German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a session of the German lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, in Berlin.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BERLIN – A diverse group of German and American Jewish organizations sharply criticized on Tuesday German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration for its endorsement of the labeling of Israeli settlement products.
The Jerusalem Post asked Jewish organizations in Europe and the United States to assess Merkel’s decision to impose labels on Israeli merchandise made in east Jerusalem, on the Golan Heights and in the West Bank.
“It’s a disgrace. Throughout her years as chancellor, Angela Merkel in word and [mostly] in deed has stood as a friend of Israel. She must certainly know that the EU labeling move does nothing to advance peace, but does further embolden an array of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic forces. Hiding behind a decision by the EU doesn’t hide the fact that she has violated a historic German responsibility when it comes to the Jewish State: Do no harm,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.
Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said, “As this is not a mandatory European law, but merely guidelines, we had hoped that given history and importantly the anniversary of 50-years of relations between Germany and the State of Israel, that there would be sensitivity to a labeling regime which singles out one people in the whole world for a political, and therefore discriminatory, designation.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League in New York, told the Post, “European officials might insist that the decision is technical, but in fact, these guidelines send a political message, and one that will surely be co-opted by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement, which opposes the two-state solution. Even if European Union officials claim it does not support BDS, this policy will have a similar negative affect on European consumers, who are unlikely to make the intended distinction.”
Elvira Noa, head of the Bremen Jewish community in northern Germany, said “I find it [German approval of labeling] very negative. It is a stigmatization and the danger exists of calls to boycott and stoking of anti-Semitism.”
She said the danger that lies behind the labeling system is “Don’t buy from Jews!” and “Don’t buy from Israelis!” “It damages the coexistence for Palestinians that work with Israelis. It makes no economic sense,” she added.
Bremen’s Jewish community has 1,000 members. Anti-Israel activists marched into local stores in November seeking to label Israeli products.
B’nai B’rith International executive vice president, Daniel Mariaschin, said this EU labeling mandate prejudges the outcome of any future Israeli-Palestinian negotiation.
“It set backs the peace process and does not advance the peace process. As long as the Palestinians feel that outside of negotiations they can accomplish unilateral moves, they will have no incentive to go the table and negotiate.”
He said “Germany has a special role” in countering the labeling action. The EU labeling system “is another example of double standards being imposed.”
Asked what advice he would offer Germany: “Don’t implement.”
A spokesman for the German Federal Food and Agriculture Ministry, told the Post on Tuesday that Minister Christian Schmidt does not want the EU guidelines to be “instrumentalized politically” and “should not be a basis for agitation.”
The spokesman said the ministry has not received any complaints or questions from the 16 federal states that maintain control over imports and correct labeling. The German government rejects boycotts of Israeli merchandise.
Reinhard Schramm, the chairman of the Jewish community in the central German state Thuringia, said he “considers the decision [German government’s labeling of settlement products] wrong. “It is not right what Europe does and Germany’s participation.”
He expressed, however, his admiration for Merkel as Chancellor and her support for Israel and human rights.
Arkadij Schwarz, a representative of the Jewish Königs Wusterhausen community in the state of Brandenburg, said the decision “reminds me of the times when we were labeled [with yellow stars].”
He said he was disappointed with the administration’s embrace of labels.
“Not every [EU] decision must be followed,” he added.
Nathan Gelbart, a prominent Berlin lawyer and chairman of the German branch of United Israel Appeal, said the EU settlement guidelines are a “discriminatory decision” and a “political regulation and not a technical rule.”
He “welcomed the decision from Hungary and Greece not to participate” in the implementation of the EU guidelines.
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