Extremist parties dominate Berlin election campaign

Race leading to German capital’s House of Deputies plagued by anti-Jewish campaign posters; Mayor Klaus Wowereit is a fan of Israel.

By JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
September 16, 2011 06:19
4 minute read.
KLAUS WOWEREIT

KLAUS WOWEREIT. (photo credit: Courtesy)

BERLIN – The race leading to Sunday’s vote for the German capital’s House of Deputies has been plagued by anti-Jewish campaign posters associated with the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD). The 141 legislators will choose the next mayor.

A new party – BIG – is dominated by disaffected social-democratic German-Muslims who advocate an anti-gay school curriculum and have ties with the radical Turkish Islamic organization Milli Görüs (“National Vision”). BIG is a German abbreviation for Alliance for Innovation and Justice.

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The Green Party candidate for mayor, Renate Künast, in 2009 allegedly called a pro-Israel German NGO a Mossad-backed organization. Künast denied making the statement.

The Left Party’s national leaders have been engulfed in a series of anti-Semitism scandals involving the party’s failure to assertively confront members and politicians calling for a boycott of the Jewish state, and their support for equating Israel’s policies with those of Nazi Germany. The Left Party’s federal leaders are reeling from a controversy involving their praise of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Gesine Lötzsch and Klaus Ernst, the cochairs of the Left Party, wrote Castro on the occasion of his 85th birthday that he is a model “for many nations in the world.”

They continued that “You can look back proudly on your life of battles and successful action at the head of the Cuban revolution.”

Lötzsch is a supporter of the radical leftist activists, including German Left Party deputies, who were aboard the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara last year and sought to break Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

The NPD has stirred the most controversy with its election posters in Berlin, showing the party’s leader, Udo Voigt, on a motorcycle with the words, “Step on the gas” (Gas Geben). Some say the NPD is using the gas slogan to conjure up the Nazis’ extermination program.

Dr. Dieter Graumann, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, called for the NPD to be outlawed and banned from public subsidies.

It cannot get more “crude and disgusting” when the NPD can blanket Berlin with its “Step on the gas” election posters, Graumann said. The NPD “deliberately hangs these posters in the area of the Holocaust memorial and near the Jewish Museum,” he said.

Lala Süsskind, the head of Berlin’s Jewish community, said the NPD posters are “dehumanizing,” and that there have many outraged members of the community who want to see action taken against the posters.

The German capital is also one of 16 states in the Federal Republic. The current Social Democratic-Left Party government – the so-called “Red-Red coalition” – is on shaky ground. According to a recent Infratest Dimap political research company election survey, the Left Party would secure 11 percent of the vote. The Social Democrats led with 29.5% and the Christian Social Union garnered 22% of the support. The Green Party has scored impressive results, with 20% of those surveyed supporting it.

The pro-business Free Democrats are plummeting in the polls, with a mere 3% of the respondents saying they will vote for it. A party requires at least 5% of the vote to receive representation in the Berlin House of Deputies.

A fiercely unorthodox party, The Pirates, in expected, with a projected 6.5% of the vote, to win representation for the first time.

The Pirate party, which consists of Internet activists, calls for strict online privacy protections, strengthening copyright laws, and enhanced grassroots democracy, has catapulted itself into the talk of the town.

The Green Party has ruled out a coalition with the Christian Democrats, setting the stage for a possible Social Democratic- Green Party government.

Berlin’s openly gay Mayor Klaus Wowereit, 57, from the Social Democrats, is widely viewed as Israel friendly. He spent time in the Jewish state as a young man and criticized expressions of modern anti- Semitism in the capital.

Last year, the Danish street art duo “Surrend” plastered selected Berlin neighborhoods with maps of the Middle East in which the State of Israel does not appear, with the term “Final Solution” at the top.

The artists, Jan Egesborg and Pia Bertelsen, were accused of fomenting genocidal anti-Semitism with their provocative “art in hot spots,” by employing hate art to garner support from neo-Nazi members of the NPD, extreme left-wing activists, and radical Islamists. Egesborg denied seeking to form alliances with extremist groups.

Wowereit told The Jerusalem Post at the time that “there cannot be any doubt regarding Israel’s right to exist. This form of satire is not what I like.”

He has also reached out to gay Israelis and promoted Berlin-Tel Aviv relations. At Berlin’s annual gay Christopher Street Day Parade in June, Wowereit said, “Tel Aviv is a wonderful, lively city,” and that he enjoys the close relations between the cities. He noted that in both countries, Germany and Israel, minorities are accepted.

The Islamic BIG party wants to introduce a school program to “protect all children” against gays, lesbians and bisexuals. The party opposes school books that show children with two fathers, and role playing involving “coming out” meant to help children overcome bias against homosexuality.

The BIG party was formed in Cologne in 2010 and is affiliated with radical Turkish organization Milli Görüs.


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