Germany starting to grasp nature of modern anti-Semitism

Analysis: Does the confluence of three seemingly coincidental events across four German cities represent a refreshing pocket of pro-Israel support?

February 24, 2010 01:18
4 minute read.
Cologne city officials removed tje 'Wailing Wall'

anti semitic gaza poster 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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The removal of a longstanding anti-Semitic “Wailing Wall” exhibit in front of the Cologne Cathedral, the decision by government-funded foundations to uninvite anti-Israel academic Norman Finkelstein from speaking in Berlin and Munich and the resignation of a Frankfurt imam who participated in a pro-Iran rally calling for Israel’s destruction.

Does the confluence of three seemingly coincidental events across four German cities in February represent a refreshing pocket of pro-Israel support?

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According to critics, Walter Herrmann, a hard-core hater of Israel, mounted a permanent anti-Semitic exhibit entitled “Cologne Wailing Wall” five years ago on the bustling, pedestrian-filled cathedral square in Cologne, attacking the Jewish state with inflammatory language, cartoons and photographs. One cartoon shows a man sporting a Star of David on his bib as he devours a young Palestinian boy with an fork draped in an American flag and a knife with the word “Gaza.” A glass filled with blood stands next to to his dinner plate.

“If that [cartoon] is not incitement to hatred, Paragraph 130 of the German criminal code can be abolished,” Gerd Buurmann told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

He filed a criminal complaint against Herrmann for violating Paragraph 130, an anti-hate-crime law that bars incitement against minority groups. The complaint apparently led Cologne authorities to shut down the exhibit.

Buurmann, who serves as director of the Severins Burg Theater, said Herrmann propagates “a radical expression that Jews are not welcome in Cologne.” He termed Herrmann’s exhibit “anti-Semitic” because it shows Israel “in the tradition of the National Socialists,” adding that the cartoon recalls the anti-Jewish propaganda of the Nazi Der Stürmer newspaper.

The Cologne City Council and the mayor have over the years largely remained passive and tolerated the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel exhibit. With the exceptions of a small anti-fascist group called Mad Cologne, Buurmann and the Jewish community, the overwhelming majority of citizens in Cologne have either remained indifferent to the anti-Israel spectacle in the heart of their city or expressed satisfaction with vitriol against the Jewish state. According to Herrmann, roughly 100,000 people have signed his petition supporting the political content of his exhibit.

Meanwhile, Norman Finkelstein announced on Sunday that he plans to cancel a series of anti-Israel lectures in Germany. After foundations affiliated with the Green Party, the Left Party, and the Amerika House pulled the plug on their support for his talk, Finkelstein capitulated. When asked about the organizations’ decision to discontinue their aid, Alex Feuerherdt , a journalist and keen observer of German-Israeli relations, told the Post it remains unclear “whether that is progress.” He argued that the foundations initially invited Finkelstein.

“Anti-semitism is not an opinion but a crime,” said  Feuerherdt, adding that the Left Party’s Rosa Luxemburg Foundation maintains that Finkelstein’s anti-Semitic theses form the basis for an ongoing discussion.

However, the Finkelstein dispute is child’s play compared to the EU’s reaction to Israel and Iran. Feuerherdt criticized Germany and the EU for promoting dialogue with a murderous regime in Teheran while at the same time seeking to curtail diplomatic relations with Israel because of the reported involvement of the Mossad in the killing of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

There is a bitter irony when the EU, which conducts approximately €14.1 billion worth of annual trade with Iran, threatens not to upgrade Israel’s EU diplomatic status for possible complicity in the death of al-Mabhouh, a murderer and smuggler of Iranian arms destined for Hamas to be used to kill Israelis.

Iran’s call to obliterate Israel spilled over into the Frankfurt mosque Hazrat-Fatima. Public pressure forced the anti-Israel imam Sabahaddin Türkyilmaz to resign his post because he participated in an Al-Quds Day march, which Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini established in 1979 to purge Jerusalem of Israel’s presence.

While there was a growing awareness among politicians in Frankfrut that Türyilmaz, who insists he has the backing of his community, is spreading modern anti-Semitism, huge gaps in knowledge about combating new forms of anti-Semitism still remain.

The controversial director of the Berlin Center for Research on Anti-Semitism, Wolfgang Benz, told the Frankfurter Rundschau that the sacking of the imam was justified as a result of the Holocaust and Germany’s responsibility toward Israel’s right to exist.

What Benz fails to see is that the resignation was justified because the imam spreads anti-Semitism. According to Benz’s bizarre logic, it seems he might entertain the idea of not supporting Israel’s right to exist if the Holocaust had not taken place.

Critics view many of the academics at the Berlin Center and Benz as intellectual lightweights because they largely ignore modern anti-Semitism – bias and hatred of Israel – while remaining preoccupied with antiquated forms of anti-Semitism that represent no overriding threat to Jews and Israelis.

While many observers argue the “special relationship” between Germany and Israel is chiefly a government-driven project that finds only scattered support within civilian population, a breathtaking series – by German standards – of mainly non-Jewish initiatives is confronting expressions of hatred against Israel.

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