nations recognized for taking concrete steps to decrease anti-Semitism.

A rise in the number of Muslims in Western Europe, many of them poor and uneducated, is contributing to an increase in already deeply rooted anti-Semitism there, according to the State Department report.

However, “traditional far-right groups still account for a significant proportion of the attacks against Jews and Jewish properties,” in Western Europe, the State Department report said.

According to the 2003 report by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the total number of recorded anti-Semitic crimes decreased to 1,199 (from 1,515 in 2002). However, among these, the number of violent crimes increased from 28 to 35, and the number of desecrations of Jewish cemeteries, synagogues or memorials went up from 78 to 115.

The sense of safety and security of Jewish communities has been disrupted, the State Department report said.

While anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant xenophobia were once the ideologies of skinheads and other far-right groups, Mr. Heitmeyer said some of those views have gone mainstream, with the major increase in xenophobia coming from people who consider themselves moderates.

Mr. Heitmeyer said this trend came with a growing feeling of economic uncertainty in Germany, where unemployment is 10.5 percent and there is a concern about foreigners taking jobs.

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