German foreign ministry undersecretary of state Niels Annen.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The German foreign ministry’s undersecretary of state Niels Annen’s visit to Israel unleashed a storm of criticism on Tuesday over his rebuke of the Jewish state for not tolerating public debate.
The pro-Iranian regime diplomat, Annen, wrote on his Twitter feed on Monday: “It was important for me to meet and discuss about critical issues with civil society organizations from Israel today in Jerusalem. They expressed concern about shrinking spaces for controversial public discussions.”
The US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, responded on Twitter to Annen by writing his 133,000 followers: “Iranians aren’t allowed to be on Twitter. Their space isn’t shrinking... It’s nonexistent.”
Grenell has played a key role in the fight to combat antisemitism in Germany and across Europe.
Annen celebrated Iran’s Islamic revolution in February at Tehran’s embassy in Berlin. He expressed “no regrets” over his attending a celebration that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. Last week, Annen’s superior, German foreign minister Heiko Maas, did not object to Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif ‘s defense of his regime’s ongoing executions of gay Iranians.
The controversial diplomat, Annen, also rejected calls for Germany to ban in its entirety the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah in Germany, where 1,050 Hezbollah members operate and spread antisemitic and jihadi ideologies.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, the president of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, told The Jerusalem Post: “It is absolutely wrong for German officials to interfere or manipulate Israeli society or politics via a tiny group of foreign-funded polarizing NGOs. Such behavior is offensive and insensitive, as is blindly repeating their slogans attacking Israeli democracy.
Furthermore, Germany has a major problem of credibility on these issues as Europe’s least transparent source of NGO funding. This is a case of officials in glass houses throwing stones.”
Steinberg wrote to Annen on Twitter: “Perhaps you can explain why tens of millions of Euros in German federal government funds for ‘development’ NGOs lack any transparency? Germany has the worst NGO transparency record in Europe, and its funds go to a number of NGOs linked to terror organizations.”
Steinberg added, “No Niels Annen @GerAmbTLV - it is absolutely wrong for German officials to interfere or manipulate Israeli society or politics via a tiny group of foreign-funded polarizing NGOs. Such interference is offensive and insensitive.” The Twitter feed @GerAmbTLV is for Germany’s ambassador to Israel, Susanne.Wasum-Rainer.
Annen showed a picture of himself and the German ambassador with Sarit Michaeli, an international advocacy officer for the Israeli NGO B’Tselem. The NGO B’Tselem (The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) says on its website that it “strives to end Israel’s occupation, recognizing that this is the only way to achieve a future that ensures human rights, democracy, liberty and equality to all people, Palestinian and Israeli alike.”
Daniel Schwammenthal, the director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute in Brussels, commented on Twitter regarding Annen: “Being quite familiar with both societies, I wish politically correct Germany and its often-deferential media had Israel’s rambunctious debating culture.”
Dr. Ariel Cohen, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington, wrote to Annen on Twitter: “What did you have to tell them about the shrinking space for Jews in Germany, where they are attacked for wearing kippot, and harassed and threatened? How much does it bother you? Does it?”
Dr. Felix Klein, Germany’s commissioner to combat antisemitism, said in May: “I cannot advise Jews to wear the kippah everywhere, all the time, in Germany.” Young German Jews are fleeing to Israel because of rising antisemitism in Germany.
The German diplomat Christian Buck, director for Near and Middle East and North Africa for Germany’s foreign ministry, was present at the meeting with B’Tselem. After a Post query about an anti-Israel tweet from Buck in December, he deleted the tweet that was widely criticized as antisemitic because it compared the repression of Jesus to the Palestinians.
In 2017, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a meeting with former German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel because he insisted on meeting with far-Left NGO Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem. Gabriel, Maas and Annen are members of the German social democratic party. Hamas’s Twitter account praised Gabriel for comparing Israel to apartheid.
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