Israeli envoy to Germany asks if Breaking the Silence spreads anti-Semitism

City of Cologne reverses itself and will show exhibit

June 21, 2015 01:02
1 minute read.
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IDF FORCES operate inside the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)


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BERLIN – After the Cologne Municipality reversed its cancellation of an exhibit from the Breaking the Silence NGO, Israel’s ambassador asked whether the anti-IDF exhibit will encourage hatred of Jews.

In uncharacteristically strong language, Ambassador Yakov Hadas-Handelsman asked the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger daily on Wednesday: Is the Breaking the Silence exhibit “a vehicle to spread anti-Semitism?” Breaking the Silence, an Israeli NGO, documents the alleged mistreatment of Palestinians by IDF soldiers, citing mostly anonymous testimonies from soldiers.

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Cologne, a city that has seen many anti-Israel exhibits over the years, had originally planned to show the Breaking the Silence exhibit this fall during a week of events marking 50 years of diplomatic relations with Israel. But the Israeli Embassy in Berlin convinced Cologne last week to cancel the exhibit, which offering testimonies critical of Israeli actions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The ambassador said he would have reacted similarly in any other country regarding his objection to the exhibit. “Of course, especially in Germany, they could have been a bit more sensitive,” Hadas-Handelsman said.

In a statement on Tuesday, however, Cologne said it will show the exhibit after all, as a standalone presentation in spring 2016. It will be presented “in an appropriate context,” the municipality said. In reference to the cancellation, the statement continued, “There were rising voices that warned the City of Cologne of adverse effects, especially in terms of propagating anti-Israel and anti-Semitic resentment, which looked misplaced in the anniversary year and during the celebrations.”

Hadas-Handelsman said, “Anti-Semites use the possibility to criticize Israel in order to spread their anti-Semitic ideas. They say, ‘I have nothing against the Jews, nothing against Israel, only something against the Israeli government.’” The critics’ protestations are suspect because they slam every Israeli government and support product boycotts purportedly targeting the settlements that would not affect the settlers, but rather the State of Israel, he said.

German journalist Alex Feuerherdt, who regularly covers modern anti-Semitism, wrote that the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger and Süddeutsche Zeitung dailies, which support the Breaking the Silence exhibit in their commentaries, blame Jews for anti-Semitism instead of the anti-Semites. The newspapers give “the irrational anti-Semitic resentment a rational basis” by claiming that Cologne subjugated itself to the power of the Jewish state when it had pulled the plug on the exhibit, he wrote.

JTA contributed to this report.

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