Defying history, decency and logic, for the second time in the past century Germany has once again decided to apply special labels to Jewish-owned businesses.
In a chilling move rife with the darkest of overtones, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced Monday that she backs the European Union’s ruling requiring Israeli-made products in Judea and Samaria, the Golan and eastern Jerusalem to bear a unique sticker indicating their origin.
The decision, her spokesman asserted, “does not deal with a stigmatized warning decal, as many have presented...
What Brussels wants is, however, only a clear designation of the origin of the products.”
But the only aspect of Merkel’s decision that is clear is that it is morally obscene and diplomatically obtuse, and should be withdrawn forthwith.
After all, isn’t it fundamentally discriminatory to differentiate between factories, businesses or service providers simply because of the ethnic or religious background of their owners? And yet, if an Israeli Jewish-owned factory in eastern Jerusalem produces, say, olive oil, and a Palestinian Muslim- run workshop does the same, only the former will branded under the EU guidelines.
That is bigotry and anti-Semitism, pure and simple.
No less astonishing is the timing of Merkel’s announcement, which came exactly one day after German President Joachim Gauck visited Jerusalem to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Speaking alongside President Reuven Rivlin, Gauck said that bonds between Israel and Germany “are being reinforced thanks to joint projects marking the anniversary, and together we look toward the future.”
Well, if singling out Jewish-owned firms for special treatment is Germany’s way of looking “toward the future,” then something has gone profoundly wrong in how Berlin relates to the Jewish state.
On May 13, 1965, when Israel and what was then West Germany announced that they had reached an agreement on diplomatic ties, an exchange of letters between chancellor Ludwig Erhard and prime minister Levi Eshkol was released to the public, in which the German leader wrote that, “The attitude of the German Government in the past has proved that we are aware of the special German position toward the Jewish people all over the world, including Israel.”
Sadly, that no longer seems to be the case. How else can one explain Merkel’s decision? Whether they like it or not, the fact is that until the end of time, Germany will bear a special burden for what it did to the Jewish people during the Holocaust. And that includes an obligation to show the utmost sensitivity when it comes to questions relating to Israel and Jews.
And while no one in their right mind would suggest that Germany is planning another genocide, the irony of Merkel’s move in light of what occurred in the previous century is too stark to ignore.
On April 1, 1933, the Nazis organized a boycott of Jewish businesses across Germany, painting Stars of David on storefronts and posting paramilitary Brownshirts to enforce the move. Marches were arranged through the streets of various cities, as people bore placards that read, “Kauft nicht bei Juden Kauft!” (German for: Don’t buy from Jews!).
Thus, for a German government nowadays to once again proclaim: “Don’t buy from Jews,” even if referring only to the Jews of Judea and Samaria, is both shocking and alarming.
This feeling is only further reinforced when one considers that no other population or disputed territory on earth is being subjected to a similar crusade. Not Turkish products made in occupied Cyprus, nor Moroccan goods from Western Sahara, nor British merchandise from the contested Falkland Islands.
Since the decision is being applied only to Jews, and to those living in certain parts of our ancient homeland, it will inevitably bolster anti-Semitic and anti-Israel forces worldwide.
Moreover, the attempt to harm Jewish commerce in Judea and Samaria will inevitably cause even greater damage to the very same Palestinians that Germany professes to care about.
Of the 21,000 workers employed in 16 Israeli industrial zones throughout Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, approximately two-thirds are Palestinian.
And according to an EU-funded survey conducted late last year by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Palestinians working in Israeli factories on average earn more than double the wages of those who work in the Palestinian-controlled areas.
This means that tens of thousands of Palestinians, their loved ones and dependents are earning a decent living thanks to Israeli industry in the territories.
So any attempt by Germany and other European countries to target Jewish businesses in Judea and Samaria will end up impairing the Palestinian economy far more than Israel’s.
Hence, it makes no sense for the Merkel government to pursue the EU labeling policy against the Jews of Judea and Samaria.
Such a move is not only an affront to common sense, but also raises serious questions about the extent to which Germany and its leadership have learned from the country’s harrowing past.
As the 19th century Danish philosopher Soren Kirkegaard is said to have pointed out, “Once you label me, you negate me.”
And that is precisely what Germany is doing once again.