German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a session of the German lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, in Berlin.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel and Germany maintain a special relationship based on shared Western values and joint efforts to overcome the chasm between our peoples created by Nazi Germany. A major step was taken in 1965, when diplomatic relations were established. The reparation payments to Holocaust survivors have been eclipsed by Germany becoming a major supplier of weapons to the Jewish state.
It is ironic that Berlin’s sale of a fleet of submarines is what reportedly ensures Israel a second-strike nuclcear capability against a second Holocaust threatened by Iran.
Nevertheless, despite Germany’s friendship with Israel during a decade of leadership under Chancellor Angela Merkel, she has had a mixed and sometimes contradictory policy toward Israel. For example, Merkel was a strong supporter of outgoing US President Barack Obama’s controversial Iran nuclear deal, which Israel strongly opposed.
“Merkel has the right moral positions, but her government’s policies are often out of sync,” Bar-Ilan University political studies professor Gerald Steinberg told The Jerusalem Post
. “The chancellor has been outspoken in condemning Iran’s antisemitism and genocidal threats,” Steinberg noted, but added that “Germany is leading the charge to do business with Tehran. And while Merkel calls BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] unacceptable, German political foundations and church aid NGOs are active in promoting this form of warfare against Israel.”
Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, told the Post’s Benjamin Weinthal that Merkel’s Israel policies should be measured against her political opposition in Germany.
“When it comes to Israel, Merkel has pursued a consistent policy of staunch support for Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state, as well as for its security needs. She has also spoken out against the antisemitic rhetoric coming from the Iranian leadership in Tehran. At the same time, she has been consistently critical of the settlements and the policies in this regard of every Netanyahu government,” Zuroff said.
Nevertheless, Merkel’s government has not officially embraced the European Union’s definition of modern antisemitism, formulated by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, which includes Israel-hatred as a contemporary expression of antisemitism.
Still, Merkel has conscientiously condemned this form of Jew-hatred. In a speech against antisemitism in September 2014, she blasted “pretend criticism of Israel” as an “expression of Jew-hatred at pro-Palestinian demonstrations.”
Israel and Germany developed their special relationship against the backdrop of the Holocaust. As German Ambassador Clemens von Goetze told the Post, “It will never be normal as it is with other countries, because not only will Jews remember, but Germans will ask themselves how this became a country that perpetrated such horrible crimes.
How did the country derail itself?” Germany is still trying to find an answer. Its Central Office for the Clarification of Nazi Crimes has initiated the investigation of crimes committed in three Nazi concentration camps and considering charging eight people born between 1918 and 1927 as accessories to murder.
On the other hand, a German regional court last Friday affirmed a lower court ruling that an attempt to burn down Wuppertal’s Bergische Synagogue by three Palestinian Germans in 2014 was a justified expression of criticism of Israel’s policies.
The court had ruled in 2015 that the three men wanted to draw “attention to the Gaza conflict” with Israel and deemed the attack not to be motivated by antisemitism. It awarded the arsonists with suspended sentences for tossing firebombs at the shul and causing €800 worth of damage.
The court did not note that the Nazis burned down the original synagogue in Wuppertal during the Kristallnacht pogroms of 1938.
Justice without mercy is cruel, but how was justice served by dropping the case against an Auschwitz employee indicted for 260,000 counts of accessory to murder, because she survived her crimes until the ripe old age of 92 and is considered medically unfit for trial? And last March, a former Auschwitz medic, 95, was found unfit to stand trial for his role in placing the Zyklon-B pesticide crystals into the gas chambers at Auschwitz.
Not trying elderly and infirm former Nazis is one thing, but Germany should remain steadfast in the policy it has upheld for the last 70 years - a clear and decisive stand against any form of Jew hatred.