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Abstracts Pressse Symposium

Berlin Press materials – Abstracts

SPME-Symposion 9.-10. Dezember 2017

Simon Akstinat, Jüdische Rundschau

A large part of the media neglect their genuine role as the „Fourth Power“ in Germany. Today many journalists defend almost automatically the government and its policy against their critics instead of questioning it. So you need a „Fifth Power“- and the JUEDISCHE RUNDSCHAU as the only independent Jewish newspaper and the most pro-Israel newspaper in Germany is part of this „Fifth Power“.

Michael Wuliger, Jüdische Allgemeine

Things could be worse.
Compared to countries like the UK, France, Hungary or Sweden, German Antisemitism and Antizionism are relatively moderate. Our government and institutions such as universities and broadcasters are not explicitly anti-Israel. Rather, they follow a somewhat muddled middleof-the-road line: Israel’s right to exist isn’t questioned. But the Jewish state’s security policies are constantly under fire. And of course Germany at the same time cultivates it’s political and economic ties with Iran.

Still, things could be worse.

Jews don’t have to fear being beaten up or worse if they venture into Muslim-dominated areas of our cities. Only rarely, that is. Verbal harassment and/or being spat at are all they risk normally. And of course kids shouldn’t proclaim their Jewishness in school. Teachers better not talk about the Holocaust, even if the topic is on the curriculum, if they want to avoid trouble with some Muslim pupils.

Still, things could be worse.

Right-wing populists only got 12,6 percent of the vote, as compared to 27,4 percent in Austria or 33,6 percent in France. And – with some notable exceptions – the extreme-right AfD-party does not propagate overt Antisemitism. Top party representatives and members of Parliament prefer to call for an end to the “guilt cult” and for a 180-degree change in remembrance culture: “Germany’s history must no longer be reduced to the Shoa.” The AfD also professes sympathy for Israel, though it’s parliamentary chairman recently described the Jewish state as an “alien element” in the Mideast, which in German – “Fremdkoerper” – rings some historical bells. On the Left meanwhile, hard-core Antizionism like in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is so far only a minority position, albeit a very vocal one. The mainstream Left’s “Israelkritik” tends to be low-key. Things could be worse. They probably will become worse, too. Since the end of World War II overt Antisemitism was a national taboo in this country. But after more than 70 years, Germany’s national bad conscience is wearing thin. A newly relaxed and carefree attitude vis-a-vis Antisemitism is slowly but surely on the upsurge.

No, that does not – repeat: not – mean, that another Kristallnacht is in the offing. Jews in Germany are not in physical danger. Their situation is only becoming increasingly unpleasant and uncomfortable. It’s not “back to the 1930s”. Far from that. Maybe back to the 1890s. The 1930s came some time after that.

Dr. Alexander Grau, Cicero

Understanding Anti-Semitism in Germany Today, December 9th

Modern anti-Semitism in the Western world usually takes the form of criticism of Israel (in Germany it almost became a terminus technicus: Israelkritik). In order to grasp it, it is necessary to know what the Germans understand as the area called the “Middle East” but in German “Near East”. Why do the Germany feel so close to this part of the “East”?

First thesis: Because the Germans have no notion of what this “Near East” means but that is not so terrible, as one does not necessarily have to know everything… Since Germany war always a continental sea power in Northern Europe and traded with the countries in the area, it had no real contacts with the “Orient”, thus differing from France which had the “Orient” so to speak at its front door, and from the British Empire.

Thesis two: That’s why the Germans always muddle up the “Middle East” with the “Orient”. The perception of the “Orient” obstructs their view on the “Middle East” because the “Orient” is for the Germans still an unsorted melting pot for romantic, exotic and projections which are hostile towards civilization. According to this, the “orient” is still a refuge, not yet spoiled by globalization and which successfully resist the western cultural imperialism thus being authentic and veritable.

Thesis three: This “Orient” has nothing to do with the real “Middle East”, it is not geography but lies deeply inside the German soul. When we speak of the region “Middle East” in Germany, the German therefore does not speak about Lebanon or Israel, Syria or Iraq, he actually speaks about himself. And the peoples of that region represent all that dear to the German but which is being denied to him. There, one is anti-Western, against globalisation, enlightenment and civilisation. And just one nation spoils this oriental idyll and this is Israel.

Thesis four: The German image of the „Orient“ is a product of the 19th century. Whereas the German poet, philosopher of culture and history, Johann Gottfried Herder, struggled for an enlightened-scholarly approach to oriental East, its glorification began with Goethe’s cycle of poems “West-oestlicher Divan” (1819, UNESCO world documental heritage, sic!). This was the reason for the longtime lack of interest in German politics for the reality of the “Middle East”. Only with the “romantic” king Wilhelm II the foreign policy regarding the “Orient” began to emerge. A strong example for the ambitions in this direction is the famous controversial project of the Baghdad railway (Berlin-Baghdad) connecting Germany to the Ottoman Empire which preceded World War and the aftermath but had not been pursued halfheartedly. Thesis five: Even today, this distance from reality is characteristic for the German preoccupation with this topic. When a German author of non-fiction books or a journalist talk about the “Orient”, he actually talks about the German obsessions. This pertains to people like Juergen Todenhoefer or Michael Lueders. That is why these authors in Germany so successful – and not only in Germany! And that is why very good books about the topic are not being translated into German! As, and I repeat, the Germans are only interested in their inward “Orient” and not in the “Middle East”.

Malte Lehming, Tagesspiegel

A few remarks made on the SPME symposium about „Antisemitism, Middle East and no end to it”, with a special emphasis on the situation in Germany.

According to a widespread perception in Germany, the „West” is in the middle of a struggle between liberal and illiberal democracies a) within itself and b) against foreign adversaries. This struggle is perceived as one of historic proportions. Some of the most prominent symbols of illiberalism are Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Victor Orban. In combination with the rise of right wing partys all over Europe, some of them with xenophobic and anti-Semitic sentiments, a few critical questions can be asked about the position of the present Israeli government in this struggle. Is Israel and are Jews in Europe and the US partners of Western liberal democracies?

Let me remind you of some recent observations: After Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula Israel abstained from the US-led bid to isolate Moscow at the United Nations with a resolution passed in the General Assembly. All other leading US allies, including Canada and Poland, closed ranks. While Israel joined Iran, Serbia and several former Soviet republics in deliberately not taking part in the vote. The violation of international recognized borders does not allow any kind of neutral position. So why did Israel abstain?

In Charlottesville, Virginia, a group of Neo-Nazis demonstrated in the streets chanting „Jews will not replace us”. After a couple of days Trump denounced in vague terms „the KKK, neoNazis, white supremacists and other hate groups”. Finally, Benjamin Netanjahu, Israel’s Prime Minister, issued a tweet saying „Outraged by expressions of anti-Semitism, neo Nazism and racism”. But he failed to name names or places. His son Yair, who condemned the NeoNazis as well added that the counter-protesters of Antifa and Black Lives Matter „hate my country (and America too in my view) just as much”. This was perceived in parts of Europe as a sign of an equidistance between anti-Semitic Neo-Nazis and groups who protested against them. Rightly so?

Two of Netanjahus closest friends seem to be Donald Trump and Viktor Orban. Orbans government has been accused of running an anti- Semitic poster campaign against George Soros, a Holocaust survivor and Jewish-American financier with Hungarian roots, who funds liberal causes all over the world. The Israeli government doesn’t seem to be bothered about the Hungarian campaign, instead the foreign ministry attacked Soros too – for undermining Israels democratically elected governments by funding organisations that defame the Jewish state.

Many European right-wing populists like Heinz-Christian Strache (Austria) or Geert Wilders (Netherland) present themselves as true friends and supporters of the State of Israel. A year ago, Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, wrote a letter to the Jewish community in Vienna in which he harshly criticised the alliance of Israeli representatives and European right wingers who are spreading hatred and antisemitism. On the other hand, the Anti-Defamation-League protested loudly against Trump for using „America first” as a campaign-slogan, which originally was used by the anti-war-movement during the Second World War. Where do Jews and Israelis stand: with Putin, Trump and Orban – or against racism, right wing-populism, antisemitism and ignorance towards historical events? And finally: Two of the most sacred Western values are freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Traditionally, the state of Israel is one of the best and proudest examples worldwide how to live with these values. Even with a 20 percent Muslim population and suffering from terrorism like no other country, the Israeli society carefully avoids to discuss about the religion of Islam or restricting religious liberties. Many European Islamophobes (I know this term is very controversial) could learn from the Israeli example. The same applies to freedom of speech. Israeli society tolerates even the crudest and most absurd political statements, the democratic discourse is very controversial.

But why is it that outside Israel the discourse sometimes seems to be much more rigid? The so called 3-D-Test for anti-Semitism – demonization, double standards, delegitimization – might have some merits but can easily be applied within a very wide range. Can liberal defenders of the freedom of speech, which should include in my view even Holocaust denial and Mohammed caricatures, feel supported by like-minded freedom loving Israelis?

Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post

My departure point for the Antisemitism in Germany symposium is to focus on modern Jewhatred–also known as contemporary antisemitism–in the Federal Republic in the following sectors:
the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign targeting the Jewish state, Shi’ite Jihadism from Hezbollah, Sunni Jihadism and the Iranian regime–the top state-sponsor of terrorism.

If time permits, German-Qatari and German-Turkey relations will be examined in the context of the Turkish and Qatari campaigns to stoke modern antisemitism.

1) Germany has witnessed a number of countervailing forces against the BDS campaign. The cities of Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin have initiated legislative and executive measures to outlaw city support–both financial and space–for BDS activities. Cologne http://koeln.deutschisraelische-gesellschaft.de/im-fokus/index/category/alle-1/showme/mitgliederversammlungder-dig-ag-koeln-bds-entgegentreten http://koeln.deutsch-israelische-gesellschaft.de/imfokus/index/category/alle-1/showme/mitgliederversammlung-der-dig-ag-koeln-bdsentgegentreten and Oldenburg have also weighed in but in a less concrete fashion with respect to legislation. University student associations at Leipzig University and the Goethe University in Frankfurt have passed anti-BDS resolutions. The student groups have deemed BDS to be an antisemitic campaign. The student measures are, from an anti-BDS perspective, encouraging. By contrast, a number of US university student groups have passed pro-BDS resolutions. Take the recent example of the University of Michigan. German banks, ranging from Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, Postbank–have terminated BDS accounts because of terror-finance and antisemitism. The French-German bank DAB shut down the bank account of the Berlin-based group BDS-Kampagne last year. It should be noted that the finanicial banks felt pressure because of US anti-BDS laws to sever ties with the BDS groups. In short, the bank giants could have faced severe financial losses. The neo-Nazi parties Der Dritte Weg and NPD are supporters of BDS.

2) Hezbollah-animated antisemitism in Germany is linked both to BDS and its efforts to recruit and fundraise in the Federal Republic. The 2016 German intelligence report lists 950 active Hezbollah members and supporters in Germany. Israeli and German members of parliament have appealed to Germany’s interior ministry to ban Hezbollah’s so-called political wing in Germany. The interior ministry has refused to intervene. Hezbollah membership increased in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia where the head of the Hezbollah-affiliated Islamic Center Al Mahdi urged his supporters this year to wage “resistance” against Israel. According to the state’s October intelligence report, the number of Hezbollah members increased from 100 to 105. The report also noted that Hezbollah fighters from the Middle East disguised themselves as refugees to enter Germany. Hezbollah members and supporters across Germany participate in the annual al-Quds Day demonstration calling for the obiteration of Israel.

3) Sunni-Jihadism in Germany caused the murders of 12 at the Berlin Christmas Market attack, including the Israeli Dalia Elyakim. The family members of the 12 murder victims from last December’s Christmas terror attack published a blistering open letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Der Spiegel magazine on Friday, accusing her government of deeply flawed anti-terrorism policies; failing to prevent the Islamic State attack in Berlin; and mistreatment of the survivors in the aftermath of the act of vehicular terrorism. In Hamburg, a Palestinian terrorist said he wanted to kill Christians becasue of the Temple Mount dispute. He went on stabbing spree, murdering a German man. German Jihadists and their family members who return to Germany will lead, in my opinion, to lethal antisemitic attacks. The growing Salafist movement in Germany will present enormous challenges for security officials. Hamas supporters and members number 300 in Germany. However, there was an increase of Hamas members and supporters in North RhineWestphalia rose to 75 in 2016 from 65 in 2015. The influx of refugees and migrants from Syria and other Muslim-majority countries will contribute to an enormous increase of antisemitism in Germany. In short, a societal recipe for social dissolution.

4) The Islamic Republic of Iran is the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism. Germany’s foreign minister–and ministry– has worked to mainstream the regime in Germany. It is worth noting that Iran’s regime is the only state that formally exports lethal antisemitism as part of its foreign policy. Iranian institutions in Hamburg mobilize antisemititic forces for the alQuds Day in Berlin. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps employed a Pakistani spy to monitor pro-Israel advocates and Jewish organizations in Germany, with a view toward assassination. West German Broadcasting (WDR) reported Iran’sintelligence agency’s goal was to assassinate the former president of the German-Israel Friendship Society, Reinhold Robbe. Iran has also sought illicit nuclear and missile technology in hte federal republic. According to one of Germany’s leading security reporters, Frank Jansen from Der Taggesspiegel, Geman security officials said that Iran’s regime seeks technology for nuclear-tipped missiles.