Commentary Magazine


Topic: Social Democratic Party

German SPD Youth Group Calls for Attack on Iran if Sanctions Fail

Jerusalem Post journalist Benjamin Weinthal, who has thankfully returned to regular blogging, just posted about a potentially significant, albeit somewhat counter-intuitive, development on the German left. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) leadership is much more hostile to Israel and much more sympathetic to Iran than is the party’s youth organization Jusos. That’s the opposite of what you usually get when you juxtapose party elders with young European political activists, and the dynamic is increasingly fueling talk of a generation gap.

Earlier this month, SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel, who hopes one day to be chancellor and might very well succeed, triggered a controversy by slamming Israel for “apartheid.” The statement was hailed as “courageous” by the Palestinians but drew a strong rebuke from Jusos’s Berlin chapter, which called on him to distance himself from the remarks and insisted that there is “in no way a justification” for the accusation.

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Jerusalem Post journalist Benjamin Weinthal, who has thankfully returned to regular blogging, just posted about a potentially significant, albeit somewhat counter-intuitive, development on the German left. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) leadership is much more hostile to Israel and much more sympathetic to Iran than is the party’s youth organization Jusos. That’s the opposite of what you usually get when you juxtapose party elders with young European political activists, and the dynamic is increasingly fueling talk of a generation gap.

Earlier this month, SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel, who hopes one day to be chancellor and might very well succeed, triggered a controversy by slamming Israel for “apartheid.” The statement was hailed as “courageous” by the Palestinians but drew a strong rebuke from Jusos’s Berlin chapter, which called on him to distance himself from the remarks and insisted that there is “in no way a justification” for the accusation.

Now Weinthal reports the same Jusos chapter has gone further than ever before on the issues of the Jewish State and its security, using an SPD party conference to emphasize unconditional solidarity with Israel. Cognizant of Iran’s stated intention to destroy Israel and its Jews, they demanded the global community do what needs to be done to block the mullahs. Said Berlin Jusos chairman Kevin Kühnert, “If Iran continues to work on a nuclear weapon, we are arguing for a preventive attack.”

The resolution is designed to “jumpstart” discussions about the German-Israeli relationship in German political circles. Germany has become increasingly close to Israel’s declared enemies – a German group even awarded Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan a prize for tolerance two weeks ago – and increasingly hostile to Israel. When Germany piled on against Israel in the UN recently, that decision was made at the highest levels.

And of course, Iran. State-funded German universities promote trade with Tehran. Germany’s federal government indirectly sold a jet used by German chancellors to a sanctioned Iranian airline company. Iranian officials visit Germany and take meetings with German parliamentarians, and they use their visits to deny the Holocaust. Just this week, German TV station ZDF broadcast without objection a Holocaust-denying speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Given that context, the Jusos resolution is at a minimum heartening. But it’s going to take a long time to reverse the lazy anti-Israel ideology that has taken hold on the left in Germany and across much of the rest of Europe, which long ago extended to accepting anti-Semitic Iranian declarations.

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German Opposition Leader Smears Israel as “Apartheid Regime”

Anyone wondering about how much progress those promoting hatred of Israel have made in recent years need only look at Germany. German governments have combined an understanding of the legacy of the Holocaust with a natural reticence about criticizing the Jewish state even when European political fashion has made such sentiments commonplace on the continent. But apparently that appears to be giving way to a willingness on the part of some of the country’s elites to promote some of the worst slanders against Israel.

As the Jerusalem Post reports, Sigmar Gabriel, the head of Germany’s Social Democratic Party and a likely challenger to Chancellor Angela Merkel in the next parliamentary election, posted on his Facebook page today a statement that Israel “is an apartheid regime, for which there is no justification.” Though he subsequently sought to explain the remark by seeking to limit his slur as applying only to the situation in Hebron (where an embattled small Jewish community lives under siege conditions surrounded by a hostile Arab majority) and also expressed his support for Israel’s existence and right to defend himself, that a possible future German chancellor would be willing to use such language illustrates the extent to which Palestinian propaganda has come to dominate mainstream discourse in Europe.

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Anyone wondering about how much progress those promoting hatred of Israel have made in recent years need only look at Germany. German governments have combined an understanding of the legacy of the Holocaust with a natural reticence about criticizing the Jewish state even when European political fashion has made such sentiments commonplace on the continent. But apparently that appears to be giving way to a willingness on the part of some of the country’s elites to promote some of the worst slanders against Israel.

As the Jerusalem Post reports, Sigmar Gabriel, the head of Germany’s Social Democratic Party and a likely challenger to Chancellor Angela Merkel in the next parliamentary election, posted on his Facebook page today a statement that Israel “is an apartheid regime, for which there is no justification.” Though he subsequently sought to explain the remark by seeking to limit his slur as applying only to the situation in Hebron (where an embattled small Jewish community lives under siege conditions surrounded by a hostile Arab majority) and also expressed his support for Israel’s existence and right to defend himself, that a possible future German chancellor would be willing to use such language illustrates the extent to which Palestinian propaganda has come to dominate mainstream discourse in Europe.

Hebron is a ticking time bomb where the proximity of Jews and Arabs to each other has led to much violence and hatred. But to imply that the Jewish presence in this place where a Jewish community was massacred in the last century by Palestinian mobs is somehow a form of racism is outrageous. For Gabriel to employ the language of South Africa to Israel is a short step to the delegitimization of the Jewish state. Those who would deny to Jews the same rights they reserve for themselves and others are practicing anti-Semitism. That is a line that no European, let alone a German, should dare to cross.

That the leader of Germany’s second largest party would think nothing of writing in this manner speaks volumes about the way the SPD has adopted the terminology of the far left on Israel. It also highlights the way European elites, even those in Germany where a special relationship has always existed with the modern Jewish state, have come to view the Middle East conflict through the prism of Arab nationalists and Islamists who view the Jewish presence in the country as the cause of the conflict. The real advocates of apartheid and racial cleansing in the region are not the Jews but Palestinians who think Jews must be evicted from the country. Even if Gabriel expressly opposes that goal, by using the language by which Israel may be made a pariah he has strengthened the expectation by the Palestinians that they can reject peace without paying any price.

Though Merkel’s attitude toward Israel has often been critical, it appears that if she is defeated by Gabriel, the result will be even more isolation for Israel in Europe.

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