BERLIN – Philipp Missfelder, a leading German deputy member from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party (CDU), rejected moves by Sweden’s government and Britain’s parliament to recognize an independent Palestine State. He told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that, “To better promote peace in the Middle East, Europe must adopt a united front,” adding, “Individual states unilaterally choosing to recognize Palestine is the wrong approach….Germany will not follow in the steps of Sweden and Britain.”
Missfelder’s comment was in response to a slated opposition Die Linke (Left Party) event in the Bundestag on Monday covering Gaza and “state recognition.” The event was organized by two anti-Israel deputies, Inge Höger and Annette Groth, both of whom were on the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara in 2010. The ship was intercepted by Israeli commandos during its attempt to violate a naval blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.
“If Die Linke would still like to discuss it [recognizing a state of Palestine], the damage to Germany’s reputation would be greater than any benefit the discussion would have on the peace process,” said Missfelder, who also serves as the foreign policy spokesman in the Bundestag for the CDU and its sister party, the Christian Social Union.
Following a sustained outcry by their fellow politicians, Die Linke canceled the event, which was to include an appearance by American author and anti-Zionist activist Max Blumenthal and Canadian filmmaker David Sheen, which had been scheduled for Monday.
Gregor Gysi, the head of Die Linke’s faction in the Bundestag, wrote the Post on Thursday that the “event will not take place.” Gysi has pushed his party to recognize Israel’s right to exist, but has encountered resistance from its anti-Israel base over the years.
The announcement that Die Linke was arranging a seminar about Israel and Palestine with Blumenthal provoked strong responses from members of several parties in the government, including Volker Beck, a top Green Party deputy and human rights expert who is also the chairman of the German-Israel parliamentary group in the Bundestag.
He told the Post, “While there are legitimate criticisms of Israeli policies, Blumenthal is known to invoke consistently anti-Semitic comparisons between Israel and Nazism,” said Beck ahead of the cancellation.
“Of course, the Left can discuss the question of exactly how useful it would be to unilaterally recognize Palestine as a state. This speaker, however, is so biased toward one side of the issue that no expert could be of any help.”
Jochen Feilcke, a former deputy with the Christian Democrats and head of the local German-Israeli Society in Berlin/Postsdam, told the Post that the recognition of Palestine by Sweden has served as a trigger for Die Linke to “force the Bundestag into a debate on a Palestinian state.”
“Fortunately, the government parties are strictly against such recognition,” Feilcke said. In response to Blumenthal’s appearance, Feilcke said ahead of the event, “Whoever justifies the terrorism of Hamas and Hezbollah should not be welcome as a speaker in the Berlin parliament building.”
Reinhold Robbe, president of the national German-Israeli Society and member of the Social Democratic Party, called Die Linke’s event “completely unnecessary,” and undermining to the efforts of those German politicians who have cultivated friendly relations with Israel.
He also called Blumenthal’s attitude towards Jews and Israel “intolerable and unacceptable,” and his support for Hamas and Hezbollah “irresponsible.”
Robbe said the planned event was “totally unnecessary and characteristic for the communist wing of Die Linke.”
Prior to Gysi pulling the plug on the anti-Israel event, Inge Höger ‘s office wrote the Post that “the Die Linke faction supports an end of the occupation and the recognition of the state of Palestine.”
She added that, “We take a clear stand against anti-Semitism and Jew-hatred.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post that he “classifies Höger and Groth as anti-Semites” because of their discriminatory attacks on Israel. He blasted both deputies for seeking to hold their anti-Zionist event one day after the Kristallnacht commemoration.
Beginning on November 9, 1938 Nazi Germany mounted a wave of death and destruction against Jews and their properties.
Cooper praised Gysi’s move to cancel the event as “extraordinarily important.”
The Wiesenthal Center listed Blumenthal in their 2013 top 10 list of worst anti-Semitic and anti-Israel slurs.
According to the report, “He quotes approvingly characterizations of Israelis soldiers as ‘Judeo-Nazis.’’ Blumenthal has also pushed a social media campaign to compare Israel with the Islamic State.
Blumenthal declined to respond to press queries.
Höger’s posting on her website for the now-canceled event listed Max as the “son of former Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal.” The notice suggests Höger is trying to capitalize on Sidney Blumenthal’s connection to former president Bill Clinton to advance his son’s fringe ideas about Israel and Jews.
Max Blumenthal wrote for the Lebanese militia Hezbollah- aligned publication Al-Akhbar.
Die Linke, successor to the Socialist Unity Party of the former East German communist state, has attracted a mix of East German socialists, West German leftists and trade unionists.
The vice president of the party, Petra Pau, joined Volker Beck and Reinhold Robbe in urging the East Berlin theater company Volksbühne to not host Blumenthal and David Sheen at an event. Pau is widely considered to be one of the few outspoken pro-Israel deputies within Die Linke.
The public letter states the planned appearance of Blumenthal and David Sheen would serve “to promote anti-Semitic prejudice by comparing the terror of the Nazis with Israeli policies.”
Their presence would not contribute to a factual presentation of the Middle East conflict, but rather a one-sided event, wrote the authors.
The letter also suggested that the presence of hardcore anti-Israel activists who spread anti-Semitic sentiments will diminish the commemoration of an episode “that is recognized as the beginning of the persecution, the deportation, and the killing of over six million European Jews.”