German Jewish council urges end of Iran-Germany trade

In a statement to 'The Jerusalem Post', Dr. Josef Schuster, the head of the Central Council, did not mince words: “I endorse an immediate stop of any economic relation with Iran."

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August 17, 2018 21:11
German Jewish council urges end of Iran-Germany trade

President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, speaks during a demonstration in front of a synagogue. (photo credit: REUTERS/FABRIZIO BENSCH)

 
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The president of Germany’s roughly 100,000-member Central Council of Jews has called for an immediate end of Iranian-German business relations because the trade benefits the Islamic Republic’s terrorism and contradicts Berlin’s pledge that Israel’s security is non-negotiable.

In a statement to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, Dr. Josef Schuster, the head of the Central Council, did not mince words: “I endorse an immediate stop of any economic relation with Iran. Any trade with Iran means a benefit for radical and terrorist forces, and a hazard and destabilization for the region.”

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 He added “The Central Council of Jews in Germany has been criticizing the German-Iranian trade relations for a long time. It seems paradoxical that Germany – as a country that is said to have learned from its horrendous past and which has a strong commitment to fight antisemitism –  is one of the strongest economic partners of a regime that is blatantly denying the Holocaust and abusing human rights on a daily basis. Besides, Germany has included Israel’s security as a part of its raison d'etre. As a matter of course this should exclude doing business with a fanatic dictatorship that is calling for Israel’s destruction, pursuing nuclear weapons and financing terror organizations around the world.

“It is high time to ask oneself where the money that Iran is earning by this trade is going. Furthermore, we witness demonstrations in Iran of people that are yearning for freedom and equality. We should stand up for these people who are risking their lives because they are asking for rights that we here can fortunately take for granted.”

The Central Council serves as an umbrella organization for roughly 80 Jewish communities in Germany.

Germany remains the Islamic Republic of Iran’s most important trade partner. Roughly 120 German companies are active in Iran, with employees based in the Islamic Republic, and 10,000 German businesses conduct business with Iran. Germany exported $3.42 billion in goods to Iran in 2017.

The Post sent detailed press queries to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Economy Minister Peter Altmaier in connection with Schuster’s criticism of Iranian-German trade relations. The Post asked: Should Germany end trade with Iran? Will the German government stop providing Euler Hermes credit insurance that protects German companies active in Iran? Is Iran’s regime antisemitic? What is the view of Schuster’s statement?   Are the chancellor and the specific ministers questioned in agreement with Schuster that Iran’s regime denies the Holocaust and is Iranian regime antisemitic?

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 The Post also asked the German government and its ministers about a Tuesday Focus magazine online article by US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who praised Germany companies that walked away from Iran business.

 The German government has gone to great lengths to promote the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and business with Iran’s clerical regime. Israel views the current JCPOA as an existential threat to its security. The Post asked in its queries if the German government’s language about Israel’s security being a part of Germany’s raison d’être is empty rhetoric.

A spokesperson for Merkel referred the Post to a June 4 press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Merkel in Berlin. Merkel said at the time: “We agree that the question of Iran’s regional influence is worrying, especially for Israel’s security.” She said the German government will use diplomacy with Iran’s regime.

“Germany did not cancel this (JCPOA) agreement, and together with other European partners, we stand by it,” said Merkel at the June 4 meeting. The US withdraw from the Iran deal in May because it said the agreement did not stop prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons device and end its state-sponsored terrorism. When pressed by the Post in a second email for responses, the chancellor’s spokesperson declined to comment.

Grenell, wrote the Post on Friday: “The Iranian regime is the world’s #1 State sponsor of terrorism. The new US sanctions are designed to bring this regime back to the table and put an end to their malign activities.”

Germany’s Foreign Ministry, mirroring the Chancellery, largely dodged the Post questions in its response. A ministry spokesperson said “Foreign minister [Heiko] Maas attributes high meaning to the fight against antisemitism and the honest and the unsparing working through of German history.”

The spokesperson said on Monday the foreign minister will travel to Auschwitz. The Post asked Maas, who said he went into politics because of the notorious German concentration camp in Poland, if he learned the wrong lessons from the Shoah due to his support for German-Iranian trade and the atomic deal with the mullah regime. The foreign ministry sent statements from Maas condemning Holocaust denial. None of the statements referenced the Islamic Republic of Iran’s repeated denial of the Holocaust.

The Foreign Ministry spokesperson also sent a Maas statement from an August interview with the Rhein Neckar Zeitung: “We haven’t forgotten Iran’s problematic role in the region, for instance in Syria, or the ballistic missile program. We also openly address human rights issues. But anyone hoping for a regime change shouldn’t forget that whatever follows may present us with much bigger problems. Iran’s isolation could boost radical and fundamentalist forces. Chaos in Iran – such as we’ve experienced in Iraq or Libya – would further destabilize a region which is already unsettled. No responsible politician can seriously want to see that.”

Altmaier did not respond to the Post media query.

On Thursday, the German companies Deutsche Telekom, the telecommunications giant, and the state-owned railway company, Deutsche Bahn, announced they pulled the plug on their business in Iran due to US sanctions. The US embassy in Berlin tweeted: “Making the right choice for their business – Deutsche Bahn and Telekom withdraw from Iran.”

The mass circulation German tabloid Bild reported in August that the Industry and Chamber of Commerce in Bonn/Rhein-Sieg in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia is slated to hold a pro-Iran business conference on September 5.

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