Germany refuses to alter Israel ties

Academics petition gov't to see Holocaust as cause of Palestinian suffering.

olmert merkel 298 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
olmert merkel 298 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
The German Embassy rejected on Thursday a call made by 25 German academics for the country to abandon its "special relationship" with Israel in favor of a stance recognizing Palestinian suffering as an outcome of the Holocaust. In a lengthy petition published in the Frankfurter Rundschau regional newspaper Wednesday, the scholars said that, "The roots of this bloody 60-year confrontation in the Middle East are German and European. The Palestinian population doesn't have the responsibility to take on European problems in the Middle East," according to translations in English-language media. The signers also questioned whether German backing for Israel was causing tension within German society, and objected to German sales of hi-tech weaponry to Israel despite its actions against the Palestinians. In addition, the petition also requests a "friendship free from past burdens" between the two countries, in which Israel could be criticized, and, according to news accounts, states that "a large part of the German society has turned the shame and grief of the Holocaust into a ceremonial matter. That is how a problematic philo-Semitism has developed in Germany." A German Embassy spokesman in Tel Aviv, however, dismissed the petition. "It in no way reflects the position of the German government. The position of the German government regarding the special relationship with Israel will not change." He described that relationship as stemming from German behavior in the Holocaust. "We accept fully that because of the Shoah, the German people and [government] have a special responsibility to the State of Israel," he said, emphasizing that all of Germany's top leaders have stressed their support for this policy in recent years. "There's no way Germany can be a new Germany if we cannot accept this special relationship," he continued. "Our special relationship with Israel is one of the pillars of our foreign policy." Despite media references to the professors who signed the petition as respected and employed by the state - as faculty of public universities - the spokesman said they didn't reflect the views of a majority of German academics, let alone the government that pays their salaries. The Central Council of German Jews would not comment on the petition, saying that it was holding a consultation with all of its representatives over the weekend in order to adopt a unified position, which it would announce on Monday.