The more Germans know about the Mideast, the more they root for the Palestinians

Akiva Eldar writes: Official Jerusalem hasn’t been caught saying a bad word about the Muslim Brotherhood victory in the Egyptian elections and probably won’t have any slips of the tongue regarding the president-elect, Mohammed Morsi. All these years we’ve been saying that a secure peace is made with democratic regimes. And a democratic regime is what Egyptian democracy has managed to produce as a result of the protests in Tahrir Square.

The problems will start when people from the lunatic right decide the time has come to take over a few more houses in Silwan in East Jerusalem, or to refurbish some gate on the Temple Mount, Haram al-Sharif to the Arabs. Then we will hear that the worsening of relations with Egypt has nothing to do with the flourishing of the settlements or the withering of the peace process. That is when they will explain to us that it all starts from the anti-Semitism, rooted deep in the religion of Islam. Just like the European criticism of the government stems from Christian anti-Semitism.

Last year I wrote here about the book “Muslim Attitudes to Jews and Israel,” edited by Prof. Moshe Ma’oz (“How can Israel change Muslim extremists’ attitude toward Israel?” March 29, 2011 ). The book questions the common perception that Islam is anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. According to the Middle East scholar from Jerusalem, most researchers of Islam agree that along with periods of oppression and persecution, the Jewish communities in the Islamic countries enjoyed long eras of coexistence and tolerance. Ma’oz stresses that most of the regimes in the Arab and Muslim world, and most leading Muslim clerics, have adapted pragmatic attitudes toward Israel and the Jews. He pointed out the close connection between the occupation in the territories, the dispute regarding the Jerusalem sites that are sacred to Islam and the strengthening of the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel tendencies in the Muslim world.

A new study conducted recently in Germany also knocks the ground out from under the assertion that most of Israel’s critics in Europe are anti-Semitic. In presenting the findings of his research at a conference held last month in Istanbul, political psychologist Wilhelm Kempf related that both Muslim and Jewish colleagues initially voiced the suspicion that he was aiming to label criticism of Israel in the context of the conflict with the Palestinians as anti-Semitism. The findings were far more complex; 45 percent of the Germans who participated in the study interpreted the conflict in terms of the value of peace. One-third of them showed pro-Palestinian tendencies and 12 percent expressed pro-Israeli opinions. [Continue reading…]

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