A nun hurries by the security barrier toward the checkpoint from Jerusalem on her way to pray by the spot where Jesus Christ is believed to have been born in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity.
(photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR)
BERLIN – Israeli organizations slammed Green Party Bundestag deputy Uwe Kekeritz on Thursday for claiming that Israel’s security barrier and border system designed to stop Palestinian terrorism is worse than the Berlin Wall.
In comparison with Israel’s borders, the Berlin Wall was “a toy,” Bavarian politician Kekeritz claimed in the course of a nearly four-minute video posted to YouTube in mid-August. He spoke at an anti-Israel event in early June, at “Protestant Church Day” in Stuttgart.
Efraim Zuroff, the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the director of its Jerusalem office, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday: “It is obvious that Green MP Uwe Kekeritz learned nothing about the larger picture of Middle East politics and history during his visit to Israel” last year.
“To the best of my knowledge, the Berlin Wall was not built to stop terrorists from committing suicide attacks against West Berlin civilians, rather to prevent East Germans from fleeing to freedom in the West. And the number of people shot by communist authorities far outnumbers any casualties at Israel’s security fence,” Zuroff said.
He questioned whether Kekeritz made the comparison “out of genuine ignorance or anti-Semitism.”
Kekeritz said, “It must be made clear to the Israelis that they cannot continue with their policies without consequences.”
He added that it is “taboo” to criticize Israel in Germany.
Zuroff, however, contested that claim, saying “There is no shortage of criticism of Israel in Germany today and no one is preventing him from voicing criticism of Israel, justified or unjustified.”
Misereor – The German Catholic Bishops’ Organization for Development Cooperation and Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World – Protestant Development Service, an agency of the Protestant Churches in Germany) organized Kekeritz’s trip to Israel and the disputed territories. He based his criticism of Israel on what he saw during the trip.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, head of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, told the Post, “This case highlights the damage done by irresponsible NGOs, particularly in Germany, who promote vicious anti-Israel propaganda campaigns. In their activities, Misereor and Brot für die Welt – both of which are funded by the German government – present entirely biased and immoral distortions of the conflict.
“In addition, a number of the political foundations including the Green Party’s Heinrich Böll Stiftung [foundation], fund and partner with the ideological fringe, adding to the distortions. The public money that these groups channel into targeting Israel results in misinformed and unethical statements and positions from German journalists, MPs academics and others,” he said.
Kekeritz posted a statement to his website saying that he regretted his likening of Israel to the East German communist state. “To deduce a comparison with the dictator in the DDR [former East Germany] and the democratic legal state of Israel is absurd,” he wrote.
In an email reply to a detailed Post query, Kekeritz’s spokesman Christian Schneider reiterated the false comparison but did not address Kekertiz’s contention that one is not allowed to criticize Israel in Germany. Schneider declined to comment on whether Kekertiz’s statements were anti-Semitic. He said Kekeritz is unavailable because he is in New York and has appointments.
The head of the American Jewish Committee’s Berlin office, Deidre Berger, told the Post : “ Uwe Kekeritz was quick to criticize the ways in which Israel is protecting itself against suicide bombers while not mentioning the reason for the security barrier, namely, ongoing daily attempts to perpetrate acts of terror on Israeli soil. He did this as a guest of German humanitarian aid organizations that propagate boycott actions against Israel. “
She asked, “Where is Uwe Kekeritz' moral compass regarding Germany's oft-repeated statement of responsibility to the safety of Israel?,” adding “A parliamentarian has the responsibility to evaluate both sides of a situation. Instead, Uwe Kekeritz is propagating one-sided anti-Israel conspiracy theories, for instance, that there is an alleged taboo on criticizing Israeli government policies. The absurdity of this argument is apparent when reading the reams of criticism of Israeli policies in both German and Israeli media. “
Berger said,” There is no taboo on speaking about Israel; rather, Uwe Kekeritz is propagating dangerous conspiracy theories about imagined undue influence of Jews in the US media. His frequent admonitions of ‘consequences’ for Israel alone - not mentioning the Palestinian government - regarding the progress of peace negotiations is a door-opener for the Boycott Divestment Sanction movement in Germany.”
In 2013, a number of prominent Green Party deputies, including the current head of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Tel Aviv, Kerstin Müller, submitted a legislative initiative to demarcate Israeli products from the West Bank as a form of punishment. Germany’s neo-Nazi NPD party filed a similar measure in a state parliament in 2012 proposing to label Israeli products from settlements.