BERLIN – The Iranian threat to the security of the Jewish state played a front
and center role last week at Europe’s largest ever pro-Israel conference in
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The two-day event attracted 3,000 participants from across
Germany, Austria, Belgium, Hungary and Israel.
“We are demanding that if
Israel’s security truly is part of the German raison d’etat, that there be
actions to follow up on these words,” Sacha Stawski, the principal organizer of
the second annual Israel Congress event, told The Jerusalem Post
“This includes outlawing the Hezbollah movement in Germany and implementing
tough Iran-sanctions, to name just two immediate tasks on hand.”
Stawski invokes the plural “we” during his talks with the Post
, he was referring
to the “unprecedented 200 or so organizations – Christian, Jewish,
nondenominational – that attended the conference “to openly express their
support and solidarity for the State of Israel.”
political goals were ambitious, largely because the Merkel administration and
Germany’s business class have fought tooth-and-nail to oppose robust EU and US
sanctions clamping down on trade relations with the Islamic Republic.
Federal Republic, which is Iran’s largest EU trade partner, permits Iran’s main
foreign militia and political proxy, the Lebanese group Hezbollah, to operate in
its backyard. According to Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, there are an
estimated 900 active members of Hezbollah in the Federal Republic and the
radical Islamic political party remains a legal entity.
devoted a blue chip panel to Israel’s security and Iran’s jingoistic policies.
Veteran Israeli journalists Yossi Melman from Haaretz
and the Post
’s Herb Keinon
spoke at the panel. They were joined by Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi, a
senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington and
author of a new book, The Pasdaran: Inside Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard
This writer, representing the Post
as a correspondent and the
Foundation for Defense of Democracies as a research fellow, spoke at the
workshop titled “The role of the media and new media (Social Networks) in
connection with the Middle East conflict.”
Iran’s drive to obtain nuclear
weapons and to foment genocidal anti-Semitism weaved its way through the speech
of Dr. Dieter Graumann, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, to
the 3,000 listeners.”
Israel is still fighting for its existence, and our
values bind us to Israel, but it’s not enough to say so. Germany should cut off
diplomatic and economic relations with the Iranian regime,” said
Graumann. “Iran is responsible for the terror attacks by Hamas and
Hezbollah against Israel. It is unconscionable to continue carrying on
business with this regime.”
Germany’s annual business with Iran hovers
each year around 4 billion euros. During the first half of 2011, German imports
of Iranian goods increased to 453 million euros, from 382 million euros in the
same period a year earlier. Also during the first six months of 2011,
German consumption of Iranian gas and oil rose to 280 million euros, from 197
million euros in the first half of 2010.
While changing Berlin’s
pro-Tehran trade policies and its cordial – many critics deem it appeasement –
relations with Iran’s lawmakers remain an uphill struggle for the pro-Israel
groups at the conference, Stawski’s activities have commanded growing grassroots
and media attention.
The first Israel event organized by Stawski and Claudia Korenke
attracted 1,100 visitors in 2010. Korenke, who ran public relations for
this year’s congress and is head of the German- Israeli Friendship
Society in Frankfurt, traveled to Israel with Hesse state Interior
Minister Boris Rhein after the conference. Rhein delivered an opening
speech at the Frankfurt parley.
When asked about the extensive German media coverage, Stawski
told the Post, “We had a big mix of press coverage about the
conference. I am happy to note that we finally succeeded in bringing our
demand that Hezbollah should be outlawed in Germany to the attention of the
media, something that many of us have unsuccessfully tried to do for a long
Stawski said there was a “major increase in the press coverage
compared to last year,” including print reports in the large circulation
Frankfurt dailies FAZ and Rundschau. The mass circulation Bild devoted a
large story to the event.
Mosab Hassan Yousef, the Son of Hamas
spoke at the event. Yousef, who now lives in the United States and converted to
Christianity, provided valuable intelligence information to Israeli security
agencies on the inner workings of Hamas.
Stawski said that Yousef was
“unfortunately totally misrepresented by [German-language] 3sat television,
which called him a traitor and which played on stereotypical pictures of Jews,
as if they were the only supporters of the State of Israel,” in its coverage of
The prominent author and journalist Burkhard Müller- Ullrich
reported on the Israel Congress for Deutschland Radio in the station’s popular
“culture” segment, reaching large numbers of listeners.
political lip service” to support of Israel, Germany’s remains the “most
important trade partner of Israel’s most dangerous enemy, Iran,” he
Writing about the Israel Congress, the Berlin-based JTA
correspondent termed Stawski the “driving force” behind the pro-Israel advocacy
organization Honestly Concerned, which monitors anti-Semitism in the German
media. Stawski also serves as the head of the I Like Israel German-wide
association that sponsors pro-Israel festivals across German cities each year
celebrating the birth of the Jewish state.