Berlin mayor lambasted for enabling uptick in BDS, antisemitism

Experts on antisemitism are saying that Mayor Michael Müller is not doing enough to stop trends of anti-Israel and antisemitic from spreading across Germany.

September 5, 2017 19:07
4 minute read.
Berlin mayor lambasted for enabling uptick in BDS, antisemitism

Mayor of Berlin Michael Mueller. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Berlin’s embattled Mayor Michael Müller is under fire from German Jews and antisemitism experts for allegedly tolerating hatred of Israel and a rising BDS campaign in the capital city.

The fresh wave of condemnations come in response to an August 28 Jerusalem Post report that the Simon Wiesenthal Center may include the mayor on its top-10 worst cases of anti-Israel and antisemitic activity in 2017.

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“The Central Council [of Jews in Germany] finds it embarrassing for the city of Berlin that the mayor hasn’t yet considered it necessary to take a clear and unequivocal position against BDS,” said Josef Schuster, the head of the 98,600-member umbrella organization. However, Schuster said it would be “grotesque” to put Müller on the antisemitism list, “on a par with former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the worst antisemites in the world.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, told the Post in August that Müller is a candidate for the list because he is “mainstreaming the BDS movement that never contributes to the daily life of Palestinians. BDS is widely recognized as antisemitic.” Cooper said, “There are two reasons why he [Müller] could theoretically make the list. He is the mayor of, arguably, the most important European city. And his colleagues get it that BDS is not just mean-spirited but downright dangerous.”

Dr. Matthias Küntzel, a political scientist in Hamburg and widely recognized as one of Germany’s leading authorities on antisemitism, defended the Wiesenthal Center.

He told the Post on Tuesday: “Berlin is not just any city, rather the starting point for the Shoah. Therefore, the mayor of this city should not be a bystander when antisemitism, of all things, in the form of BDS campaigns and al-Quds marches gains ground. Rather, the mayor must take a position on the issue.”

He added, “It is necessary to discuss the obvious failures of Berlin’s mayor. We should be grateful to the Simon Wiesenthal Center for initiating this discussion.”

Küntzel cited a comment from the late antisemitism historian Léon Poliakov to shed light on the debate over Berlin: “Anyone who does not denounce antisemitism in its primitive and elementary form, and does not do so precisely because it is primitive and elementary, will have to face the question as to whether he is not thereby sending out a signal of secret approval to antisemites all over the world,” Poliakov wrote.

Munich and Frankfurt are set to pass legislation that would outlaw municipal funding and space being used for BDS.

Berlin’s mayor has failed to crackdown on a rising BDS movement in the city, in contrast to his counterparts in Munich and Frankfurt. The Wiesenthal Center said Müller took no action, including legal efforts, to stop the annual, Iranian-regime sponsored al-Quds march in Berlin that calls for Israel’s destruction.

Müller faces a new test on whether he will confront BDS. The pro-boycott British rapper Kate Tempest is slated to appear at a performance run by the Volksbühne theater in early October. The city of Berlin provided €3 million to the Volksbühne in 2016/2017.

Sigmount Königsberg, the Berlin’s Jewish community’s commissioner on antisemitism, told the Berlin Tagesspiegel paper that “a clear stance would be appreciated” from Müller against BDS. Königsberg said the mayor “definitely does not belong on this list.” He called BDS “nothing less than “the continuation of the anti-Jewish boycott of the 1930s in Germany.”

Königsberg told the Post on Monday that the mayor made the decision to light up the Brandenburg Gate with the colors of the Israeli flag as a message solidarity after a terrorist murdered four IDF soldiers in a vehicle-ramming attack in Jerusalem in January.

An online petition campaign and scores of requests on social media appeared to have played a role in the Brandenburg Gate decision.

Königsberg said the mayor was the patron of the Israel Day festival in Berlin.

Cooper told London’s Jewish Chronicle that German Jewish leaders were “welcome to say and do whatever they think or feel is appropriate.”

Cooper told the Post that the Wiesenthal Center fights on the behalf of the entire global Jewish community and seeks to combat the demonization of Israel – the world’s largest Jewish community.

Sandra Kreisler, a prominent German Jewish actress and singer, endorsed the Wiesenthal’s criticism. She told the Berlin Morgenpost that “it was absolutely right to choose Michael Müller. As the incumbent mayor he has the obligation to be alert to antisemitism and to always name it and prohibit it.”

Alex Feuerherdt, a leading German journalist covering contemporary antisemitism in the Federal Republic, wrote on the mena-watch website on Sunday that organizations that are normally aligned with the Wiesenthal Center have “wrongly” criticized its “warning shot” about the possible inclusion of the mayor on its list.

Feuerherdt wrote that the mayor was silent about the al-Quds march, which includes supporters of the EU- and US-designated terrorist organizations Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, because he “wanted to at all costs avoid a dispute with the Muslim community.”

Müller’s conduct was “culpably, cowardly passivity,” Feuerherdt said.

Müller did not respond to Post email and telephone queries.

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