Sei sulla pagina 1di 13

AN AMERICAN JEWISH GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER

dubowdigest@optonline.net
AMERICAN EDITION December 12, 2012 Dear Friends: First and foremost, for my Jewish readers, my best wishes for a wonderful Hanukkah holiday. For my Christian readers, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas. In anticipation of a great 2013 let me be among the first to wish you all a Happy New Year. The last month or so has been difficult. The conflict in Gaza, the vote on Palestinian observer status at the UN and here in the U.S. the battle over the Fiscal Cliff all highlight the difficulties groups of people have with other groups of people. Lets all hope that as we approach a brand New Year in 2013 somehow it can bring with it genuine attempts to bridge peacefully the various gaps that separate us. Lets focus on 13normally thought to be an unlucky number. However, In Judaism, 13 is the age at which children achieve Bar and Bat Mitzvah adulthood. Perhaps 2013 will bring about a little more adult behavior among the leaders of our groups and the groups themselves. Best wishes, Gene (aka Eugene) Enough philosophy! On to the news IN THIS EDITION ANGELA MERKEL & THE JEWS The Chancellor is recognized for what she is the best friend the Jews have in Europe. THE PALESTINIANS, THE GERMANS & THE UN A disappointment.

ISRAELI & GERMAN CABINETS MEET In spite of the disappointment. SAVING GERMAN JEWISH CULTURE Guess whos in the forefront of trying. BANNING THE NEO-NAZIS It looks as if theyre going to attempt to do it. A POLITICAL UPDATE The German elections are 10 months away. Whos in front? ANGELA MERKEL & THE JEWS Perhaps you are already convinced that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is about the best friend among important European politicians that the Jews and Israel have. This in spite of Germanys abstention vote in the UN on the Palestinian observer issue. If that is your mindset youd be right. However, if you have any doubts read on JTA recently reported, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has renewed her pledge to stand up for Jewish life in Germany and for Israel's right to self-defense. Speaking at the annual assembly of the Central Council of Jews in Germany -the first time a German chancellor had visited the assembly -- Merkel reiterated her longtime commitment to Israel's security, which she had stated during the recent Gaza conflict. She said it was not only Israel's right but its duty to protect its citizens from rocket attacks. "Germany also has that right," she added. Merkel told a crowd of approximately 200, including the council's 99 delegates, that she wanted the Jewish community to know that it is supported and cherished. Recent anti-Semitic attacks on individuals, plus months of debate over the right to ritual circumcision -- a discussion often tinged with anti-Semitism -- have put the Jewish community under stress, she acknowledged. "There are still major indications of anti-Semitism here," said Merkel, who shared the podium with Central Council President Dieter Graumann. Merkel said she hoped a bill designed to protect the right to religious circumcision of boys by Jews and Muslims would be passed before the end of December. Observers have suggested that opponents might challenge the law all the way to Germany's Supreme Court and even to the European Court. Graumann, who is in his third year as head of the umbrella organization, praised Merkel's courage in standing up for Israel and for religious freedom in Germany. He said the community had a difficult summer, including the brutal attack on a rabbi in

Berlin, the debate on circumcision and "countless thousands of hateful Internet entries that shocked all of us." "We experienced many fanatical finger waggers, people who express a profound lack of understanding," he said, adding that "it really hurt us." Merkel said she also noted the negative tone in the ritual circumcision discussion. "It reminds us to think again about the meaning of religious tolerance," she said, adding that all basic rights have to be balanced so as not to infringe on each other. It is clear, she said, that the rights of children are just as important to Jews as to any other community in Germany. "But the respect for and practice of religious rituals are also a higher good because evidence of religious freedom is also the fact that it can be practiced." What more is there to say? Such a speech coming from any German politician would be welcomed with applause and gratitude. Coming from a Chancellor makes it almost historic. I have always thought and frequently said that this woman is something special. I think her presentation moves her from special to unique. Shortly after making her speech and another one in accepting the Berlin Jewish Communitys Heinz Galinski Prize, which is given to an individual or organization who has fostered understanding in German-Jewish relations and promoted tolerance, Germany voted to abstain in the UN on the Palestinian matter. While temporarily clouding the picture of the Chancellor in some Jewish eyes, I believe that that view will only be temporary. We just do not have many friends the quality of Fr. Merkel. THE PALESTINIANS, THE GERMANS & THE UN There is no question that Israel & the U.S. suffered a seeming diplomatic defeat in the UN over the matter of the Palestinian status. Only the U.S., Israel itself, Canada and the Czech Republic among the important nations supported a no vote when it came to non-member observer state for Palestine. Following the vote almost anybody who is anybody gave their opinion on who won and who lost and what the implications for the future were. Taking into consideration the recent Gaza War (I dont know what else to call it) and now the UN vote, Im not sure the Palestinians won anything. Maybe they got some sort of an emotional feeling of victory but they got a lot of people killed, much of their infrastructure destroyed and some sort of recognition by the UN. However, the facts on the ground remain unchanged except that Israel has announced some new construction in the West Bank. Such was the Palestinian victory!

Im going to leave it up to you to read the general media so you can make up your own mind about winners and losers. I will only deal with the action Germany took (or didnt take) and then you can make a personal decision on that as well. On the basis that there can be no peace without direct face to face negotiations, it was the hope of Israel, the U.S. and most of the organized American Jewish community that Germany would vote no on the Palestine matter and, perhaps, bring other Western European along with it. It didnt happen. How come? Haaretz According to Haaretz, the hardest blow came from Berlin. In Jerusalem, Germany was considered a certainty to vote against the UN resolution, and the German decision not to oppose the Palestinian bid but rather to abstain shocked the top brass at the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister's office. A top German official who took part in discussions in Berlin, however, stressed that the writing was on the wall. The senior German official, who has requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, told Haaretz that Germany has been trying to help Israel on the Palestinian issue for a long time but Israel has not taken the necessary steps to advance the peace process. "The Israelis," he said, "did not respond in any way to our request to make a gesture on settlements." Israeli officials were furious with the Germans. "The turnaround in the British position caused the Germans to change their vote since they did not want to remain isolated within the European Union," said a Foreign Ministry official. Indecisive and confusing Israeli conduct surrounding the Palestinians' move at the UN has angered decision-makers in Germany. The Germans feel they have been taken advantage of, and that Israeli officials have been secretive and uncooperative. The high-ranking German official said "the resolution" to recognize a Palestinian state "is positive in one sense - it clearly recognizes the two-state solution and the right of existence of the State of Israel." The German decision to abstain in the UN vote is expected to exacerbate the considerable tension between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which has been an issue in recent years, regardless of the current situation. There is a great deal of anger among officials in the Prime Minister's Office over the change in Germany's position, especially since the messages coming from the Germans until yesterday morning indicated it was their intention to vote against the resolution. There is no question that the abstention was not a happy outcome. However, a planned summit meeting in Berlin between the governments of Israel and Germany went ahead. (More on that later). The disagreement concerning the vote at the UN

did, somewhat, cast a shadow on the discussions. Ever since Netanyahu became prime minister four years ago, his relations with Merkel have been strained. One hears that numerous times Merkel felt Netanyahu did not keep promises he had made to her, and she was especially angry at the continuation of the construction in the settlements. Spiegel On-Line Interestingly Spiegel On-Line seemed more interested in the fact that the European nations did not vote as a bloc than in the issue itself at hand. They opined, For the European Union, however, the vote once again exposed the 27-member bloc's inability to reach consensus on foreign policy issues. Most EU countries, to be sure, voted in favor of Palestinian observer status, including France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Luxembourg and Denmark. Non-EU states Switzerland and Norway also supported Abbas. But others, including Great Britain, the Netherlands and Germany, abstained in an effort at neutrality. Only one EU member state, the Czech Republic, voted against the Palestinians. "We have doubts that today's resolution brings the peace process forward," said German UN Ambassador Peter Wittig, echoing the statement released earlier in the day from the Foreign Ministry in Berlin. He said he feared it would do more harm than good. Unconfirmed rumors & discussion Who knows if any of this is accurate but it seems to confirm what was published in Haaretz. It is said that the Chancellor herself, according to numerous sources, is upset with the issue of settlements (she has expressed herself publicly and harshly on this for some time) and the ongoing weakening of Abbas through the lack of tangible progress on negotiations. There is a feeling among the Germans that with Israels security situation collapsing on all sides due to Arab political instability, the situation with the Palestinians must be settled soon and Abbas strengthened. The final deciding factor for the Chancellor, the rumor goes, was evidently the language of the resolution itself and its emphasis on the two-state solution. Chancellor Merkel is committed to a two-state solution, which she feels is the only option for maintaining a democratic Jewish state. Deutsche Welle As disappointing to many as the German Governments abstention was, the opposition party Social Democrats (SPD) seem even to have been more proPalestinian. DW reported, The fact that the EU could not agree on a policy was a serious problem, said Rolf Mtzenich, foreign policy spokesman for Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD). He told Deutsche Welle that a "yes" from Germany would have been perfectly feasible. "I believe we must do everything we

can to support the forces in Palestine that want a peaceful agreement with Israel and a fair two-state solution. And that is what President Abbas stands for." Abstaining from the vote was the least that Germany could have done for the Palestinian president, Mtzenich continued. The internal Palestinian conflict between Hamas and Fatah, which Abbas leads, was enough for him to deal with, he argued. "It would have been a fatal signal if on top of that he hadn't had the support of important European governments on the international stage, or even been weakened by them," he said. While the abstention vote caused ill feeling and ruffled personal feathers life goes on. The position of nations is almost always based on perceived national interest, rarely personal feelings. In this case the interests of the two countries involved diverged. Germany has to consider its interests with the Arab and Islamic countries while Israel is dealing at the forefront with immediate national security issues. This does not mean that there was or will be a rupture of relations between the two as exemplified by the joint cabinet meeting which took place a week or so following the UN vote. Read on about it ISRAELI & GERMAN CABINETS MEET A week after the UN vote the annual get-together of the Israeli and German cabinets took place in Berlin. This annual happening underscores the closeness of the two countries though their governments might have strong differences concerning policy which, indeed, they have. After the UN vote, but prior to the joint cabinet meeting, Chancellor Merkel reaffirmed her commitment to Israels security. A Jerusalem Post article noted, "Germany will always stand on the side of Israel on the issue (of Israeli security)," Merkel said in her weekly podcast, and spoke of Berlin's vocal backing for Israel during its latest clashes with Hamas. Israel has not only the right but the duty to protect its citizens," she added. Shortly thereafter Netanyahu and his ministers [held] consultations with their German counterparts in Berlin. Their talks cover[ed] economic and trade ties and cooperation in science and education as well as regional security issues. Agree to Disagree As the cabinets came together Spiegel On-Line reported, Despite recent differences between Germany and Israel over settlement construction plans on the West Bank, Angela Merkel and Benjamin Netanyahu pledged friendship on Thursday in Berlin. They have, said the chancellor, agreed to disagree.

Given that horrific history, Merkel told Netanyahu that she is fully aware "what a pleasure it is that we can cooperate today." She praised the two countries' collaboration when it comes to education and research, and extolled Israel as being the only democracy in the Middle East. The message was clear: The German-Israeli relationship is so solid that occasional differences of opinion are not a threat. And on Thursday in Berlin, the pair made little effort to hide those differences. On Wednesday evening, prior to Thursday's high-level meetings between Israeli and German cabinet members, Netanyahu joined Merkel for dinner in the Chancellery. The two talked about bilateral cooperation, but also about the current situation in the Middle East, including in Egypt, and the danger of chemical weapons in Syria. They also talked, of course, about the plans recently announced by Netanyahu's government to build 3,000 new housing units for settlers near Jerusalem. Brief and to the Point The construction plans, intended as a punishment of the Palestinians for their successful application to the United Nations last week for non-member observer status, involve area E-1 between East Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim, and would essentially cut the West Bank in two [Ed. Note: That is not accurate]. And it is an issue that has long been a point of contention in Merkel's relationship with Netanyahu. In September 2011, Merkel even became irate in a telephone conversation with the Israeli prime minister during a discussion of West Bank settlements. The differences have not disappeared in the meantime. "On the settlement question, we have agreed to disagree," said Merkel on Thursday. Netanyahu struck a similar tone: "One should be able to voice different opinions among friends. The foundations of German-Israeli relations are "untouchable" Merkel affirmed, adding "and they withstand differences of opinion." To read the article click here http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/merkel-andnetanyahu-pledge-friendship-in-berlin-despite-differences-a-871458.html Something else to worry about. There is little doubt that the German governments attitude toward Israel is far more positive than that of the general population. For instance the Israeli government position on the extension of building in the E-1 area is seen as a hindrance to any possible peace. Many in Germany see the Palestinians as an oppressed minority and the Israelis as oppressors. That attitude is one that is not unique to Germany but is apparent throughout Europe. My guess is that even in the Czech Republic, which alone voted with Israel in the UN on the Palestinian matter, the attitudes of the populace is far more pro-Palestinian than proIsraeli.

It is very far from clear as to how that situation might be reversed. The rocketing of Israel by Hamas triggered statements by various governments saying that they had the right to defend themselves but I doubt if that moved public opinion. It is a very difficult and troubling situation. SAVING GERMAN JEWISH CULTURE One of the strange paradoxes in German history is that after trying to eradicate Jews in the Holocaust the German government has now launched (and is underwriting) a worldwide attempt to preserve German Jewish culture before it is lost forever. The Times of Israel reported, a major project by national German broadcaster Deutsche Welle documenting the remnants of Germanys once-thriving Jewish community around the world. The project, called Spurensuche, Deutsch-Jdisches Kulturerbe Weltweit in German and Traces, German-Jewish Heritage in the world in English, will go live on the Internet Dec. 4 and include radio and television broadcasts in four languages. In general, when people in Germany think of German Jews, they think about the Holocaust and the genocide of the Jewsthe crime and its remembrancebut not about how rich this culture was and what was lost, said Cornelia Rabitz, an editor at Deutsche Welle and coordinator of the project, We hope, through the project, that the rest of the story comes into the common conscience, Rabitz said. Traces, underwritten by a 250,000 euro grant by the German Foreign Office, was inspired by the German-Jewish Cultural Heritage Project sponsored by the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European Jewish Studies at the University of Potsdam. The project seeks to save German-Jewish documents around the world from decay by creating a databank of information and then linking it to existing databases to make information universally accessible, said Alisa Jachnowitsch, a Moses Mendelssohn Center researcher. We want to locate German-Jewish heritage abroad and preserve it, not to bring it home to Germany, but to let people know how they can preserve their own historical memory and legacy in their home countries, Jachnowitsch said. She recently traveled to Buenos Aires, for instance, to speak to the Jewish community there about preserving their records. But the German-Jewish heritage resides not just in records, she stressed, but in everything they were able to bring with them, their china, their volumes of Thomas

Mann, their oriental carpets, as well as intangibles, such as their attitudes, tastes, values, even ways of studying. Stefan Messerer, spokesman at the German Embassy in Washington, D.C., said that as part of the historic responsibility Germany bears toward the Jewish community and toward the State of Israel for the Holocaust, the German Government is committed to maintain German Jewish cultural heritage in Germanspeaking countries as well as in the countries of emigration. Besides supporting the project, the German Government also helps with the upkeep of Jewish cemeteries and synagogues, subsidizes religious research centers and provides money to train rabbis and cantors. There are many paradoxes when one contemplates German history of the 20th and early 21st Centuries. The relationship Germany now has with Israel and the Jewish people worldwide is certainly one of them. Its attempt to save German Jewish culture ranks pretty close to being at the top of that list. There is more to the story which you can read by clicking here. http://www.timesofisrael.com/yekke-renewal-a-new-project-traces-the-remnants-of-germanjewish-culture/ BANNING THE NEO-NAZIS There has been discussion in Germany for quite a while about legally banning the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD). DW reported, Germanys politicians and citizens are debating a renewed attempt to ban the country's largest right-wing extremist party, the NPD. But opponents insist that a ban does little to address the core issues of extremism. Advising communities throughout Germany on how to deal with violence and rightwing extremism has been part of Dierk Borstel's work for 15 years. The political scientist from Dortmund researches democratic development and how to combat right-wing extremism. Yet Borstel is very critical of renewed attempts to ban the right-wing NPD party in Germany - after a similar attempt failed in 2003. "The plans to ban the party could make the NPD seem more important than it is," Borstel warned. Banning a party, he explained, is one of the most extreme measures a democracy can take, but Germany is in no way "facing a coup" from the NPD. Instead, Borstel views the debate on banning the party as providing massive attention for an otherwise weak group. "The NPD is currently a party in decline," the expert on extremism told DW. Borstel points to its loss of members and influence and its lack of influence anywhere in Germany - even within the right-wing scene.

"Even in its core areas like Saxony, there are entire regional groups that are leaving the party," Borstel said. According to German domestic intelligence reports, the NPD had some 6,300 members in 2011. Despite the downward trend, it remains Germany's largest rightwing party. However, the party's success with voters is very limited. In the 2009 federal elections, the NPD secured just 1.5 percent of the vote, providing it with parliament seats in only two states: Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The extremists use the parliament as a platform to voice their ideas, Borstel says. But he advocates combating their views in the same way that teachers are instructed to deal with extremist students - by defeating their arguments rather than simply silencing them. The money that the party receives as standard compensation for its election campaign is among the major points cited by those in favor of a ban. Borstel agrees the money needs to stop flowing. But he maintains that this should be achieved by dissuading voters from supporting the party, and, thus, preventing it from reaching the threshold necessary to secure government funding. The political scientist notes that the majority of the right-wing scene is not dependent on such funding anyway. In the state of Saxony, research suggests that selling CDs, concerts or other merchandise are playing a far bigger role than the NPD's money. "Repression always leads to innovation," Borstel argues, adding that the right-wing scene will not disappear if there's a ban - in fact, it could simply reappear under a new name, as has happened in the past. His opposition to outlawing the NPD puts him outside of the mainstream in Germany. According to a recent study, the majority of Germans favor legislation that would bar the right-wing NPD. Almost three in four people support a law along these lines. The opinion of Dierk Borstel is one side of the coin and as noted above it is not a popular side. Recently The Local ran a piece which noted, The premiers of the country's 16 federal states, which comprise the upper house of parliament, on Thursday voted unanimously to outlaw the far-right party despite concerns it could fail like an effort in 2003. Funke said a successful ban and the consistent and decisive prosecution of neoNazis would be a fitting response to the shocking racist murders of nine people across Germany by the so-called National Socialist Underground (NSU), a neo-Nazi terror gang.

10

"It would a legacy that would show respect to the victims and their families - it would be a suitable reaction," said Funke, a professor at Berlin's Free University Otto Suhr Institute of Political Science. It would also force the police and intelligence services to crack down on far-right violence and intimidation, he said. Only Germany's Constitutional Court has the power to ban a political party - and it requires an application from either the upper or lower house of parliament, or the government to consider the idea. That application must be backed with legal arguments and proof to show that a party is aggressively working against the constitution. It is a ticklish matter. The original attempt to outlaw the NPD in 2003 failed. According to Wikipedia, in 2003 after it was discovered that a number of the NPD's inner circle were in fact undercover agents or informants of the German secret services, like the federal Bundesamt fr Verfassungsschutz. They include a former deputy chairman of the party and author of an anti-Semitic tract that formed a central part of the government's case. Since the government assemblies were unwilling to fully disclose their agents' identities and activities, the court found it impossible to decide which moves by the party were based on genuine party decisions and which were controlled by the secret services in an attempt to further the ban. The party was, in part, responding to the government's dictates, the court said. The presence of the state at the leadership level makes influence on its aims and activities unavoidable, it concluded. Therefore, the courts decision was not made on constitutional grounds. However, if the BfV (like the FBI) is involved in the NPD, as it assuredly is, a case could again fail. If that was to happen that might, once and for all kill off any chance of an outlawing of the Party. It might strengthen it and bring new recruits claiming discrimination against it. In addition, Germany being a democracy must take into account the issue of free speech. While their rules are not as liberal as ours, it is still something that has to be considered. My guess is that the move to make it illegal will continue especially since the Premiers (Better known as the Minister Presidents. We would call the Governors) of the States have voted for it. Perhaps this time the best legal minds in Germany will be involved in writing the brief so that it will past muster with the Constitutional Court. Lets hope so. A POLITICAL UPDATE The Social Democrats (SPD) have formally chosen a former finance minister Peer

11

Steinbrck to represent their party as the Chancellor candidate in next years national election. He will, of course, be going up against Germanys most popular politician, Angela Merkel. Poor Hr. Steinbrck! Since his informal selection a couple of months ago he has been saddled with controversy. The controversy or scandal or whatever you want to call it may sound very strange to American ears. He has been accused of making too much money from speaking engagements. There is no accusation of anything illegal. When Mitt Romney, during our own election campaign, noted that he earned $374,327 from speeches no one castigated him for that. It was only when he said that it was not very much that he was landed on by the Democrats for not understanding what that sort of money meant to the poor and middle class. I guess it was the $1.6 million Steinbrck made that got his critics angry. How angry? According to Spiegel On-Line, Greenpeace activists unfurled a banner behind the podium that read: "Did you rake in enough dough?" [Steinbrck] faces an uphill struggle to beat Merkel. An Infratest dimap survey showed that, were Germans able to vote directly for their chancellor, 49 percent would support the incumbent chancellor with just 39 percent of respondents saying they would vote for Steinbrck. Still, that gap has narrowed in recent weeks. More to the point, Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party (CDU), together with its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), stood at 39 percent in the poll, well ahead of the SPD at 30 percent. The Greens scored 14 percent and the pro-business FDP, Merkel's junior coalition party, was at 4 percent, below the 5 percent threshold it would need to be able to stay in parliament. The survey was carried out between December 3 and 5 and commissioned by public television channel ARD. The FDP is Merkel's Achilles heel. She remains popular because Germans credit her with having defended the nation's interests in the euro crisis so far, by blocking calls for the introduction of common euro bonds, for example. And she has deftly nudged the CDU to the left, backing proposals for a minimum wage and better state support for childcare, and thereby encroaching on core SPD territory. But the FDP is so weak that she may need a new coalition partner to stay in power. The SPD or the Greens seem to be her only options. Steinbrck, 65, ruled out serving in another grand coalition. "I don't just want a partial change of government," he said to loud applause. "I want an entirely new government. I want an SPD-Greens government for our country. I'm not available for any grand coalition." Political analysts say, however, that such a coalition is the most likely outcome of the next election.

12

The election is more than 9 months away. As everybody knows, 9 months is eons in political time. Much can happen between now and September. If the FDP can pull itself together we might have a totally new ballgame but that is doubtful. If not, a Grand Coalition looks like the likely outcome with Merkel remaining Chancellor and Steinbrck (or some other SPD politician) taking over as Foreign Minister. No matter what, well keep following it and let you know what happens. ******************************************************************************************** DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted by clicking here Both the American and Germany editions are posted at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com Click here to connect

13