BERLIN – Israeli Ambassador to Germany Yoram Ben-Zeev and Emmanuel Nahshon, the chargé d’affaires at the embassy, took the unusual step last week of publicly criticizing Left Party members of parliament who were aboard the Mavi Marmara, one of the ships that attempted to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
Nahshon told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the “criticism is not against the party but against those members of the Bundestag. They behaved in a way that is not responsible.
“They found themselves in violence... The aim was to break the blockade. They are more interested in supporting Hamas, rather than concerned about aid for the Palestinian people.”
Nahshon, the embassy’s No. 2 diplomat, was referring to the two Left Party members of parliament, Inge Höger and Annette Groth. Although the IDF captured the attack of its commandos on video and seized weapons from radical Islamists on the vessel, Groth and her colleagues from the Left Party claim that the video footage was fabricated and denied the presence of weapons.
“The video was pasted together; who knows where it comes from,” Groth said.
“We wanted to bring aid to Gaza. Nobody had a weapon,” Höger said.
Höger added that the Israeli seizure of the vessel was “in contravention of international law... It was an act of piracy.”
Ben-Zeev, in an interview with the large Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel, said, “An operation backed by Hamas, which wants to destroy the Jewish state, is not going to help the peace process... Where were these politicians from Die Linke [the Left Party] and other Germans when Hamas was firing hundreds of rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip?”
Israeli officials in Germany usually try to mediate disputes behind the scenes.
Thomas von der Osten-Sacken, a Middle East expert in Germany, told the Post he was “astonished “ that the Israeli ambassador issued a stinging criticism of the Left Party.
Nahshon, however, told the Post that this is “exactly where an ambassador should intervene,” adding that Ben-Zeev should criticize “anti-Israeli endeavors linked with terror groups.”
He termed the attack on Israeli commandos an “organized lynch.”
The new chairman of the Left Party, Klaus Ernst, a former Bavarian trade union official who is currently engulfed in a reimbursement scandal, said it is “highly unusual” that Israel’s envoy chose to “intervene in the political debate in the media.”
Ernst criticized Ben-Zeev’s comments and said such statements should instead be articulated by the Israeli government’s spokesman
Gregor Gysi, a top Left Party MP from the moderate wing of party, met with Ben-Zeev last week.
“I asked Gysi where the Left Party was when moderate Palestinians were slaughtered by Hamas in Gaza or shot in the legs as punishment. In these cases I never heard from the Left Party that they had humanitarian objections, and certainly not from those who took part in the convoy,” Ben-Zeev was quoted as saying in the German media.
Gysi, who was a prominent attorney in the former East Germany and is the son of a German Jew, had blasted Israel’s naval operation as “criminal” and stressed that “we can’t allow Israel to get away with this.”
Von der Osten-Sacken, the Mideast analyst, said that “Gysi unilaterally condemned Israel without having information.”
He sees the Left Party as increasingly isolated within German society, largely because the party is now “part of a worldwide jihad movement” that has “aligned with people who want to kill Jews.”
Von der Osten-Sacken said there has been a sea change within the party.
“The anti-Israeli faction of the Left Party took over... You have an openly anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic party governing federal states,” he said.
The Left Party, which co-governs as part of coalitions with the Social Democrats in state governments in Berlin and Brandenburg, has been plagued by an internal conflict over its hostility toward Israel. Some members of the party, such as Gysi and Petra Pau, argue for a moderate approach to Israel and favor its right to exist. Pau and Gysi have not embraced the growing alliance between Left Party members of parliament and anti-Western Islamic movements.
But according to political observers, the party is increasingly dominated by a pro-Iranian faction with ties to Hizbullah and Hamas.
The foreign policy spokesman of the Left Party, MP Wolfgang Gehrcke, participated in pro-Hizbullah and pro-Hamas rallies, where Israel’s destruction was called for. He has compared Israel’s policies with those of Nazi Germany.
Christine Buchholz, another Left Party MP, appears to be the first
parliamentary member since the Hitler era to justify the murder of Jews
Buchholz led a faction within the party that supported Palestinian
suicide attacks against Israel as a legitimate form of “resistance.”
She and the Left Party Vice President Sahra Wagenknecht criticized
President Shimon Peres in January for spreading the “untruth” about
Iran’s drive to build nuclear weapons.
Buchholz and Wagenknecht believe Iran is not a threat to global security.
The Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin, a pro-Israel organization and think tank,
along with the editors of Bahamas
pro-Israel magazine critical of rising modern anti-Semitism in Germany
and radical Islam, issued a statement on Sunday, calling for a protest
against the Left Party.
The demonstration, under the slogan “Against the alliance of the Left
Party warmongers and Hamas: Solidarity with Israel!” is slated to take
place on Saturday in front of Karl-Liebknecht-Haus, the Left Party’s
national headquarters in Berlin.