Merkel: The terror of Hamas cannot be accepted

German leader's pro-Israel stance criticized as demonstrations spread.

Pro-Palestinian anti-israe berlin 248 88 (photo credit: AP)
Pro-Palestinian anti-israe berlin 248 88
(photo credit: AP)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's unconditional support of Israel's retaliatory strikes in Gaza has prompted a rising number of attacks from her coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), as well as the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Left Party. SPD Parliamentarian Rolf Mutzenich accused Merkel of "siding with the permanent Israeli bombing" of Gaza. Mutzenich, who is considered Iran-friendly, is chairman of the German-Iranian parliamentary group in the Bundestag. He said the Second Lebanon War showed that Hamas and Hizbullah cannot be defeated militarily. Mutzenich had previously declined to answer a query from The Jerusalem Post as to whether he favors unilateral German sanctions against Iran to stop its nuclear weapons program. Merkel placed the blame for Israel's military operation squarely on Hamas's rocket attacks and stressed that Israel has the right to defend it territory and citizens. "The terror of Hamas cannot be accepted," said Merkel in her New Year's address. According to her spokesman Thomas Steg on Monday, she said in a conversation with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that the responsibility for the conflict lies "clearly and exclusively" with Hamas. Merkel demanded that Hamas "immediately and permanently" stop its rocket attacks on Israel. In contrast, the foreign policy spokesman of the FDP, MP Werner Hoyer, told Spiegel Online that "raising the question of guilt" is the wrong approach to the peace process. The Left Party MP and its foreign policy expert, Wolfgang Gehrcke, demanded that Merkel and SPD Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier publicly criticize Israel. Gehrke recommended that the German parliament convene a special session of the Foreign Affairs Committee to address the situation in Gaza. During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Gehrke marched in a pro-Hizbullah demonstration in Berlin. Slogans such as "Zionists are fascists" and "No place for Israel" and "We are all Hizbullah" were chanted at that anti-Israeli protest. In response to the ongoing military operation in Gaza, a fresh wave of anti-Israel demonstrations fanned out across Germany on Friday and Saturday. Roughly 8,000 protesters marched in Berlin and 10,000 in Frankfurt on Saturday, including members of the Left Party who waved party flags among banners equating Operation Cast Lead with a second Holocaust, some reading "Israel, go to hell", and others with a crossed-out Star of David with the words "Israel, child murderer." Levi Salomon, the representative of the 12,000-member Berlin Jewish community who is responsible for monitoring and combating anti-Semitism, told The Jerusalem Post that the community has filed a criminal complaint asserting incitement against Jews. Salomon was present at two of the anti-Israeli protests and said, "We cannot accept anti-Semitic taunts" such as "Jews out." Sacha Stawski, the editor-in-chief of Honestly Concerned, a media watchdog outlet in Frankfurt monitoring anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, told the Post that he heard chants of "Gas the Jews" and "Merkel out," and witnessed the burning of an Israeli flag at the Frankfurt demonstration. Stawski sees a mixed picture in the German press regarding coverage of the IDF's military operation Gaza. He criticized the left-leaning Süddeutsche Zeitung for its slanted coverage. Vienna-based veteran journalist and media critic Karl Pfeifer slammed Deutschlandradio for its interview with Israeli historian and sociologist Moshe Zuckermann on Friday. Zuckermann told a widely-heard radio program that Israel had killed 400,000 Palestinians during the Gaza conflict. At the time of interview, the reported number of deaths was about 400. Speaking to the Post, Pfeifer criticized the radio interviewer, Birgit Kolkmann, for failing to "interrupt" Zuckermann. "Any serious journalist would have asked the question" regarding the accuracy of the number of deaths, he said. Pfeifer said Deutschlandradio only corrected its on-line transcript eight hours after the broadcast and he demanded that Kolkmann be sacked. Thomas Wische, an editor with Deutschlandradio, told the Post that Zuckermann's comment was a "bad mistake." He said he spoke to Zuckermann following the revelation and that Zuckermann had been embarrassed by it. Wische added that Kolkmann "did not notice" the error, and there is no "bad intention or ideology" behind the broadcast of 400,000 deaths. But the broadcast can be heard on-line, and Wische said Deutschlandradio would not be modifying the live broadcast. Zuckermann writes for the aggressively anti-Zionist left-wing paper junge Welt. Journalist Ivo Bozic, who writes for German weekly Jungle World, has written that junge Welt has become the "central German newspaper of Hamas" during the conflict. When asked about Zuckermann and junge Welt, Wische said the Deutschlandradio sought to "document a piece of the opinion spectrum" with its Zuckermann interview.