German 'clarity'

The existential threat to Israel should alone warrant the temporary dislocation of a small fraction of German's trade.

Steinmeier 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Steinmeier 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
At Tuesday's opening of the secretariat of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research in Berlin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke of his nation's "obligation to face up to our past." He did not paper over anything with respect to the Holocaust, declaring that Germany was committed to "shouldering our undivided historic guilt." Moreover, he singled out two areas where Germany is taking the lessons of the past and applying them to the present and future. First, he expressed "increasing concern" at a "highly resentful anti-Semitism peddled by self-proclaimed 'decent' Germans seemingly taking the high moral ground. People who take no blame but who clothe their criticism of Israeli policy or of the phenomenon of globalization with anti-Jewish clichés with a telltale compulsiveness." Second, he warned that Germany "must be vigilant to ensure that Islmaist groups not feed anti-Semitics tones" among Muslim immigrants to Germany. Steinmeier also spoke out against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's conference of Holocaust deniers in Teheran. He "will never be mistaken for a historian" he said. "Yet it is important that we take notice of such shamefully aggressive and ideologically inspired acts - and that we respond with all due clarity." Yet the problem is Germany has not responded with clarity at all. When Iran first threatened to "wipe Israel off the map," and when these threats were recently repeated in the form of predictions that Israel would disappear, Germany should have broken off diplomatic relations with Iran. Germany, like most countries of the world, is a signatory of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Article III of that convention defines "public incitement to commit genocide" to be a "punishable" act, while Article IV states those guilty of such incitement, "shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals." Gregory Stanton, the president of Genocide Watch, has stated that Iranian-backed attacks by Hamas and Hizbullah against Israelis amount to "genocidal terror" because they are "intended to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, in substantial part." So Iran is calling for Israel's destruction while developing the means to achieve that and supporting genocidal terrorism against Israel as a sort of down payment toward its full goal. If all this is not grounds for Germany to seek Ahmadinejad's indictment for incitement to genocide, what would be? Steinmeier also said "Germany bears a special responsibility towards Israel to protect its existence and defend its right to exist." If this statement, which he described as a "cornerstone of German policy," is to mean anything then Germany should be leading the international charge to force Iran to abandon its quest for nuclear weapons and its support for terrorism. But Germany is not leading this effort, even within Europe. Indeed among the key EU-3 - the UK, France, and Germany - Berlin is known to be most hesitant regarding the imposition of European trade sanctions on Teheran, presumably because Germany is one of Iran's biggest trading partners in Europe. This is inexcusable. Europe's trade with Iran constitutes only one percent of its global trade so the economic impact for Europe of cutting off trade with Iran would be minimal. Yet Europe is Iran's largest trading partner. So the leverage gained from such a step, against an economy which is already in bad shape despite high oil prices, would be considerable. The existential threat to Israel should alone warrant the temporary dislocation of a small fraction of German's trade. But this step would be warranted for Germany even if Israel did not exist. A nuclear Iran would be able to ramp up its support for international terrorism, trigger a regional nuclear arms race, and allow Iran to raise the price of oil almost without limit. The direct economic threat to Germany of a nuclear Iran, therefore, is far greater than the cost of a sanctions campaign to prevent that eventuality - without even taking into account security threats and Germany's moral responsibilities. Perhaps Germany can be excused for not taking these basic steps for a strange reason: It is not clear Israel has asked Germany to do so. This is, to say the least, difficult to fathom. Perhaps our government hoped Germany would reach such conclusions on its own. Sine this has not happened, it would seem necessary to spell out in greater detail and with greater urgency what, in Israel's view, Germany's "special responsibility" should mean.