German teachers union apologizes for Israel boycott activity

Despite the apology mixed messages continue from some of the union leaders.

By
October 25, 2016 19:48
3 minute read.
BDS Amman

SAY NO to this. A Jordanian policeman stands guard near a protester holding a placard urging to boycott Israeli companies and products, in front of the Prime Minister’s office building in Amman.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The president of Germany’s teachers’ union, Marlis Tepe, apologized in a letter to her Israeli counterpart Yossi Wassermann for a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions initiative against the Jewish state that was spearheaded by German teachers in the northwest city of Oldenburg.

“I want to inform you, that GEW [Education and Science Workers’ Union] is being publicly confronted with allegations of supporting the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign against Israel,” wrote Tepe in a late September letter obtained by The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. She added, ”I would like to apologize for the irritation and uncertainty caused by this  incident which is also disturbing for GEW members and damages the reputation of our union.”

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The letter from the president of the nearly 281,000 member Education and Science Workers’ Union to Wassermann, the secretary-general of Histadrut Hamorim (teachers’ union), was a clear rebuke of the anti-Israel leadership of the local GEW in Oldenburg.

“As president of the GEW I would like to expressly emphasize that our union does not support any kind of BDS or anti-Israeli initiatives. On the contrary: For many years we have been supporting the cooperation between Israel and Germany, particularly youth exchanges, and we are committed to Holocaust education,” wrote Tepe.

In an email response, the Histadrut Hamorim’s Tzipi Dvir, a high-level union official dealing with international affairs, wrote to Tepe, “I deeply appreciate your taking the time and effort to write your important letter sent to me. We highly value the long, close, respectful relations between GEW and ITU, both professionally and personally. The joint seminars and Holocaust commemoration ceremonies are amongst the most praised activities we’re greatly proud of. There is no doubt in our minds as for the GEW standing with us against the vicious, despicable acts of Antisemitism and BDS.”

The 1,200-member GEW Oldenburg teachers’ union sparked the antisemitism row. Since late August the GEW Oldenburg has been engulfed in a modern antisemitism scandal because of a pro-BDS article in its September monthly magazine written by Christoph Glanz, a public school teacher.

Speaking with the Post by telephone on Tuesday, Heinz Bührmann, chairman of the GEW Oldenburg, said the copies of the September magazine were shredded. When asked why his union scrubbed the website of its anti-BDS statement and its opposition to antisemitism, Bührmann said “after the apology was on the website for six weeks that was enough.”

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Tepe’s office sent an English translation of the anti-BDS statement to Wassermann that the GEW Oldenburg initially posted on its website but removed it last week. The GEW Oldenburg replaced the anti-BDS apology with an article from 2013 that criticizes Israel.

Bührmann told the Post that the GEW Oldenburg rejects a boycott of Israel and it “will never take place.” He said the GEW has no plan to publish Glanz’s article in future issues of its magazine.
The GEW Oldenburg has, however, issued mixed messages about BDS position. According to a Nordwest-Zeitung (NWZ) article, the “GEW stands behind Glanz.” The article stated the GEW Oldenburg could not assess the BDS movement because it would overwhelm the union’s resources.

The GEW’s leadership in Oldenburg walked back Bührmann’s criticism of BDS in the article.

Alexander Will from the NWZ reported on Saturday that the GEW’s federal union and its state branch in Lower Saxony, where Oldenburg is situated, criticized the GEW Oldenburg in a joint statement: “The GEW strictly rejects a boycott of Israel and anti-Semitic positions. The GEW distances itself from the inconsistent action of sections of the district committee of the GEW Oldenburg city.”

Glanz, the BDS activist who has been widely criticized in Germany and Israel as an antisemite, was cited in Tepe’s letter. She wrote that the BDS article “was published on the homepage of Glanz and there Glanz announced his article was planned to be published in the September issue of the magazine PaedOl, published by the GEW in Oldenburg, a city with 160,000 inhabitants in northwest Germany.”

Glanz advocates a total boycott of Israel and has positively entertained a plan to abolish Israel and relocate the Jewish state to Germany. He ostensibly promotes Palestinian violence against Jewish Israelis.

Glanz posted a picture on his Facebook page of himself standing next to a stone mural, which depicts a Palestinian wearing a keffiyeh and aiming a slingshot. Glanz wrote above the photograph: “Feeling definitely not neutral.”

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