German Left Party bars MPs from joining Gaza Flotilla

Critics say party failed to deal with anti-Semitism from within its ranks.

The 'Mavi Marmara' 311 (R) (photo credit: Reuters/Emrah Dalkaya)
The 'Mavi Marmara' 311 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters/Emrah Dalkaya)
BERLIN – The German Left Party earlier this month issued a resolution prohibiting its Bundestag deputies from participating in the Gaza Flotilla slated for late June and intended to break Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Billed as a resolution that would end the criticism that the Left Party is fundamentally anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, the resolution failed to impress the head of Germany’s Jewish community, Dr. Dieter Graumann, and media commentators who see an anti-Semitic agenda driving the Left Party’s domestic and foreign policy platforms.
Writing in Monday’s daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, Graumann, head of Germany’s 105,000-member Central Council of Jews, said, “The old East German anti-Zionist spirit still haunts the party. Paradoxically, today it’s representatives from the West who let out their rabid, almost pathological hatred of Israel. Unfortunately, it’s these ideologues who claim responsibility for the Left Party’s policies on Israel.”
The Left Party, successor to the Socialist Unity Party of the former East German communist state, has attracted a mix of East German socialists, West German leftists and trade unionists.
According to the Left Party’s resolution, the party’s parliamentary representatives and employees will not participate “in Middle East conflict initiatives that call for a one-state solution for Palestine and Israel and boycotts of Israeli products, as well this year’s Gaza Flotilla.”
Fourteen Left Party deputies walked out of the vote in protest against the resolution and five did not appear for the vote.
Last year, two Left Party parliamentarians, Inge Höger and Annette Groth, traveled aboard the Mavi Marmara vessel with a group of Turkish Islamists in an attempt to break the blockade of Gaza.
Höger and Groth, and the party’s former foreign policy spokesman, and former deputy Norman Paech, who was on the ship, received a hero’s welcome in Berlin last year from the leadership of the Left Party.
Alex Feuerherdt, an expert on left-wing anti-Semitism in the Federal Republic who writes for German newspapers, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that “it goes without saying” that participation in the Gaza Flotilla action is a “military attack on Israel.”
He continued that the Left Party resolution “denies that there is anti-Semitism in the party” and provides no action plan to “combat” anti-Semitism among Left Party members and deputies.
Writing a lead commentary for the mass circulation Bild newspaper on Tuesday, Ralf Schuler sharply criticized the Left Party’s anti-Israel activity, noting “that the borders between left- and right-wing extremists have become blurred.” He said the so-called “anti-fascism” of the Left Party is worthless against right-wing extremism because there is a “red-brown” commonality in the party’s own backyard. Red is the color associated with the Left Party, while brown designates Nazis. Schuler called for the Left Party to eject officials who advocate a boycott against Israel and delegitimize its right to exist.
A litany of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel votes and actions has catapulted the Left Party into controversy. In the election district of deputy Inge Höger, Left Party city councilwoman Erika Zemaitis voted against funds to build a new synagogue in the city of Herford.
German Nazis torched the original synagogue in 1938.
The party’s branches in Duisburg and Bremen have called for boycotts of the Jewish state.
Proponents included Hermann Dierkes, a Duisburg Left Party city councilman, who has termed Israel’s right to exist as “petty.”
Duisburg’s Left Party website this year posted a flyer equating Israel with Nazi Germany, which denigrated the Star of David as a Nazi swastika.
When the controversy appeared in the major media, Left Party politicians took down the flyer and denied involvement.