Palestinian Perception of Germany and its Policy on the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

3-6 December 2014

Palestinians admire German political, cultural and economic development and would like to see Germany play a larger role in international affairs, but have questions regarding Germany’s policy on the Palestinian-Israeli issues

3-6 December 2014

These are the results of the German poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip between 3-6 December 2014. The poll covered several issues including public familiarity with Germany, impressions regarding Germany and the German people, Germany’s place and role in international politics and the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, Germany and Israel, and Germany and Palestine.

Total size of the sample is 1270 adults interviewed face to face in 127 randomly selected locations. Margin of error is 3%.

Main Findings:

Most Palestinians have highly positive impressions about various aspects of German life, such as its advanced innovation and technology, strong economy, medical services, freedom of the press, treatment of women, respect for human rights, and art and cinema. Palestinians view Germany as a democracy committed to Western values. Germans are seen as ambitious, warm, open-minded, optimistic, and hard-working. Most Palestinians have positive impressions about Berlin and would like to have German friends and half sees no problem in living in Germany under the right circumstances.  When thinking about things they do not like about Germany or the German people, only some Palestinians mentioned the Nazi legacy, racism, and biases in favor of Israel. Men and Gazans tend to have more positive impressions about Germany and the German people than women and West Bankers. Women tend to be less sure than men regarding their impressions of Germany, mostly because they know less about the country than men. 

Generally speaking, Palestinians view German place and role in international politics in positive terms and would like to see Germany play a larger role in international affairs. A large percentage of Palestinians think that Germany is interested in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Although Germany comes in second place in term of the European countries with the strongest relations with the Palestinians, the largest percentage prefers to see Germany as the country with the strongest relations with the Palestinian Authority. As in the previous topics examined in this poll, Gazans tend to have the most positive and favorable perception of German support for Palestinian right to statehood and the support of the German people to the Palestinian cause. More than West Bankers, Gazans tend to view Palestinian-German relation as one based on trust and would like to see Germany, more than any other European country, having the strongest relations with the Palestinians. By contrast, women tend to be less positive than men about German policy toward Palestine and Palestine’s right to statehood. The same trend applies to most other aspects of German policy toward the Palestinians.

Most Palestinians think that Germany is an important partner for Israel and that it supports Israel’s right to exist. The majority believes that the bi-lateral Israeli-German relations are good or excellent. Palestinians are divided over the reason for the special relationship between the two states with a larger percentage believing that it has to do with the legacy of the Holocaust. Palestinians think that Germany supports their right to statehood and that the German people support the Palestinian cause. Yet only one quarter believes that Germany is an important partner for the Palestinians and less than one third describes the relationship between Germany and the Palestinian Liberation Organization as good or excellent.

Findings show however, that many Palestinians are not familiar with German culture or politics. Around one quarter is interested in Germany’s foreign policy and one third is interested in knowing more about current developments in the country. While a very small minority has visited Germany, around a sixth of the public has relatives who currently live there and more than half of the public is interested in visiting it. The fact that a significant part of the public is not familiar with German life, culture and politics led to a large percentage of “do not know” or “refuse to answer,” ranging mostly between 10% and 20%. Men are more familiar than women with the various aspects of German life. Similarly, Gazans are more familiar than West Bankers with German life and culture. Gazans are also more interested than West Bankers in visiting, and knowing more about, Germany.

But Palestinians are also critical of Germany’s role in resolving the conflict. More than two-thirds think Germany is biased in favor of Israel and a large percentage thinks that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s critical stand against Israeli settlement construction is not sincere. Perhaps, it is for this reason that only a minority has a favorable impression about the Chancellor. It is noticeable that Gazans have more positive views of Germany’s role in international politics and the peace process. This might explain the reason why more Gazans than West Bankers have a favorable view of the German Chancellor. As in other issues, women tend to have a less favorable view of Germany’s role in international politics and in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. They tend to question Merkel sincerity regarding Israel settlements than men and they tend to have a less favorable view of her than men.

The following is a more detailed summary of the findings:

(1) Knowledge and familiarity with Germany

  • 59% know the name of the German capital, but when asked about the name of the current German chancellor, only 37% provided the correct answer.
  • 23% say that they are familiar with German culture and 72% say they are not familiar.
  • 24% are interested and 70% are not interested in German government and foreign policy; 33% are interested and 63% are not interested in information about developments in Germany.
  • TV is the main source of information on Germany for 43% of the Palestinians followed by newspapers, magazine and internet for 39%, then Facebook, Twitter, and other social media for 22%, friends and relatives for 15%, and finally books for 7%.
  • When asked about the area of German-Palestinian relations they have heard about, the largest percentage of respondents (34%) indicated that it was cultural exchange; 19% said it was language exchange; 13% said it was city partnerships, and another 13% said they have heard about German foundations such as Goethe-Institute, Konrad Adenuaer Foundation, Friedrich Naumann Foundation and Friedrich Ebert Foundation.
  • 17% say that they have relatives that live today in Germany and 81% said they do not have any relatives living in Germany.
  • 4% of the public visited Germany in the past and 94% never visited it. But 51% expressed interest in visiting it and 47% said they have no such interest. Among those who visited Germany in the past, the main four reasons for the visit were vacation, visiting friends, work, or study.
  • 11% say they have and 85% say they do not have German friends. 6% say they have or had professional contact in Germany and 90% do not have such contacts.


(2) Impressions and perception of Germany and the German people

  • 49% of the public have favorable overall impressions of Germany and 33% have unfavorable impressions; 18% have not indicated any impressions.  By comparison, 53% say they have favorable overall impressions of the European Union and 35% say they have unfavorable impressions.
  • Early in the interview, we asked respondents, in an open-ended question, to tell us what images come to their mind when thinking about Germany? About two thirds indicated that they have positive impressions such as images of a modern developed and rich state (mentioned by 33% of the respondents); 5% viewed the country as powerful; 6% viewed it as a democratic and stable state; and 6% mentioned Germany as a country that supports the Palestinian Authority economically and financially. By contrast, about one third indicated that they have negative images such as the country’s Nazi legacy (mentioned by 18% of the respondents); 9% viewed Germany as biased in favor of Israel; and others viewed it as unhelpful to the Palestinian people.
  • At the end of the interview, we revisited the same open-ended question and asked respondents to tell us what impressions or images now come to their mind when thinking about Germany. Ten positive and negative images were mentioned by the respondents. Seven images, mentioned by 84%, were positive while three, mentioned by 16%, were negative. At the top of the positive images came “advanced, with a modern educational system and developed industry,” mentioned by 41% of the respondents. Other images included “democratic,” “powerful,” “rich,” “full of work opportunities,” “lovely nature,” and “supportive of Palestine.” At the top of the negative images came “supportive of Israel,” mentioned by 10%. Germany’s Nazi history was mentioned by 4%. Citizens’ racist and isolationist tendencies were mentioned by 2%.
  • In another open-ended question we asked respondents to name the most positive and the most negative character traits of Germans.  The most popular positive trait, mentioned by 33%, was “ambitious, open-minded, and optimistic,” followed by “modern and advanced in most matters of civilization, technology, and economy,” mentioned by 29%, “loves work and hardworking,” mentioned by 21%, and “happy and loves life,” mentioned by 7%.  On the negative traits, 32% mentioned “racist,” 28% mentioned “isolationist,” 20% mentioned “hateful of Islam” and “non-Muslim,” and 17% mentioned “biased in favor of Israel.”
  • A majority of 51% agree that Germans are “warm, open-minded and enjoy life” while 31% agree that they are “cold, aloof and serious.”
  • 37% say that they have favorable view, and 32% say they have unfavorable view, of the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel. 32% did not express any views or refused to answer.
  • 72% describe Berlin in positive terms (cool/hip, modern, warm, or historic) and 9% describe it as cold, dangerous, or strict.
  • 67% say that they have no problem having German friends and 50% say they have no objection to living in Germany under the right circumstances. 41% say they are interested in working in Germany given the right professional opportunity.  35% say they can envision themselves working for a German company and 61% say they cannot envision that.
  • 64% agree and 32% disagree that Germany is a Western democracy like others. Similarly, 67% agree and 28% disagree that Germany is founded on and fully committed to Western values.
  • Large majorities of the Palestinian public evaluate positively most aspect of German life. At the top of the list is German medical services, evaluated positively by 82% of the public, followed by economic conditions (79%), freedom of the press (68%), respect for human rights (67%), treatment of women (60%), art and cinema (57%), respect for religious freedom (54%), and relations with the Arab World (53%). At the bottom of the list comes treatment of minorities, evaluated positively by 48% and position on Palestinian-Israeli relations (42%). It is worth mentioning that the positive evaluation was higher than the negative evaluation in all these issues as the “no-answer” and “do not know” responses ranged between 16% and 29%.
  • An overwhelming majority of 85% agree that there is a lot of innovation happening in Germany. Similarly, 76% agree that the quality of life in Germany today is among the highest in the world. 47% agree and 30% disagree that the Germans are straight and honest and don’t try to cut corners.
  • 47% of the public use German products or brands and 50% do not do that. But German products, such as cars, TVs, and washing machines, are preferred by 60% while only 12% do not prefer them.


(3) Germany’s place and role in international politics and the peace process

  • 45% think that Germany has a positive influence in international politics and 26% think it has a negative influence. Yet, 52% would like to see Germany playing a more active role in international affairs and only 17% would like to see it playing a less active role.
  • Similarly, 53% believe that the German people are concerned with the Middle East conflict and 33% think they are not concerned.
  • 46% believe that the German government is committed to working towards a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians and 37% do not believe that.
  • Only 28% agree and 68% disagree that Germany is an “honest broker” between Israelis and Palestinians.
  • We asked the public to evaluate the German position on the peace process. 22% described the German position as independent while 31% said that it follows that of the European Union and 32% said it is close to that of the US.
  • When asked the public to evaluate the sincerity of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel when during a visit to Israel in early 2014 she indicated that Germany looked to the Israeli settlement issue with grave concern. 38% said she was sincere and 47% said she was not sincere.


(4) Germany and Israel

  • 55% believe that Germany supports Israel’s right to exist and 32% do not believe that. Similarly, 55% believe that the German government is actively helping Israel “behind the scenes” while 24% do not believe that. But only 45% believe that the average German citizen supports Israel’s right to exist and 34% do not believe that.
  • 55% agree and 40% disagree that Germany is an important partner for Israel.
  • In an open-ended question, 62% of the respondents evaluated German-Israeli relationship as successful, excellent or good.  14% described it as based on mutual interests, and 6% described it as based on business and trade. By contrast, 12% described the relationship as negative or tense and 5% described it as average.
  • 42% say that Germany will always support Israel because of the Holocaust while 38% say that the Holocaust is not the main reason for the German support for Israel.
  • 47% say that due to past historical events, Israel and Germany will always have a special relationship in the future while 34% say that the past has no connection to the future and should have no influence on the relationship.


(5) Germany and Palestine

  • 53% believe that the German government supports the Palestinians’ right to statehood and 32% do not believe that. Similarly, 52% believe that the German government supports the Palestinian cause and 33% do not believe that. But 58% believe that the average German citizen supports the Palestinian cause and 21% do not believe that.
  • 25% agree that Germany is an important partner for Palestine and 70% disagree with that.
  • In an open-ended question, 32% of the respondents evaluated Germany’s relationship with the Palestinians under the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization as excellent or good and 16% described it as normal or acceptable, and 10% described it as based on interests or trade and financial support. By contrast, 38% evaluated the relationship as weak or limited and 4% said the relationship does not exist nor has any impact.
  • 44% agree and 40% disagree that Palestinian-German relations are trustful. Similarly, 35% agree and 47% disagree that the relationship is resilient. Only 30% agree and 53% disagree that the relationship is strong. 54% agree and 28% disagree that the relationship is not stable.
  • 49% believe that Germany supports Palestine’s right to statehood and 36% do not believe that.
  • We asked the public in an open-ended question to name the European country that has the best relationship with Palestine. Only 12% selected Germany while 17% selected France, 7% selected UK and a similar percentage selected Switzerland, and 5% selected Spain, Italy or Belgium.
  • But when we asked respondents to name the European country they would like to see having the best relationship with Palestine, Germany came on top with 25% selecting it, followed by France (selected by 20%), Spain (10%), UK (9%), and Italy (7%).
  • 30% want Palestinian-German relations to be very close, 45% want it to be somewhat close, and 16% do not want it to be close at all.
  • In the future, 27% of the respondents would like to strengthen Palestinian-German relations in the area of trade, 22% want stronger relations in the area of education, 16% want stronger relations in the area of science and technology, 12% want stronger relationship in the area of culture, 8% want stronger relations in the area of security cooperation and training, and 5% want stronger relations in the area of tourism.