BERLIN – The decision of Mayor Peter Jung and the city council in Wuppertal,
North Rhine-Westphalia, not to oppose a pro-Palestinian conference on Saturday
that featured Hamas supporters has sparked criticism.
which was green-lighted by the Wuppertal Municipality in January, took place in
a city-funded convention center.
“There is nothing wrong with holding a
pro-Palestinian event, of course, but there is something quite disturbing that
the organizers saw the need to invite several extremist speakers, including
apologists for terrorism, and those with views that many find repugnantly
anti-Semitic such as [Bundestag deputy] Inge Höger – especially since the
conference is in Germany, of all places," British-born journalist and Middle East
expert Tom Gross told The Jerusalem Post
Gross was formerly
Jerusalem correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph
and for the New York Daily
“Pandering to extremists does nothing to advance peace and
prosperity for Palestinians and Israelis, or bring us any closer to resolving
this conflict amicably,” Gross said.
The ninth “Palestinians in Europe”
conference opened its one-day parley titled “The Generation of Return Knows Its
Way.” The event was expected to attract up to 5,000 supporters, including listed
speakers Amin Abou Rashed, a Dutch-Palestinian fundraiser for Hamas, and Höger,
who was on the Mavi Marmara protest vessel last year.
On Höger’s Left
Party website, she wrote that Israel has for “many years starved and
indiscriminately bombed the population of Gaza because they voted democratically
[for Hamas in January 2006]. The legend of Israel as the only democracy in the
Middle East is a farce.”
Last month, she blamed the Israeli government
for the recent murders by Palestinians of pro-Palestinian Israeli filmmaker
Juliano Mer-Khamis and Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni.
According to a
Dutch intelligence service report, Abou Rashed, a main European organizer of
last year’s Gaza flotilla (and this year’s Dutch contingent), raised money for
Hamas through the Al-Aksa Foundation in the Netherlands.
Danowski, a German police official, told the Post from the conference: That the
participants have an “affinity for Hamas is clear,” adding, however, that Abou
Rashed was “definitely” not present at the event.
sponsors of the conference include Palestinian Return Centre- London, a group
with strong ties to Hamas, according to Berlin's Office for the
Protection of the Constitution domestic intelligence agency, which lists the
group under the rubric “regional violent Islamic practitioners –
Martina Eckermann, a spokeswoman for Mayor Jung, told the Post by
telephone on Saturday that a “strong democracy must tolerate” such events and
opinions. She said the security agencies in Wuppertal had not identified
criteria, in accordance with Federal Law, that would be necessary to bar the
Jonathan Hoffman, co-vice chairman of the British
Zionist Federation, told the Post on Saturday that the Return Centre “is
affiliated with Hamas. As Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was telling
European leaders this week, we must not lose sight that Hamas is a genocidal
organization whose mission is to kill Jews.
European governments should
have no tolerance for anything related to Hamas, and Hamas should be not be
given an opportunity for civilized discourse.”
Germany has hosted three
such pro-Palestinian conferences over the last nine years.
The local Else
Lasker-Schüler Society and other pro-Israel groups protested on Saturday against
the city renting space to the organizers of the conference.
“So long as
Hamas does not renounce violence against Israel and does not recognize Israel’s
existence, such an organization should not be provided public space in the
birthplace of the Jew Else Lasker-Schüler,” spokesman Hajo Jahn
Else Lasker-Schüler (1869-1945) was a prominent German-Jewish
writer who fled Nazi Germany and died in Jerusalem.
Sacha Stawski, the
head of Honestly Concerned, an organization that monitors and combats
anti-Semitism in Germany, wrote the Post by e-mail on Saturday: “‘Freedom of
speech’ – that is what they always claim when it comes to purely one-sided
The event in Wuppertal is about denying the right of the
State of Israel to exist – nothing more and nothing less. The conference is not
one in search of peace solutions between Palestinians and Jews, nor is it about
“This conference – and guest speakers at previous
conferences have made that clear – is about finding a ‘final solution’ for the
Jewish state, decrying any peace negotiations with Israel and downplaying
terrorism. Clearly, when looking at information now available about past
conferences, one has to speak of a conference of hatred and incitement – both
from a perspective of the verbal assaults on Israel, as well as from the
anti-Semitic literature made available to attendees,” Stawski
E-mail and telephone queries to Mayor Jung from the Christian
Democratic Union were not returned. Eckermann told the Post that Jung was “not
in service” on Saturday.
Eckermann said Jung and the city of Wuppertal
did not need to “distance” themselves from the event. That would be similar to
distancing oneself from “murderers,” and that is not necessary, she
Leonid Goldberg, the head of the Wuppertal Jewish community, said,
“I am ashamed of Wuppertal” for hosting the conference, the Westdeutsche Zeitung
“That the city of Wuppertal rented the Uni- Halle to terrorists
is an absurdity. These people have taken up the cause to destroy the State of