Chancellor Angela Merkel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrive for a news conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, April 19, 2016..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
German Green Party MP Volker Beck criticized on Thursday members of Chancellor Angela Merkel's government because, over a nearly three-and-a-half-year period, her cabinet members have met primarily with left-wing NGOs in Israel that heavily criticize the country's policies, and that some say wage attacks on the legitimacy of the Jewish state.
Beck, who is the chairman of the German-Israel parliament group, said: "The balance of the discussion partners speaks not only for a special passion - the so-called Israel criticism attitude - but also for the false estimation and lack of knowledge of the situation on the ground. A dialogue should also consist of talks with positions that one does not share. Otherwise it is a monologue rather than a duet."
Beck secured information from the German Foreign Ministry about the government's visits in Israel that showed, from meetings with 27 NGOs, only one NGO was from the middle or center-right of the political spectrum.
The NGO meetings included a combined four visits with hard-left NGOs Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem by then-foreign minister and current Social Democratic President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his party colleague Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.
Beck cited a May speech from President Steinmeier at the Hebrew University in which Steinmeier said: "While we Germans know and admire the diversity of democracy in Israel, we also still want to speak with as many different groups in your country and learn as many different viewpoints..."
Beck countered: "The federal government will speak with all sections of Israeli civil society. Fair enough. The federal government has a lot to do in the future, because until now the dialogue has been politically one-sided and represents everything other than the diversity of Israeli society."
Chancellor Merkel did not meet with any left-wing NGOs in Israel. She met with the mainstream Blue White Human Rights/Institute for Zionist Strategies in 2014.
The NGOs mentioned in the data released by Beck are: Blue White Human Rights / Institute for Zionist Strategies, Kolech, NATAL, Hanan Aynor, Protestpicknick gegen hohe Lebensmittelpreise, Tel Aviv Foundation, Aktion Sühnezeichen, Willy Brandt Center, Terrestrial Jerusalem, B’Tselem , Breaking the Silence, Ir Amim, Machsom Watch, Mossawa Center, Economic Cooperation Foundation, Geneva Initiative, Peace Now, PYALARA, St. Yves Society and The International Peace & Cooperation Center.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said in April on Twitter that Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem have been responsible for spreading anti-Israel propaganda. Education Minister Naftali Bennett said in April that “Breaking the Silence is not an anti-Netanyahu organization; it’s an anti-IDF one.”
Breaking the Silence publishes anonymous testimonies from Israeli soldiers claiming the IDF has committed human rights violations.
The data Beck obtained from Walter J. Lindner, a state secretary for the Foreign Ministry, covered the period ranging from 2014 to 2017. Andreas Nahles, the Social Democratic (SPD) Labor Secretary for Merkel, met with the left-wing Willy Brandt Center in Jerusalem in 2016.
As then-SPD General Secretary, Nahles declared in 2012 "shared values" and "common goals" with the Palestinian Fatah party. She also said the SPD seeks a "strategic dialogue" with Fatah.
The SPD's Willy Brandt headquarters in Berlin held a Breaking the Silence exhibit in 2012 where former German foreign minister Steinmeier praised the group's work.
Steinmeier, according to the data, met with six left-wing NGOs, including Terrestrial Jerusalem, B'Tselem, Breaking the Silence and Machsom Watch. He met with two German NGOs: Aktion Sühnezeichen and the Willy Brandt Center.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued an ultimatum to German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel to cancel his meeting with Breaking the Silence in April or he would refuse to meet him. Gabriel chose to meet with Breaking the Silence, sparking a diplomatic crisis between Germany and Israel.
According to the data of visits with NGOs, Gabriel met five times with left-wing NGOs. He met with Geneva Initiative, three Palestinian organizations, B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence.
Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid said in October that B’Tselem’s participation at an UN event to slam Israel signifies “the radical left’s declaration of divorce from Israel.”
He added: “They no longer even pretend that their aim is to influence Israeli public opinion. Instead they decided to join with antisemitic BDS organizations in order to pressure Israel from the outside."
B’Tselem monitors and documents alleged human rights violations in the disputed territories.
The Jerusalem-based watchdog organization NGO Monitor published a 2017 report on B’Tselem noting that: "In October 2016, B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai Elad appeared before a special session of the UN Security Council initiated by Egypt, Malaysia, Venezuela, and Angola, asking the UN to take 'decisive international action' against Israel. In his presentation, Elad made no mention of Palestinian terror attacks or incitement."