German ministry rejects ban on Israeli flags

Interior Ministry of North Rhine-Westphalia decides not to take down Israeli flags at demonstrations.

israeli flag 88 (photo credit: )
israeli flag 88
(photo credit: )
The Interior Ministry of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), which oversees the police in that west German state, has "decided in the future to not take down" Israeli flags at demonstrations, ministry spokesman Ludger Harmeier told The Jerusalem Post. The police in Duisburg - a city in NRW - stormed apartments in January and seized two Israel flags hanging on the balcony and inside a window because the flags were viewed as a provocation by 10,000 anti-Israeli demonstrators. A student who displayed the flags said he wanted to show solidarity with the only democratic state in the Middle East during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. Asked about law professor Jürgen Vahle's late April report, which upheld the seizure and ban of the Israel flags, Harmeier said Vahle's opinion dealt only with the "legal situation" and that is "not a statement that everything is fine … what is legally allowed is not politically reasonable", said Harmeier. The Interior Ministry will "deal with Israeli flags in a sensitive manner," according to Harmeier. It has not been decided if the Interior Ministry will commission a second legal opinion. Stephan J. Kramer, general secretary of the 105,000 member Council of Jews in Germany, told the Post that he "doubted that it was lawful" for the police to enter the apartment to rip down Israel flags. "No one can come into my house and tear down flags", said Kramer. He criticized the public statements of Duisburg Police Chief Rolf Cebin, who had apologized in January for "injuring the feelings" of the Jewish community. Kramer said the dispute was "about free speech and expressing an opinion in public." While Duisburg Police spokesman Ramon van der Maat, told the Post that he has not received a written directive from the Interior Ministry to prevent the seizure of Israel flags at future demonstrations, he added, that "what the Interior Minister says will be done." In a e-mail to the Post, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, slammed Vahle's legal opinion. "Very often in the fight against anti-Semitism, legal arguments are presented to justify cowardly behavior and a failure to protect legitimate views which unruly extremists claim infuriate them, and this is a classic example of this kind of situation," Zuroff wrote. "If the German police want to be held hostage by Islamic extremists who have no respect for German law and want to use the system to destroy democracy, a phenomenon which Germany, of all countries, should beware of, this is precisely the way to ensure that Moslem extremists will continue to run wild in the streets of the Federal Republic and show no tolerance, let alone respect for the legitimate views of other Germans." The Turkish Islamic organization Milli Görüs, whose activities were monitored by NRW's domestic intelligence agency in 2008 because of radical Islamic tendencies, organized the Duisburg anti-Israel rally. The deputy general secretary of Milli Görüs in Germany, Mustafa Yeneroglu, told the Post that the group, which has 50,000 members in Germany, wanted "to make clear" that the organization "was opposed to the bombing and siege of Gaza."