German Left Party resolution ignores modern anti-Semitism

Members have crossed line between legitimate criticism and anti-Semitism, says Berlin community leader.

LEVI SALOMON 311 (photo credit: LEVI SALOMON (left) leads a task force against ant)
(photo credit: LEVI SALOMON (left) leads a task force against ant)
BERLIN – The German Left Party faced a new round of criticism this week after it passed a resolution on Tuesday that blasted the alleged excessive use of the term “anti-Semitism” and defended its criticism of Israel.
“Leading members of the Left Party have worked with radical Islamist forces, and that crosses over the lines of legitimate criticism of Israel and turns into anti-Semitism,” Levi Salomon, who heads a task force combating anti-Semitism for the 12,000-member Berlin Jewish community, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
“Instead of dealing with these segments of the Left Party, the new resolution comes to their defense. The accusation of anti- Semitism should be carefully examined before the term is condemned and denounced.”
While the Left Party’s resolution opposes “anti-Semitism and right-wing extremism,” it does not acknowledge contemporary expression of anti-Semitism, in which critics demonize, delegitimize and apply double standards to Israel, ones they would apply to no other country in the world.
Sebastian Voigt, a historian from the University of Leipzig and an expert in modern German anti-Semitism, told the Post the resolution was meant as a “compromise for the anti- Israel wing of the party.”
Voigt, along with political scientist Samuel Salzborn from the University of Giessen, released last month a section of their academic study titled “Anti-Semites as a Coalition Partner” about Left Party politicians gripped by modern anti-Semitism.
The party’s “perception of Israeli foreign policy matters is affected by anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism,” Voigt told the Post.
Salzborn and Voigt’s investigation of left-wing anti-Semitism within the party triggered a Bundestag debate last month and widespread media coverage.
Left Party branches in Duisburg and Bremen have mounted boycott campaigns this year against Israeli products. The party’s Duisburg city councilman Hermann Dierkes and Bundestag deputy Christine Buchholz have supported violent Palestinian “resistance” against Israel.
Queries to leading Left Party deputies Gregor Gysi and Petra Pau were not returned. Gysi, the head of the party in the Bundestag, used his influence to push the resolution on anti- Semitism through the party’s institutions.
Hendrik Thalheim, a spokesman for the Left Party deputies in the Bundestag, said Gysi will not answer questions about the resolution.
During a telephone conversation with the Post on Thursday, Thalheim said the resolution did not deal with the EU’s working definition of anti-Semitism, which includes hatred of the Jewish state. Asked why the Left Party ignored the modern definition, he said “anti-Semitism is when Jews are attacked or discriminated against or face something worse.”
In a follow-up e-mail to the Post, Thalheim said it was not necessary to include the EU definition in the new resolution because the Left Party voted to adhere to a 2008 parliamentary resolution that contains the definition.
Asked about deputy Inge Höger’s participation at a Hamas-affiliated conference in May, in which she sported a a keffiyeh showing a map labeled “Palestine” on the entire territory of the State of Israel, Thalheim said the “symbol has anti- Semitic traces” because it questions Israel’s right to exist.
Alex Feuerherdt, a German journalist and author who has written extensively on left-wing anti-Semitism, told the Post on Thursday that “the new resolution once again clearly shows that the Left Party has not only an anti-Semitism problem but the party is itself anti-Semitic.
The party believes that hostility toward Jews exists only on the extremist Right... Anti-Zionism and ‘criticism of Israel’ are the modern popular forms of anti- Semitism. The resentments that were earlier directed against Jews, are now aimed at the Jewish state.”
He continued, “The Left is the party that represents these resentments in the most offensive and cavalier way.
“Though anti-Semites are not only present in the Left Party, the Left Party is effectively the parliamentary spearhead of the new anti-Semitism, which pretends to be a harmless ‘criticism of Israel,’” Feuerherdt said.
Historian Voigt sees anti- Semitic manifestations by the Left Party because of the party’s overt fixation on Israel. He noted that the party has not made efforts, with the same intensity that it is focused on Israel, to criticize President Bashar Assad’s slaughter of Syrian civilians.