Israel's stamp of approval for Germany's Left Party?

Foreign Ministry invites party leader, despite anti-Israel views within its ranks.

petra pau 224 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
petra pau 224 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Foreign Ministry has invited one of the leaders of a German political party that has been criticized for failing to fight anti-Semitism and hard-core anti-Israeli attitudes within its ranks. Parliamentary Vice President Petra Pau, of the Left Party, will be speaking at a conference of the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem on Monday. She will participate in a discussion on "Government and Parliamentarian Actions in Combating Anti-Semitism." Pau's party is the new political heavyweight in Germany, the third largest in the Parliament. It also demonstrates a "shocking hostility" toward Israel, said Dieter Graumann, the vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. A public spat between Graumann and Oskar Lafontaine, chairman of the Left Party's parliamentary group, unfolded last year when Graumann blasted Lafontaine for demanding an "equal disarming" of Hizbullah and Israel during the Second Lebanon War, and for the party's invitation to a Hamas cabinet minister to attend a party event in Germany. Lafontaine has also stressed the "commonalties between leftist policies and Islam" and implied that since Israel had nuclear weapons capability, Iran should not be denied an atomic bomb. Christine Buchholz, who was elected to the Left Party's executive committee in 2007, is a member of its "Shift to the Left" faction that supports the "legitimate resistance" of Hamas and Hizbullah in their terrorist attacks against Israel. A government hearing on anti-Semitism in Berlin last month, where Pau outlined data on desecrations of Jewish cemeteries in Germany, turned into a scathing indictment of her party's posture toward Israel. "Ms. Pau could have made it easier for herself and mentioned the broadcasts from the office of her fellow party member, Norman Paech, as an example of anti-Semitism coming from the heart of society," prominent Der Spiegel journalist Henryk M. Broder wrote on his blog Die Achse des Guten (The Axis of Good). Paech, the Left Party's foreign policy spokesman, invoked a Nazi comparison to describe Israel during the Second Lebanon War. Dr. Yves Pallade, the head of B'nai B'rith's Europe Foreign Affairs Network, triggered the debate at the hearing by citing Paech's statement that Israel was conducting "an illegal war of extermination against the militia and population" in Lebanon. In an interview with Pau shortly before her first trip to Israel, she told The Jerusalem Post she considered Paech's "word choice to be false." But she "protests against the assertion that Norman Paech, a member of Parliament, is an anti-Semite." Paech is "very bad," said Ilan Mor, the charge d'affaires at the Israeli Embassy in Berlin. Still, Mor, who invited Pau to attend the conference in Jerusalem, which is being co-sponsored by the Foreign, Welfare and Diaspora Affairs ministries, considers the Left Party's Pau one of several "positive developments" within the party. According to Mor, the party is "the only party that systematically issues inquiries concerning right-wing extremism" in Germany. He said he would not "play down" or "excuse" the anti-Israeli sentiments within the Left Party and, when asked why the successor party to the notoriously anti-Israel East German Communist Party wanted to attend the conference, Mor said, "Of course, they need a kosher stamp of approval." Aviva Raz-Shechter, director for combating anti-Semitism at the Foreign Ministry, said the conference "is the right place to go against such statements" from Paech and Lafontaine.