German SDP head Sigmar Gabriel_370.
(photo credit: Michaela Rehle/Reuters)
BERLIN – Sigmar Gabriel, the chairman of Germany’s second biggest political
party who last week called Israel an “apartheid regime,” is slated to meet with
the head of Germany’s Jewish community and the new Israeli
Yaakov Hadas-Handelsman became ambassador in Berlin on March
Gabriel, 52, who will likely run for chancellor in 2013, wrote on his
Facebook site Wednesday following a visit to Hebron, “It’s a zone without legal
rights for Palestinians. It is an apartheid regime, and there’s no justification
Dieter Graumann, head of the Jewish community, told the German
media that “what Gabriel said is completely screwed up.”
It is morally
imbalanced to call for negotiations with Hamas, which openly seeks to destroy
Jews worldwide, and at the same time to denigrate Israel as an “apartheid
regime,” Graumann said.
Gabriel called for Israel to negotiate with
Hamas. He sought to visit the Islamist group in the Gaza Strip, but because of
the Gazan rocket fire into Israel he could not gain access.
Missfelder, a deputy in the Bundestag and foreign policy spokesman for the
Christian Democrats, wrote to The Jerusalem Post
in a phone text message on
Thursday, “I advise against the political upgrade of Hamas.” Germany and the EU
recognize Hamas as a terrorist organization.
Email queries to Gabriel and
to Tobias Dünow, a spokesman for the Social Democrats, on Friday regarding
Gabriel’s views were not returned.
Fabian Weissbarth, a representative of
the Social Democrats’ Berlin youth organization (Jusos), wrote to the Post
email, “Jusos Berlin calls on Sigmar Gabriel to distance himself” from his
There is “in no way a justification” for calling the
situation in Hebron an “apartheid regime,” Weissbarth said.
a representative of the German-Israel Friendship Society in Erfurt, criticized
Gabriel in a lengthy article on the website “Die Achse des Guten” for using his
trip to Israel to visit Hebron while “more than 200 rockets were launched at
Israel, forcing more than one million Israelis to live in a state of emergency
and deadly terror... One could have expected that he would have at least
condemned with clear words this new wave of terror.”
reporting on Gabriel’s trip to the Middle East has been dominated by his
criticism of Israel. His comments have electrified German-language social
network sites and major media organizations.
Stephan Kramer, general
secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, posted a response on his
Facebook site calling Gabriel’s comment “‘idiocy’ that reflected poorly on his
party,” JTA reported.
Gabriel, however, garnered praise from the PLO’s
top diplomat in Germany, Salah Abdel Shafi, for his parallel between Israel and
“The statement of the SPD [Social Democratic Party] chairman
is a courageous and truthful contention. He earns respect for his statement,”
Shafi wrote on Friday on the German- language website of the PLO’s diplomatic
mission in the Federal Republic.
Henryk M. Broder, a top German Jewish
journalist and prolific writer on contemporary German anti-Semitism, told the
Austrian daily Die Presse that “I do not believe that Gabriel is an anti-Semite,
rather he is an idiot” in connection with his apartheid remark.
Die Welt quoted Rudolf Dressler, a Social Democrat who was ambassador to Israel
from 2000 to 2005, strongly disapproving of Gabriel’s comparison between Israel
and apartheid South Africa.
While Gabriel’s Facebook page contained
protests against his anti-Israel posting, Sacha Stawski, the head of the
Frankfurt-based media watchdog organization Honestly Concerned, wrote the Post
Saturday that Gabriel’s Facebook has also attracted a sizable “collection of
anti-Semites, both brown [neo- Nazi] and Islamic,” supporting Gabriel’s
perceived efforts to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist.
political columnist for the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger daily wrote on Friday that
Gabriel could have noted that there is an Israeli Arab minority in the Jewish
state, “while in Palestine Jews cannot survive without army protection.”