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Germany Promises Israel to Combat Anti-Semitism (REUTERS) By Dan Williams JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 02/02/05 12:08 PM ET)Source: http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=7515139 Reuters News Service Reuters News Service Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The German president, citing his country´s historic responsibility for the Holocaust, told Israel on Wednesday Germany would always support a secure Jewish state and combat anti- Semitism he said still existed at home.

Israelis have been worried by recent polls in Germany in which only one in five felt personal guilt for the Holocaust and more than half likened Israeli crackdowns on Palestinians in principle to Nazi actions.

But President Horst Koehler told the Israeli parliament: "Responsibility for the Shoah (Holocaust) is part of the German identity." He added: "We must all understand that the victims of the Shoah have given us a task: never again to allow genocide."

In a speech marking four decades of bilateral ties, Koehler said: "Xenophobia and anti-Semitism have not disappeared from Germany. Comparisons seeking to play down the Shoah are a scandal which we have to confront."

Germany has been Israel´s most reliable European ally in terms of trade, defense and a public German reluctance to criticize a Jewish state that rose from the ashes of the Nazi genocide during World War II.

"It is an irrevocable maxim of German policy that Israel should be able to live in its internationally recognized borders free of fear and terror," Koehler said. "Germany stands unshakeably by Israel and its people."

Yet resentment of Germany still runs deep in Israel. Four lawmakers shunned Koehler´s speech because it was delivered in German.

MEDIA IMAGES

Political analysts detect a new hostility to Israel among the German public that they ascribe to a European perception of the country as a U.S. proxy and to media images of the Middle East conflict.

More than half of Germans polled by Bielefeld University in December said they saw Israel´s handling of a Palestinian revolt as no different in principle to what the Nazis did to the Jews -- some six million of whom were killed in the Holocaust.

"Whereas in the past anti-Semites objected to the Jews´ existence as equal partners in society, the new anti-Semites deny the Jewish people´s right to protect itself as a national entity, an equal partner in the society of nations," Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in his parliament address.

Koehler, who arrived in Jerusalem after a visit to an Israeli border town that has suffered Palestinian rocket attacks, voiced understanding for Israel´s security concerns.

But he stopped short of pledging that Germany would ban far-right political groups, as demanded by Israeli officials.

Koehler expressed hope for a internationally backed "road map" to peaceful Palestinian statehood in the West Bank and Gaza, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

"Peace can only be reached by Israelis and Palestinians themselves. The whole world hopes with you that the talks that have been agreed will bring progress. We all know that these are questions of existential importance for both sides," he said. (© Reuters 2005 02/02/05)


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