The Ministry of Economic Affairs for the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia started an investigationof an employee and Social Democratic Party official who said Israel supporters undermine the Federal Republic, sparking accusations of antisemitism.
Stefan Grönebaum – division head covering work and social policies, demography and integration – labeled pro-Israel members of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and other supporters of the Jewish state , an “organized, good networked ‘fifth column’ in the interests of Israel’s policies.”
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, head of Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday: “These types of comments are clearly antisemitic and should be examined by the SPD. Their expert is antisemitic and is disseminating an antisemitic view.”
Zuroff, the organization’s chief Nazi-hunter, added, “We are happy this investigation is being launched. Zuroff said Grönebaum’s rhetoric meets the official definition of contemporary antisemitism from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
Matthias Kietzmann, a spokesman for the Economy Ministry, told the Post by phonethat the ministry takes the matter “very seriously” and has started an investigation.
, Kietzmann wrote in an email to the Post: “The statements from Mr. Grönebaum on his Facebook account give entirely his private views, which the Economy Ministry expressly does not share.”
Grönebaum was first reported on by the German-language Ruhrbarone website, which has exposed a number of antisemitic scandals over the years.
Volker Beck, a Green Party Bundestag deputy who is chairman of the German-Israel parliamentary group, asked Grönebaum on Facebook why he does “not respect the decision of the UN that the Jewish people have a right to their own state.”
Beck urged the Economy Ministry to ask Grönebaum about his anti-Zionism and decide if he needs an education program regarding Israeli history and German responsibility.
On Facebook, in a rambling tirade against the legitimacy of the Jewish state, Grönebaum wrote “Zionists are attached to a colonialist doctrine... They mean that the land of the others belongs to them.”
Grönebaum’s written assaults on Israel were triggered by a comment from Sercan Aydilek, an activist who campaigns against modern antisemitism in Germany and who described himself as a Zionist.
Dr. Elvira U. Groezinger, head of the German branch of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, told the Post,” It is remarkable indeed that a member of the Social Democratic Party and an employee in a ministry of a German federal state publicly dares to delegitimize Israel in a language which is directly taken over from the Nazi vocabulary and to use it in an openly antisemitic way in his polemics against the Jewish state which is a democratic one, contrary to the totalitarian regimes in the Arab countries.”
Tanya Aliza, who said she was a German-Israeli Social Democrat, thanked the people involved in the Facebook conversation for their criticism of Grönebaum.
Efforts by the Post to reach Grönebaum were not successful.