German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas attends a meeting with his Polish counterpart Jacek Czaputowicz (not pictured) during his visit in Warsaw Poland, March 16, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Germany’s new Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Wednesday again parted ways with his predecessor’s anti-Israel rhetoric, saying he rejects labeling the Jewish state an “apartheid regime.”
“Foreign Minister Maas has never made such a statement and will also never do so in the future,” a ministry spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post.
Earlier this month, Maas promised improved German-Israel relations in response to the tenure of his predecessor, Social Democratic foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel, who twice termed Israel an “apartheid regime.”
Gabriel attended a meeting of Muslim migrants in mid-December organized to combat antisemitism, after the outbreak of protests in Germany where Israeli flags were burned in response to the US recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
While discussing criticism of Israel, he told them that his visit to Hebron in the territories several years ago reminded him of “what was seen during apartheid.” Gabriel previously called Israel an “apartheid regime” in 2012, during a visit to Israel. Advocates of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign targeting the Jewish state frequently use the phrase "apartheid regime" to attack Israel.
Maas, also a member of the Social Democratic Party, said last week: “Personally, the German-Israeli history isn’t just one of historical responsibility, but it also represents a deep motivation in my political decision-making.”
He added, “I didn’t go into politics out of respect for [the late Social Democratic chancellor] Willy Brandt or the peace movement. I went into politics because of Auschwitz.”
Experts on antisemitism view the comparison of Israel with the former apartheid regime in South Africa as an expression of contemporary antisemitism.
“There are two central narratives to Jewish history in the 20th century – the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. Sigmar Gabriel has already tried to undermine the core of each of them,” Dr. Efraim Zuroff, head of the Jerusalem Office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post in January.
“By falsely claiming that Israel is an ‘apartheid state,’ he denies its democratic basis, which is a central tenet of Israeli statehood since its establishment, and legitimizes unjust attacks on the Jewish state for sins committed on a regular basis by all its neighbors but not by Israel,” Zuroff said.
The US- and EU-designated terrorist organization Hamas praised Gabriel’s attack on Israel on its Twitter feed in January.
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