AS THE MEMORY OF THE HOLOCAUST FADES, GERMANY’S ATTITUDE TOWARDS ISRAEL CHANGES
Germany-Israel Relations: Unique or Normal?: Shimon Stein, INSS Insight No. 1030, Mar. 7, 2018 — Last year’s decision by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to postpone the annual consultations between the governments of Israel and Germany, which was seen as an expression of dissatisfaction with the Israeli government regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the decision to suspend signing the contract on the sale of submarines from Germany to Israel for reasons that commentators saw as linked to the same dissatisfaction; German votes in the UN in recent years on matters relating to Israel; statements by German officials regarding the future of relations between the two countries; and a speech by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel at the Institute of National Security Studies (INSS) annual conference in January 2018 – all these indicate a change in Germany’s attitude to Israel.
Berlin Hosts Germany’s Worst Antisemitism: Josué Michels, The Trumpet, Feb. 7, 2019 — Germany’s capital city, Berlin, is plagued by growing antsemitism. Attacks on Jews in Berlin more than tripled in 2018 compared to the previous year.
Germany Promotes Antisemitism and Anti-Israelism: Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, BESA, Mar. 3, 2019 — The German government’s official policy is that it makes efforts to fight antisemitism.
German Prosecutors to Probe Israeli Submarine Deal: Ben Knight, DW, Mar. 26, 2019 — One of the scandals spiraling around Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has caught the attention of German authorities investigating potential use of taxpayers’ money to bribe Israeli officials.
On Topic Links
Germany’s New Antisemitism Commissioner Must Expose the Truth: Abraham Cooper and Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, The Hill, Mar. 10, 2018 — The recent surge of antisemitic incidents in Germany confirms the necessity for Felix Klein’s appointment as the nation’s first antisemitism commissioner.
The Young German Jews Who Left Everything Behind — And Moved to Israel: Dana Regev, DW, Mar. 3, 2019 — People who were born and raised in Israel are not used to hearing that their upbringing is something to be envious of.
German CEO: Israel Should No Longer Rely On Germany for Its Existence: Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 24, 2018 — In an eye-popping commentary in the Die Welt newspaper last week, Mathias Döpfner, the pro-Israel CEO of the Axel Springer media conglomerate in Berlin, wrote that the Jewish state should no longer depend on Germany if it is attacked and its existence is on the line.
France, Germany And UK Say Iran Missiles Can Deliver Nukes: Edith M. Lederer, AP News, April 2, 2019 — France, Germany and Britain expressed concern in a letter released Tuesday that Iran’s latest ballistic missile activities are part of increasing actions to develop missiles capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.
UNIQUE OR NORMAL?
INSS Insight No. 1030, Mar. 7, 2018
Last year’s decision by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to postpone the annual consultations between the governments of Israel and Germany, which was seen as an expression of dissatisfaction with the Israeli government regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the decision to suspend signing the contract on the sale of submarines from Germany to Israel for reasons that commentators saw as linked to the same dissatisfaction; German votes in the UN in recent years on matters relating to Israel; statements by German officials regarding the future of relations between the two countries; and a speech by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel at the Institute of National Security Studies (INSS) annual conference in January 2018 – all these indicate a change in Germany’s attitude to Israel. What is this change? Does it reflect a trend, and if so, what can be done to maintain the unique nature of the relationship?
The main and in fact the only factor underlying the unique relationship between Israel and Germany is the memory of the Holocaust, and the commitment that Germany consequently made to Israel’s existence and security. This rationale has guided Germany’s decision makers in their conduct with Israel since the start of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The uniqueness found expression in its (almost unshakable) support for Israel at both the bilateral and international levels. It was based on a moral German consideration, while considerations of realpolitik (that did indeed play a part in the considerations of West Germany in the years prior to the start of diplomatic relations and delayed these relations) played a secondary role for a long time. Yet notwithstanding this overriding element in the relations, there have been crises deriving from Israeli expectations that Germany failed to meet. Crises surrounding reparations in the early 1950s, the German scientists in Egypt in the early 1960s, German neutrality during the Yom Kippur War, the Helmut Schmidt- Menachem Begin crisis because of Germany’s intention to supply Leopard tanks to Saudi Arabia, and German assistance to Iraq in the construction chemical industry, which enabled it to develop military chemical capability, are examples of such incidents.
Since the start of the twenty-first century, there have been signs of a crisis of expectations on Germany’s part toward Israel, which derives primarily from Israel’s conduct in the conflict with the Palestinians, which as Germany sees it, is not compatible with international law, which is a basic foundation of German foreign policy. Add to that is the absence of trust that has developed over the years between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Chancellor Merkel. Moreover, this crisis is not confined to the German elite. For some years, and even more so lately, polls have pointed to a decline in German public opinion toward support for Israel. A senior German official told me while he does not expect a change on the part of the current elite’s attitudes to Israel, the younger generation may show greater understanding of the Palestinian side and be more critical of Israel’s actions (assuming that the conflict is not resolved).
Against these developments, it appears that in the tension between uniqueness and normalcy, there is a trend that can be characterized as the ritualization of uniqueness, alongside a broadening of normalcy in relations. In other words, if in the past the ritualization of memory of the Holocaust weakened realpolitik considerations for Germany, today it is not enough to counter them.
Since historical memory and consequently Germany’s moral obligation to the existence and security of the State of Israel is what underlay the bilateral relations, the question of the contribution of these relations to German interests in the Middle East was not at the focus of German calculations (although this does not mean that Germany did not derive and continues to derive benefits from its cooperation with Israel). However, the emerging reality was recently summed up by a member of the German government who said that relations are developing in a direction where realpolitik will be the basis of cooperation between the countries. If so, there is no reason to see the topics currently on the agenda of both countries as evidence of a unique relationship or strategic partnership, but as cooperation that is the fruit of shared interests, of the kind that Israel has with a number of countries. After all, strategic partnership is based inter alia on a shared view of threats and ways of dealing with them, as well as on shared values. The widening gaps in recent years between Germany and Israel are evidence that these are not the basis of the relationship between the two countries.
Evidence of these gaps can be found in bilateral meetings of recent years, where discussions of matters of shared interest reveal differences of opinion, some seemingly unbridgeable. There are also official statements from German politicians who no longer feel the “historical” inhibitions against criticizing Israeli positions. Some examples: substantial disagreements over how to handle the Iranian nuclear threat – in particular, against the background of the nuclear agreement to which Germany was a partner, and German assessments of the Iranian threat in general, which differ Israel’s; differences of opinion regarding the overall Middle East situation and its implications – including the Saudi-Iranian crisis and ways of dealing with it (Germany has reservations about the benefits to Israel of greater closeness with the Sunni camp in the struggle against the Shiite camp); and disagreements on the Palestinian issue, which casts a heavy shadow over the future of relations…[To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
BERLIN HOSTS GERMANY’S WORST ANTISEMITISM
The Trumpet, Feb. 7, 2019
Germany’s capital city, Berlin, is plagued by growing antisemitism. Attacks on Jews in Berlin more than tripled in 2018 compared to the previous year. German anti-Semitism is again becoming popular, and the citizens of Berlin are no longer afraid to show it openly, even on camera. Despite various studies and reports, few understand where the hatred originates and where it is leading.
This is not Berlin’s first time at the center of German antisemitism. Nationwide, Berlin has by far the most antisemitic offenses in proportion to its population. About twice as many antisemitic crimes are reported in Berlin as in the state with the second-most crimes.
By mid-December 2018, 295 antisemitic crimes had been reported by Berlin police, a number almost as high as the previous year’s. However, this was but the preliminary figure. The final count is expected to be higher. The number of anti-Semitic violent acts drastically increased in 2018. By mid-December, statistics showed 24 such attacks. In 2017, there were only seven.
The general consensus is that although antisemitism has always been a problem in the capital, it has never been as open as it is today. “I have the impression that antisemitism is becoming louder, more blatant and more aggressive,” Berlin’s first commissioner for antisemitism, Claudia Vanoni, said.
It would be easy to overlook this trend compared to the hundreds of crimes committed every year in Berlin. Many readers following the news reports did just that. Others blamed the increased Muslim population or the comparatively higher number of Jews living in Berlin. None seemed to accept that the blame could be found among their own German neighbors or themselves.
Considering Germany’s history, you might expect a more critical examination of this trend. But it is this history that many Germans want to forget. Some German news analysts and commentators claim that the current antisemitism problem is “mostly imported,” in other words, attributable to the large influx of refugees. While it is true that an increased number of Muslim immigrants has contributed to the overall hatred against Jews in Germany, most offenders are, in fact, Germans.
Tagesspiegel reported last August in regards to the published police report that most of the offenses, 62 at the time, were committed by right-wing antisemites. Only in the case of eight offenses were suspects motivated by a “foreign ideology,” referring to migrants who attack Jews, or people they believe to be Jews, out of hatred for Israel.
Others might think that the increased attacks against Jews are part of an overall trend of increased criminality in Berlin. But this is not true either. Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on March 2, 2018, that, overall, Berlin is becoming a safer place and crimes are decreasing, with one of only a few exceptions being that of xenophobic crimes.
Most of these incidents receive little public attention, but those that do, show a deep-seated hatred for Jews. A recent example of this open hatred was last November’s harassment of Israeli European correspondent Antonia Yamin. While Yamin reported on the streets of Berlin about Brexit, she was suddenly interrupted by passers-by who threw firecrackers at her. The offenders were German adolescents… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
GERMANY PROMOTES ANTISEMITISM AND ANTI-ISRAELISM
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld
BESA, Mar. 3, 2019
The German government’s official policy is that it makes efforts to fight antisemitism. One example is its provision of security services for Jewish institutions. Another is the appointment of a national antisemitism commissioner. It is also official policy that Berlin is friendly toward Israel. One illustration of this is that German ministers visit Israel from time to time to discuss possibilities for collaboration.
Alongside these measures, German policy also promotes antisemitism and anti-Israelism, both directly and indirectly. Since 2015, the German government has welcomed, without any selection, many immigrants from Muslim countries. Hundreds of thousands of these immigrants are antisemites. A study in Bavaria found that more than 50% of Iraqi, Syrian, and Afghan immigrants agreed with the statement “Jews have too much influence in the world.” Among Germans this figure is between 15% and 25%. One might argue that a nation whose grandparents’ generation murdered 6 million Jews should not open its doors to an influx of new antisemites. Doing so cannot be reasonably justified through humanitarian arguments.
A major example of Germany’s ongoing participation in incitement against Israel is its voting record at the UN General Assembly. The German daily, Bild, reported that in recent years the General Assembly has accepted more than 500 resolutions against Israel – and not a single one against the Palestinian terror group, Hamas.
Bild gave examples from the period 2014-2017. In 2014, of all resolutions directed against a specific country, 87% were against Israel. In 2016, the number was 77%. In 2017, 78%. At the UN Human Rights Council, more than half the resolutions were against Israel. Bild pointed out that Germany regularly sides with Israel’s enemies. In November 2018, of 21 General Assembly resolutions against Israel, 16 were supported by Germany and on four it abstained.
In the previous government, the leader of the socialist party, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, was a frequent anti-Israel inciter. Gabriel accused Israel of apartheid and did not apologize for months. While speaking in Tel Aviv in January 2018, he said he was a friend to Israel, adding that his country had a special commitment to Israel’s security. These assertions ring hollow, as Gabriel was responsible for a huge number of German votes against Israel in the UN that undermined its security.
In the current government, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, also a socialist, has often said that Auschwitz inspired him to go into politics. Yet his ministry continues to support the demonization of Israel at the UN. The 16 German votes against Israel in November 2018 took place during Maas’s time in office. Under Maas there has also been increased German support for UNRWA after the US pull-out. Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, summarized the issue and Maas’s role in it thus:
Following the US’s move to pull support from the group that brainwashes kids on the many “virtues” of martyrdom, German Secretary of State Heiko Maas announced a “substantial” increase in funds from his country to UNRWA. With 100 million euros in aid money, Germany remains one of UNRWA’s largest benefactors. Yes, support for the Palestinians’ quest for a better future is right and important. But Hamas and Palestinian Authority curricula funded by UNRWA amount to textbook child abuse. Nobody I met with in Berlin could assure me that the German money did not directly benefit Hamas… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
GERMAN PROSECUTORS TO PROBE
ISRAELI SUBMARINE DEAL
DW, Mar. 26, 2019
One of the scandals spiraling around Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has caught the attention of German authorities investigating potential use of taxpayers’ money to bribe Israeli officials. State prosecutors in Bochum confirmed to DW that they have started an investigation into possible bribery and corruption as part of a deal to sell three “Dolphin” class submarines and four corvette ships from German manufacturer ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems to the Israeli military. The deal was approved by the German government in July 2017.
Prosecutors said in an email that after “assessing (international) press reports,” an investigation into unknown persons had begun. German authorities had previously only been “observing” the case.
Israeli police, who have been investigating so-called “Case 3000” for more than two years, filed bribery-related charges against six people last November, including David Shimron, Netanyahu’s family lawyer who also represented ThyssenKrupp’s former agent in Israel, Michael Ganor. Netanyahu himself is not a suspect.
Ganor, himself in custody on bribery charges, had been a state’s witness in exchange for a limited jail term, but dramatically recanted his testimony to police last week. According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Ganor has now denied any payoffs. “I didn’t bribe anyone. All the payments that I made to those involved in the case were for professional services that they provided me,” he said.
A spokesman for ThyssenKrupp told DW that Tuesday’s news had not changed their position, since no ThyssenKrupp employees had been mentioned in the German prosecutors’ statement. The company has said it cut ties with Ganor as soon as the original allegations came to light two years ago and carried out an internal investigation that found no evidence of corruption.
Israeli media last week speculated that, as well as the bribery charges, Netanyahu may have personally benefited from the sale, a charge eagerly taken up by Benny Gantz, his chief opponent in the upcoming Israeli election. That accusation is based on the recent revelation, from Israel’s Channel 13, that in 2007 Netanyahu bought shares in the US company Seadrift Coke, run by his cousin Nathan Milikowsky, that was later acquired by steel manufacturer GrafTech International, a longtime supplier of ThyssenKrupp. Netanyahu recently said he sold those shares to his cousin in 2010, about a year after becoming prime minister.
According to Israel’s Channel 10 news, when bids for the naval upgrade were invited in 2014, Shimron, acting at Netanyahu’s behest, called an adviser for the Israeli Defense Ministry and asked him to support ThyssenKrupp. Later that year, Netanyahu and the National Security Council lobbied to suspend bidding in favor of ThyssenKrupp. Shimron and Netanyahu have denied these allegations.
The deal could yet lead to political fallout in Berlin, because, as part of Germany’s ongoing commitment to contribute to Israel’s defense, the German government agreed to fund a third of Israel’s purchase of the three Dolphin submarines, amounting to €540 million ($610 million) to be spent over 10 years. According to a 2017 report in Haaretz, the German government briefly suspended the deal because of the corruption allegations, though then-Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel pushed for the deal to mend his fraught relations with Netanyahu. In answer to an official information request from a group of Left party Bundestag members, the German government refused to confirm or deny this temporary suspension, though it admitted it was in constant contact with representatives of the Israeli government on defense issues.
One of those MPs, Andrej Hunko, accused the government of evading questions on the issue. “Even though the Israeli police has been investigating corruption for a long time, the German government has given no information on the negotiations and guarantees for ThyssenKrupp,” he told DW in an email. “They have only confirmed that the issue of ‘corruption’ was ‘addressed’ with ThyssenKrupp. We were not told any results.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]