The mayor of Jena, a city in Thuringia, east Germany, has unleashed a storm of criticism from pro-Israel groups who object to his support of a sweeping boycott of products from the Jewish state.
According to Kevin Zdiara, deputy chairman of the German-Israel friendship society in Erfurt, the capital of Thuringia, Albrecht Schröter ’s endorsement of the boycott can be equated with the Nazi-era “Don’t buy from Jews” campaign because “all Israeli products are to be boycotted.”
Mr Schröter signed a petition from an anti-Israel German Catholic peace organisation. Pax Christi’s petition, entitled “Occupation tastes bitter”, calls for a wide-ranging boycott of Israeli goods. Dr Reinhard Schramm, deputy chairman of theThuringia Jewish community, said: “Pax Christi is steeped in antisemitism.”
Klaus Faber and Daniel Kilpert, from the Co-ordinating Council of German Non-Governmental Organisations against Antisemitism, accused the mayor of “crossing the line into antisemitism” and delegitimisng the state of Israel.
But Mr Schröter flatly rejected the criticisms. He said:“The conclusion that Pax Christi calls for a wholesale boycott of all Israeli goods... is incorrect and misleading. In particular, the impertinent connection with the fatal slogan of the German Nazis ‘Do not buy from Jews’ deliberately distorts the concern of Pax Christi.”
The mayor argued that his aim was “to demand mandatory labelling of goods from illegal Israeli settlements that occupy Palestinian territory — an initiative that exists, for example, in the UK for quite some time.”
However, Wiltrud Rösch-Metzler, Pax Christi vice-president, seemed to contradict the mayor. She said: “I am not buying goods with the origin specification ‘Israel’ because under this designation products could come from the settlements. Our action goes against policies that do not designate settlement products.”