Germany's Left Party blocks ban on burning of Israeli flag

The party claimed that a ban would contravene free speech.

A participant burns an Israeli flag mockup during a protest to condemn Washington's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, outside the U.S. embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia December 15, 2017 (photo credit: BEAWIHARTA BEAWIHARTA/ REUTERS)
A participant burns an Israeli flag mockup during a protest to condemn Washington's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, outside the U.S. embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia December 15, 2017
(photo credit: BEAWIHARTA BEAWIHARTA/ REUTERS)
The largely anti-Israel party Die Linke (The Left) has torpedoed a bill in the Berlin senate, which would have banned the burning of the Israeli flag in Germany’s capital city.
Berlin-based B.Z. newspaper first reported on Saturday that the Left Party, a part of the ruling governing coalition in the city-state of Berlin, along with the Social Democratic Party and Green Party, blocked the pro-Israel bill.
Left Party politician Sebastian Schlüsselburg told B.Z. that “No faction wants Israel flags or Jewish symbols to be burned in Berlin. But a ban in criminal law, as demanded by the CDU, is the wrong way.”
The Christian Democratic Union introduced the pro-Israel legislation in the Berlin parliament after Israeli flags were burned in demonstrations in the capital following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem in 2017. Most of the anti-Israel activists who burned the flags were German Muslims.
Schlüsselburg defended his party’s move because the German court declared that the burning of a flag is protected by free speech.
Elio Adler, chairman of the German Jewish organization Values Initiative, said on Twitter: “If you burn flags, that means symbolically people of the other country and that is certainly not an opinion worth protecting.”
It is illegal to burn the German flag in the federal republic. Germany currently bars the burning of nation-state flags at public events.
Schlüsselburg’s Left Party has been accused over the years of stoking contemporary antisemitism targeting the Jewish state.
In 2014 MPs from the Left Party secured the No. 4 spot on the list of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list of worst outbreaks of antisemitism and anti-Israel conduct.
Party members Annette Groth, Inge Höger, Claudia Haydt and Heike Hänsel fomented hatred of the Jewish state during a talk in the Bundestag, the center said at the time.
According to the Wiesenthal list, “On November 10, the Left Party invited notorious Israel-bashers… in the party’s meeting room in the Bundestag, the day after commemoration of the anniversary of Kristallnacht – the 1938 pogrom when the Nazis burned Jewish synagogues across Germany. Blumenthal often casts Zionism as racism and conflates alleged Israeli misdeeds with Nazi imagery.
“It highlighted the ongoing efforts to demonize Israel by a group of extreme anti-Israel MPs, led by Inge Höger and Annette Groth. Both of these parliamentarians were onboard the controversial 2010 Mavi Marmara Gaza flotilla and upon their return to Berlin, were hailed by many of their party’s MPs.”
Groth is no longer a member of the Bundestag.
The Left Party rejects a wholesale ban of the entire organization of Hezbollah in Germany, and in May 2019 opposed a resolution denouncing BDS as antisemitic. The resolution was passed in the Bundestag.