Gregor Gysi of the German left-wing Die Linke party.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Two anti-Israel extremists last week shocked German left-wing politicians – and the major media – when they tracked down popular Left Party chairman Gregor Gysi in a parliamentary corridor, loudly and relentlessly haranguing him because they object to his views on Israel. One of the demonstrators chased Gysi into a bathroom and relented only after the politician locked himself in a stall.
In response, Left Party politicians and members started a petition on Friday, entitled “You don’t speak in our name,” calling for Left Party MPs Annette Groth, Inge Höger, Heike Hänsel, and Claudia Haydt to be sanctioned for enabling the anti-Zionist assailants - a Canadian-Israeli and an American – to confront Gysi.
In a reference to anti-Israel MPs in the Left Party, the petition states “members of our party in responsible positions are stoking obsessive hate and demonization of Israel with an anti-Semitic argument pattern and trivialization of the Holocaust.”
Leading Left Party politicians, including 11 MPs, have signed the petition, with a total of nearly 500 people adding their names to the online document as of Saturday. The initial signatories were vice president of the MP fraction in the Bundestag Jan Korte, head of the Left in the European Parliament Gabi Zimmer, and secretary-general of the party Matthias Höhn.
Groth, whom critics accuse of anti-Semitism, told The Südkurier paper on Wednesday that “I am not an anti-Semite.”
It appears to be a scandal that will not go away and is ripping apart the Left Party, Germany’s largest opposition party in the Bundestag.
Norbert Lammert, the president of the Bundestag, initiated a persona non grata process to ban both extremists who verbally assaulted Gysi, David Sheen and Max Blumenthal. Lammert defended the likely ban in a statement: “Every attempt to exert pressure on members of parliament, to physically threaten them and thus endanger the parliamentary process, is intolerable and must be prevented.”
The left-wing anti-Israel extremists – the Canadian-Israeli Sheen and American Blumenthal – launched their verbal assault on Gysi after he declined to meet with them after they appeared unannounced at his office last Monday.
They said Gysi called Sheen an anti-Semite, which Gysi flatly denies.
The German media termed the scandal “Toiletgate.” The public implosion of Sheen and co-activist Blumenthal can be viewed on a YouTube video, including Sheen’s pursuit of Gysi into the bathroom.
The scandal began more than a week ago when Gysi wrote The Jerusalem Post and the German daily Morgenpost that he canceled a Left Party event in the Bundestag. An advertisement for the event on parliament member Höger’s website advocated the Germany’s recognition of “Palestine” and Israel’s alleged “war crimes” during Operation Protective Edge to stop Hamas rocket fire.
The Left Party MPs Annette Groth and Höger – who both sailed on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara in its ill-fated attempt to breach Israel’s security blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza – were the main organizers of the parley. After Gysi pulled the plug on the meeting in the Left Party parliamentary room, the MPs defied him and held a renegade event with the extremists in a non-party room.
The anti-Israel activists urged a boycott of Israel, but in an ironic twist, the Left Party fraction issued a statement saying it would cut ties with Blumenthal and Sheen because of their “hostile” actions against Gysi.
Gysi declined to file a criminal complaint against his assailants.
It was apparently the first such confrontation in the Bundestag in the history of the modern Federal Republic.
A young Left Party city councilman, Marco Radojevic, from the city of Konstanz, weighed in that Höger and Groth should be banned from the party, because they “wanted to organize an event with the well-known anti-Semitic journalists Max Blumenthal and David Sheen.”
Writing on an obscure anti-Israel website in the US last week, Sheen said, “The German media have been replete with articles accusing me and my fellow journalist Max Blumenthal of spreading hatred of Jews. These accusations are baseless and defamatory.”
Blumenthal, the son of Hilary Clinton’s adviser Sidney Blumenthal, refused multiple Post interview requests. He has written for the pro-Hezbollah paper Al-Akhbar and the German government considers Hezbollah’s militia a terrorist entity.
The Los Angeles-based human rights organization Simon Wiesenthal Center listed Blumenthal on its 2013 list of top 10 anti-Semitic and anti-Israel defamers. “He [Blumenthal] quotes approvingly characterizations of Israeli soldiers as ‘Judeo-Nazis,’” the center wrote.
The Left Party petition slammed Blumenthal and Sheen for “unacceptable comparisons of Israel to the Nazi dictator and terrorists of Islamic State.”
The German media across the political spectrum denounced Blumenthal and Sheen’s tactics. The mass-circulation Bild, Germany’s largest paper, headlined the incident as “Lunatic Israel-haters pursue Gysi into the toilet.” Der Spiegel wrote, “Harassed leader of the Left: Israel critics pursue Gysi into the toilet.” The daily Die Welt headlined its article, “Gregor Gysi flees from anti-Zionists into the toilet.” The largest Berlin daily, B.Z., wrote, “Political thugs chase Gysi through the Bundestag.”