Common Ground between Right and Left
Today's German anti-Semitism is deeply connected to the Nazi period and the wish to expunge guilt and responsibility for dealing with it. Right-wing extremism, neo-Nazism, and extreme conservatism seem "naturally" linked to denial or minimalization of the Holocaust, or calling for a new one. As elsewhere in Europe, a relatively new "brotherhood" has emerged in Germany between the extreme Right and fundamentalist Islam.
Anti-Zionism, however - which is not mere criticism of Israeli policies, but the denial of the Jewish people's right to live in their own state - also links leftists and rightists. Since the Six Day War of 1967, both the extreme and the mainstream Left in Europe have shown strong anti-Zionist tendencies, not always distinguishable from anti-Semitism. Although leftist anti-Zionism seemed to decline after the fall of Communism in 1990, it was reanimated by the Second Intifada and the antiglobalization movement, which is today a main source of leftist anti-Semitism.
In a May 2002 survey in the weekly magazine Der Spiegel, 25% agreed that "what the state of Israel does to the Palestinians is no different than what the Nazis did during the Third Reich to the Jews."2 A new scholarly book analyzes how deeply anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are rooted in German society.3 Since 1989, united Germany seems to stand on two main pillars: a strong anti-American and anti-Israeli attitude.
The Postwar, Pre-1967 Roots
Anti-Semitism was never exclusive to the Right; Communism, for its part, often vilified Jews as capitalists. Communism in East Germany, as elsewhere, denied the right to practice the Jewish religion and sought to eradicate religion in general, including Judaism. East Germany's anti-Semitic policies first became evident in January 1953 when the Stasi - the state security service - confiscated documents of the Jewish communities, searched the homes of Jewish leaders, and spoke of a "Zionist conspiracy." After the Six Day War, East Germany officially adopted an anti-Zionist stance. However, no serious data on East German anti-Semitism is available before the reunification in 1989.
Although West German left-wing anti-Semitism also increased steadily after the Six Day War, before then the West German Left supported Israel generally, and specifically the Wiedergutmachung (Reparations Agreement of 1953) and the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1965. This friendliness was, however, based on an idealization of Israel, kibbutzim, and pioneering and was not on genuinely firm ground.4 Opposition to the conservative government of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer also played a role in this left-wing philo-Semitism.
During the 1960s, the West German Left divided into a more "conservative" wing and a New Left trend. Whereas Chancellor Willy Brandt was said to be a true and unwavering friend of Israel,5 many young leftists took radical positions and opposed Brandt's "establishment" Social Democratic Party. In 1966 they founded the Nonparliamentary Opposition (APO), a popular movement that sought to "renew" German politics from the outside. Many of its members and supporters later showed sympathy for the RAF, a leftist terrorist movement that had ties to the PLO and whose cadres trained in terrorist camps in Lebanon.