Germany is split over its feelings towards Israel, according to a new survey. Of those questioned, 60 per cent thought the country no longer had a special duty towards the Jewish state.
Pro- and anti-Israel demonstrations have taken place thoughout Germany
The figures, released on the Web site of German weekly Stern, showed less engagement amongst young people, of whom 70 percent felt no special responsibility towards Israel.
Of those questioned by polling agency Forsa, 35 per cent said this duty did still exist, more than 60 years after the end of World War II.
Forsa's chief executive, Manfred Guellner, said it was a "dangerous development" if the younger generations felt they no longer needed to deal with the events that occurred during the Nazi regime.
Questioned about the Gaza conflict, 30 percent held Hamas responsible for the current military offensive.
In Berlin, protesters have marched in support of ...
Some 13 per ent blamed Israel, while 35 per ent said the causes lie on both sides in equal measure.
Israel launched its Operation Cast Lead against Palestinian militants, led by Hamas, in the Gaza Strip on December 27, 2008 following rocket bombardments on southern Israel.
Low marks on human rights
More generally, 49 percent considered Israel to be an aggressive country. A further 10 percent said Israel was acting without regard for other countries.
Only 30 percent of those surveyed thought Israel was respecting human rights.
One in eight went so far as to question the right to exist of the Jewish state. On the other hand, 45 percent of those questioned were sympathetic towards Israel.
The survey was conducted amongst a representative sample of 1,000 Germans on January 8. The figures have an error margin of three percent.
... and against Israeli attacks in Gaza
In the wake of Israel's ongoing attacks against Hamas, protests have erupted around Germany and elsewhere in Europe, both in support of, and opposing, the Israeli actions.
On Tuesday, Jan. 13, a police chief in Duisburg issued a formal apology after his officers tore down two Israeli flags during a street protest against Israel's bombing raids in Gaza.
Rolf Cebin, head of the police department in Duisburg, in western Germany, said, "the removal of the flags was -- in hindsight -- the wrong decision."
Officers entered the unoccupied apartment to remove the flags after demonstrators began pelting them with various things -- some said snowballs were thrown, while others said the demonstrators were throwing rocks.
The police said they were acting to defuse a situation that threatened to turn violent as over 10,000 people marched through the city in protest at Israel's actions in Gaza.
The ripping-down of the flags sparked furious reaction from Jewish groups. A representative from the Simon-Wiesenthal-Center described the action as "cowardly" and "incomprehensible."