A Palestinian boy stands next to a Palestinian flag with a swastika painted over it as protesters march in solidarity with Palestinians against a Jewish settlement in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem July 17, 2010.
(photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
AACHEN, Germany – An antisemitic talk has been delivered by Petra Schöning, a representative of the human rights organization Amnesty International, who also works for the German government’s development agency GIZ. The incident follows a series of antisemitic incidents in both organizations.
The speaking event, titled “Politics and Day-to-Day Life: Perspectives on the West Bank and Gaza,” was hosted recently by the Episcopal Academy in the German city of Aachen, where Schöning is a regular presenter.
During her lecture, Schöning made various untrue statements designed to demonize the State of Israel in an antisemitic fashion. Among other things, she said that “Israel is not a democracy.” The audience responded to the talk during Q&A, questioning Israel’s right to exist and expressing support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Schöning responded with approval of these comments.
Another blatantly false assertion she made was that “the Israeli culture minister prohibited a book.” She was likely referring to All the Rivers by Israeli writer Dorit Rabinyan, a novel about the love affair between an Israeli women and a Palestinian man. Although the book was excluded from the curriculum of Israeli high schools in 2015, it was never prohibited or censored in Israel, and the Israeli public has always been free to purchase, read and discuss it.
Schöning asserted that Israeli soldiers “execute” peaceful Palestinian participants during their weekly “March of Return” protests at the border between Israel and Gaza.
Since March 2018, several rioters have carried out violent attacks on Israeli soldiers at the border. Hundreds of incendiary balloons and other devices have been flown from Gaza into Israel, causing large fires and extensive damage to fields and danger to people living in the South.
Schöning likewise misrepresented the incarceration of convicted Palestinian terrorists as arbitrary imprisonment, and Israel’s interception of financial rewards to their families as bad-faith harassment.
Finally, she blamed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the recent influx of refugees into Europe.
Elisabeth Paul, a member of the Greater Aachen Area Regional Council for the Green Party, criticized Schöning’s talk as “antisemitic disinformation and propaganda.”
Monika Schwarz-Friesel, a leading German antisemitism researcher, confirmed that sentiment.
“Today, obsessive rants against the State of Israel represent the most pervasive way to express hatred of Jews,” Schwarz-Friesel said. “Camouflaging their statements as political criticism and humanitarian concern, contemporary antisemites spread statements such as Israel is not a democracy; Israel uses disproportionate force; boycott of Israel is to be welcomed; and [they] accuse Israel of imaginary misdeeds.
“Without any reasonable substantiation, the State of Israel is blamed for all kind of problems in the world, and its right to exist as a Jewish state is rejected,” she said.
Schöning said that she prepares students who go on school trips to Israel and who participate in German-Israeli and German-Arab exchange projects. She also works as a freelancer for GIZ.
GIZ IS a federal endeavor that works with organizations such as the Academy for International Cooperation (AIZ) to foster mutual learning and networking. It has four regional offices.
In her own words, she “trains specialists dispatched by the German government to Israel and the Palestinian territories.”
A spokesperson for GIZ confirmed that Schöning’s most recent appointment by the agency-owned AIZ dates from May, when “she helped to prepare participants for missions abroad.”
GIZ has been involved in various antisemitic scandals. Last May, the German tabloid Bild reported on several cases of GIZ cooperating with Palestinian organizations that advocate the destruction of the Jewish state. In March 2018, the Jerusalem-based watchdog NGO Monitor published an exposé on antisemitic statements by GIZ employees, some of which were circulated on social media.
Asked about these incidents, the GIZ spokeswoman responded that her organization “does not tolerate antisemitism and takes decisive actions against it” and would not confirm whether the employees mentioned in the NGO Monitor dossier are still working for the agency.
Asked whether GIZ intends to take steps against Schöning, she replied that “programs are routinely evaluated by participants. There have been no complaints against Ms. Schöning.”
Schöning also serves as a spokeswoman for the German branch of Amnesty International, representing its coordination group for Israel and the Palestinian territories. That human rights organization has also been involved in a long list of antisemitic incidents. A conference designed to connect BDS campaigns in the UK with those in Israel and the Palestinian territories was hosted at Amnesty’s London headquarters in 2016, something which was exposed at the time by NGO Monitor.
In 2015, the general assembly of Amnesty International in the UK rejected a motion to run a campaign against antisemitism.
A spokesperson for Amnesty said that Schöning does not represent her organization when presenting in Aachen. The Aachen Episcopal Academy that had organized Schöning’s talk also refused to retract from the remarks of its presenter. Instead, the head of the academy, Dr. Christiane Bongartz, wrote that calling Schöning’s talk antisemitic would be a distortion.
Several queries to Schöning remained unanswered.
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