Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
BERLIN – Germany’s Family Ministry and the Berlin Senate are engulfed in an anti-Israel scandal because of funding for a three-day conference involving a group that hosted a speaker calling for the end of Jewry and claimed that “Zionists are racists.”
The three-day Canaan conference titled “Trialogue with Israel and Palestine” started on Monday and runs until Wednesday. Critics charge the organization Cafe Palestine Freiburg, which is participating at the conference, with stoking modern anti-Semitism.
An article in the mass circulation Bild newspaper wrote “Cafe Palestine Freiburg would prefer to wipe Israel off the map.”
The anti-Israel critic Gilad Atzmon delivered a 2011 lecture for Cafe Palestine Freiburg and called for a process of ”dismantling Jewish ideology.” The Jerusalem Post observed videos of the 2011 Cafe Palestine event with Atzmon, who said that Israel is “worse than Nazi Germany” – a remark that drew laughter from the audience.
The prominent German journalist David Harnasch, who has written about Israel and modern German anti-Semitism, termed Cafe Palestine Freiburg “Cafe Jew hatred.” In late 2013, the regional newspaper Badische Zeitung,which reports on the city of Freiburg, quoted Joachim Bruhns, from the Socialist Initiative Forum, who described Cafe Palestine’s co-founder Dr. Gabi Weber as a “helper of neo-Nazis” because of her Cafe Palestine activities.
According to Bild, a spokeswoman for the Family Ministry said, “Should our examination reveal that an event hostile to Israel will take place with approved funds, we will demand that the funds be returned and that the organization in the future not be supported.”
Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Berlin office, said: “Whoever advocates a boycott of Israel cannot be a partner for peace... ” She called on the Family Ministry and Berlin Senate to review their funding policies.
According to the Canaan conference program, Brot für die Welt, a protestant agency charity, is a sponsor. The Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor has criticized Brot für die Welt for its anti-Israel support of positions that jeopardize Israel’s security, including calling for the dismantlement of the West Bank security barrier. Brot für die Welt is a recipient of public German funds.
Meanwhile, Austria is set to close a Saudi school in Vienna for failing to provide the names of its teachers and director, and is also looking into allegations that it used anti-Semitic books, Vienna’s school board said on Monday.
Austria’s government wants to push ahead with passing a law that prohibits foreign funding for Muslim organizations and would make standardized German-language versions of the Koran mandatory.
The law, which the government says is aimed at preventing Austrian organizations from turning into recruiting grounds for jihadis, applies to institutions such as mosques rather than schools.
But it set off a heated debate on the role of other Islamic organizations in Austria, where concerns about jihadist violence have helped the extremist FPO, a party critical of Islam and could attract a quarter of votes, according to opinion polls.
The Vienna Board of Education decided to revoke the Saudi school’s right to operate by the end of the next school year after it ignored a December 1 deadline to name its teaching staff, a rule all private schools have to comply with, a spokesman said.
The board, which says the school is funded by Saudi Arabia, has asked it to provide official translations of texts after media reports alleged the school taught anti-Semitic content.
The school, which has 150 students and teaches in Arabic, has four weeks to appeal the closure – declined to comment on the decision.Reuters contributed to this report.