German concern at rare anti-Israel vote

By Toby Axelrod, July 8, 2010
Protesters in Berlin march after Israel’s flotilla raid. The banner reads: “The victims of today are martyrs”

Protesters in Berlin march after Israel’s flotilla raid. The banner reads: “The victims of today are martyrs”

Pro-Israel groups in Germany have reacted sharply to a unanimous Bundestag motion criticising Israel's blockade of Gaza.

The resolution suggests a shift in Germany's approach to Israel, critics say.

The unanimous cross-party motion, passed last week, demands that Israel end its blockade of the Gaza Strip, while adding that weapons smuggling into Gaza and rocket attacks against Israel must be stopped as well.

Though the motion is symbolic since Israel already has eased the blockade following the ill-fated operation against a protest flotilla in May, it nevertheless suggests a change in the traditionally close German-Israel relationship, which has recently been strained by popular disaffection with Israeli policies.

It also comes at a time of increasing concern over antisemitism, with several violent incidents currently under investigation. Statistics show that antisemitism tends to spike during times of unrest in the Middle East.

Police are investigating several violent antisemitic attacks

The Coordinating Council of German Non-governmental Organisations against Anti-Semitism has suggested that the Bundestag motion is merely a polite form of antisemitism.

In a statement issued July 2, they called it a one-sided motion that "fails to mention Hamas antisemitic agitation, their anti-democratic rule in Gaza and the connections between Turkish entities and the Hamas terror organisation".

Ahead of the vote, the Central Council of Jews in Germany had expressed "great concern" about a political tendency to "hold Israel alone responsible" for rising tensions.

In fact, the motion could undermine Germany's official commitment towards Israel's security, set in West Germany in 1949, warned Johannes Gerster, head of the German-Israel Society.

The motion was initiated by the Green Party after Israeli naval forces, boarding a Gaza-bound Turkish flotilla on May 31, killed nine people. Three members of Germany's Left Party were on the flotilla, including two women who - critics noted - accepted forcible separation from the men on board, despite their commitment to gender equality.

In a scathing commentary, Polish-born, German-Jewish columnist Henryk Broder said in Der Spiegel that the real point of last week's unanimous Bundestag vote was to cement a national identity.

Whereas during the Nazi era "the so-called 'Jewish question' was the non-partisan tape holding Germans together, today it's the 'Palestine-question' that gives them a feeling of national unity", he wrote.

Meanwhile, German national security police are investigating an attack on two Israeli tourists at a Berlin discotheque on the night of June 27. Police categorised the attack as antisemitic.

According to reports, a man who identified himself as a Palestinian attacked a 22-year-old Israeli after asking where he came from. He also beat up the victim's 18-year-old friend. The two were treated for mild injuries.

Recently, a Jewish dance group was attacked in Hanover by stone-throwing children and youth, reportedly of Muslim background. The dancers called off their performance.

In May, arsonists set fire to an historic synagogue in the city of Worms. Security was increased for Jewish institutions in the German state of Rheinland-Pfalz following the incident. Police found a letter at the scene, which read, "Until you give the Palestinians peace, we will not give you peace."

Last updated: 1:39pm, July 8 2010